Fenestration Focus

June 28th, 2020 by Nathan Hobbs

Keep Your Commitment to Safety

Investigate All the Ways to Reduce Fatigue, Accidents and Injuries

By Larry Johnson

Summer is officially here. It’s the time of the year when orders come in fast, and it’s a necessity to work quickly without sacrificing our commitment to deliver quality products and maintain safe working conditions for employees on the shop floor.

A number of unique challenges crop up around busy season. Moving more IG units down the line and assembling complete doors and windows to keep up with demand can lead to the temptation to cut corners in certain critical areas of manufacturing. And heat can cause extra fatigue among your workforce, potentially resulting in lost focus and greater injury risk.

Making a concerted effort to keep conditions manageable this time of year is one of the most important things window and door manufacturers can do. With that in mind, I wanted to offer a few strategies—both simple and complex—that plant managers can apply to reduce risk and boost safety this busy season.

Simple Strategies

One of the most direct and threatening risks associated with the busy season is simply that of the temperature. Fatigue and dehydration are risks for your laborers in and of themselves, but fatigued employees can also be a risk for everyone around them.

There are a few relatively easy ways to combat the heat. If you’re able, consider pumping chilled air onto your floor space, or create specific “cool zones” where temperatures are more manageable, if possible.

And be sure to keep cold drinking water freely available to your work-force at all times. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s nevertheless important and worth highlighting.

Use Technological Change

It’s certainly no secret that door and window manufacturing has changed with the widespread availability of new technology, including semi-automated equipment and full, high-speed insulating glass lines.

The rise of these techniques in fenestration manufacturing has brought many new considerations to shop floors. One of the most important is the impact they can have on safety.

First, there’s the matter of training. Automation solutions are, essentially, large pieces of machinery moving near and around human workers. Ensuring that all staff members under-stand the operating protocols of these machines is essential, and should be the very first thing any manufacturer undertakes when making the investment in new automated equipment. Equipping operators with the knowledge needed to operate these systems effectively, efficiently and safely is of the utmost importance.

Second, updating your shop floor’s maintenance schedules and procedures is essential to get the most out of automated equipment, and to ensure safe operation. Malfunctioning systems can pose increased risk for injury on the shop floor, no matter the function that equipment serves.

From there, the safety benefits will manifest. Fewer touchpoints on an IG line when it comes to spacer application, for instance, means fewer instances where your workers will come into contact with the sharp edges of a piece of glass. Think about your glass-cutting processes, break-out tables, edge deletion and more—each is an area that has the potential for automation. At every point, there’s a reduced need for manual manipulation. This reduction can result in less fatigue and enhanced safety among your workforce.

Transport and Handling

Larger doors and windows for high-end homes are becoming increasingly popular. If your business is capitalizing on this trend or responding to greater demand for these larger units, traditional manual methods of spacer application and frame assembly can become more demanding and complicated, requiring several workers to complete these tasks. And there is an increased risk of accident or injury dealing with oversized units.

Automated equipment eliminates those needs, and can also help us more effectively and efficiently move and transport units (of all sizes) around the plant floor. It can help eliminate the need for additional manpower during busier parts of the year, and therefore reduce injury risk. Robotic lifts and other equipment are also immune to the heat of summer, and you can allocate your employees to helping keep track of orders as they move throughout the plant. Utilizing machine-assisted equipment for loading and offloading units helps reduce fatigue and the need for brute force at another critical touchpoint.

Ensuring safety is critical to the success of any organization. Let’s make sure we’re keeping that commitment, and that we continually look for new ways to provide our employees with a safe working environment.

Larry Johnson has more than 35 years of experience in the fenestration industry. He joined Quanex (then Edgetech) in 2001. He currently serves as vice president of sales for IG systems.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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