June 1st, 2023
Insulating Glass Workmanship Practices: Education Makes a Difference
During the last few years of the pandemic, we saw numerous plant workers walk off the job never to return. We also saw the government paying workers to stay home if they felt unsafe on the job. Many of these workers never returned to their jobs, either. The investment made in their on-the-job knowledge and training was lost forever. The result is that workmanship practices have been suffering. I can attest to this. I routinely perform quality audits in my customers’ facilities and way too many of the faces are new. Because of this, I am seeing a general drop-off in the level of workmanship, and this is concerning.
You see, when it comes to the quality and durability of insulating glass (IG), the majority of early field failures which occur are due to poor workmanship. You can use the very best spacers, desiccants and sealants on the market, but if workmanship is lacking, then field results will suffer.
While interacting with line workers, I usually talk to them about how an IG unit (IGU) functions. I like to explain the role of the spacer, the sealant, the desiccant and how they all work together to keep the inside of the IG unit from fogging and the argon gas contained. From the reactions that I usually get from line workers, it seems quite apparent that they are indeed interested in learning. No one likes to just go through the motions without a full understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. This is where education comes in.
In a nutshell, I firmly believe that knowing what makes an IGU tick, how it functions, and what makes it fail, can make a huge difference in how one goes about their job. A complete knowledge of best practices affects one’s attitude and daily procedures, which results in improved workmanship. Educating one’s employees can make all the difference. Cutting the glass sharply and squarely, using the correct cutting oil, proper edge deletion if required, wash water quality and temperature, complete drying, proper spacer application, argon filling, sealant gunning and, finally, corner closing techniques are all extremely important. It only takes one flaw to bring the system down, causing argon to leak out, which compromises thermal properties. Or, worse yet, improper workmanship can lead to excessive moisture vapor infiltration, which will eventually overwhelm the IGU, creating an internal fog, otherwise known as an IGU failure. This destroys the view, which is the whole reason why people buy windows in the first place. It’s all about the view!
The Fenestration Glazing & Industry Alliance (FGIA) offers educational programs including an IG Fabricators Workshop.
This IG Fabricators Workshop, led by industry experts, addresses best practices for the critical aspects of fabricating and testing IGUs. This outstanding program covers all of the important topics just mentioned and much more.
FGIA offers both in-person as well as a video series option for its workshop, which could be a great first step for educating employees.
Ongoing education of one’s employees not only helps improve workmanship but also has the potential to increase morale among the workforce by instilling a sense of pride in the production process and quality of the finished product. Not only on the IG line, but in all aspects of door and window production.
It can make all the difference!