Fenestration Focus October 2019July 19th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Practice Makes Perfect: From Pre- to Post-Productions, Best Practices Remain Critical
By Larry Johnson
Manufacturing reliable, quality door and window units is all about following repeatable and established processes. For this reason, optimizing your plant organization, flow and production techniques can make a big difference in things like consistency of quality and product performance. Your reputation as a manufacturer depends on processes.
Meanwhile, labor issues continue to challenge fabricators to do more with less. Raw material costs are on the rise and building codes and standards are demanding increasingly stringent performance around the world. (Just take a look at California, which will require all new residential construction to achieve zero net energy by next year.)
There’s a lot on the line for door and window manufacturers these days, so it’s worth evaluating your processes and manufacturing strategies to ensure they’re as efficient and effective as you need them to be. Following are some things you should be thinking about throughout the production line.
Organization is critical at every stage of production, but especially at the very beginning. When it comes to raw materials and components inventory, a well-organized manufacturer can typically tell you exactly what they have on hand at a given time. Better yet, a well-organized manufacturer has optimized the way they handle and store materials before they’re sent into production, with every part appropriately labeled.
Take vinyl extrusions, for example: A manufacturer might receive their extrusions on racks, meaning they need to think critically about where those racks of materials are being kept in relation to their next destination on the plant floor. Ideally, those extrusions (or any material) should be moved as few times as possible, requiring a high level of organization that can be made easier through labeling and barcoding. Apply lean principles: Use clear markings, group things together by material type, and make them easily retrievable and movable, ready to go into production.
In addition to moving materials as little as possible, the production line should move in as straight a line as possible, with as little distance as possible between key tasks. Vinyl extrusions can be marked and labeled; profiles can be stored directly behind a cutting and fabricating station, with the saw operator doing minimal work to load the saw.
Production and Assembly
There’s a reason why automated equipment has revolutionized the industry. Vertical automated lines for insulating glass fabrication, for example, have become a gold standard for quality and efficiency. Visibility into production is unparalleled, as operators can easily spot efficiency and quality defects with ease—making it easier to fix issues as they arise. Production also happens far more quickly with a unit coming off the line every 20 to 30 seconds ready for glazing.
Manufacturing IG in-house is one way that manufacturers can maintain full control of the highest-value part of a given window and door. What about other components that don’t add the same value? Outsourcing screens can be one way to put a greater emphasis on producing high-quality IG and finished window and door units.
Organization and storage are just as important at the postproduction phase as they are at the beginning of the process. Storage racks should be organized by how, where and when each window needs to be shipped and delivered.
Barcoding is how most first-class manufacturers are organizing units these days. Once a window is finished, it is labeled with a unique barcode that enables the manufacturers to keep track of where the unit is and where it needs to go. This way, windows only need to be handled once when loaded onto the truck, because the barcode knows the rest: which truck it needs to be loaded onto, which route it’s being shipped on, and when it’s being delivered. The more specificity here, the better. Organizing units on your trucks in precise order eliminates touchpoints and potential for damage, along with optimized routing efficiency for the delivering fleet. There are plenty of ways to improve operations with today’s technologies. But more important is knowing how to properly apply that technology to overcome challenges and meet the changing needs of customers everywhere.
Larry Johnson is vice president of sales, North American fenestration, for Quanex Building Products
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