Guest Blog: Shop Talk – Helping You Navigate the Perfect Storm

January 18th, 2021 by Drew Vass

Does the figure eight to 10 weeks sound familiar to you?

It’s the average amount of lead time I’ve heard reported from several of my door and window customers recently. Which is to say: If you’re a homeowner who pulls the trigger on new windows today—right now—you can expect that they might not be installed until April.

This is our “new normal.” I’ve spent my career in the window and door industry, and I’ve never experienced a situation quite like this.

A confluence of forces has gotten us here:

The Labor Crisis: We’ve been dealing with industrywide labor shortages for a number of years, but the pandemic has meant that keeping good, reliable people on the shop floor is more difficult than ever before.

Havoc on the Supply Chain: Labor is a problem for manufacturers throughout the supply chain and pandemic-related restrictions have caused shipping delays around the world. It’s been difficult for just about anyone to obtain the components and raw materials they need in anything resembling a timely manner.

High Demand: This is the good news, right? As people continue to spend more time in their homes, they’re looking to make improvements, especially as low interest rates have encouraged investment. But trying to meet spiking demand has placed even greater strain on door and window makers everywhere.

So, how do we successfully navigate this perfect storm? I believe it starts on the shop floor. And that’s why I’m happy to introduce Shop Talk, a new blog that will feature rotating perspectives on how door and window manufacturers can succeed with sound production strategies and practical best practices. Thanks to [DWM] magazine for the opportunity.

Today’s tip is: Evaluate the automation options.

Automated equipment is one of the most effective ways that door and window makers can make more product with fewer people. Even companies who have made an investment in a fully automated IG line already might be finding themselves thinking about adding another one. The problem, of course, is that not everyone has $1.5 million sitting around to invest in something like that immediately.

But full high-speed automation is far from the only choice available when it comes to boosting the efficiency of your production line. Automated and semi-automated tools for IG production can allow a four-person team to produce anywhere from 400-700 insulating glass units in an eight-hour shift.

Though they might not provide the holistic efficiency of a high-speed line, an improvement like that can have a major impact on your production capacity. It’s worth taking a close look at the opportunities available here—and reaching out to a reliable vendor if you’re unsure where to start. When you’re looking at months of lead time, any improvement can be a big help for your customers.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you, including the kind of topics you’d like to read in this space in the future. Contact me directly at John.Ryba@Quanex.com.

John Ryba is senior technical specialist for Quanex Building Products Corp.

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