Technical Services Manager
Quanex Building Products
January 26th, 2023
New Year, New Shop: Taking Stock of Your Production Processes
There’s a lot on the line for door and window manufacturers in 2023. Consistency of quality, unit performance once installed in the field and your reputation as a manufacturer all depend on successful shop floor operations. How best to achieve that success?
Manufacturing reliable, quality door and window units is all about following repeatable and established processes. And that brings us to today’s tip:
Evaluate your processes from start to finish.
The start of any calendar year—when shop floors are quieter before demand ramps back up in the spring and summer months—offers us a good time to reevaluate your key manufacturing processes. What’s working? What isn’t? What opportunities do you have for effective change?
Throughout my experience in this industry, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t at every stage of production. In every case, there’s always room for continuous improvement. So, as we start the year, following are some considerations to make.
Organization is critical at every stage of production, but it is especially important at the beginning. A well-organized manufacturer can tell you exactly what raw materials they have on hand at a given time. Proper organization, where all materials are accounted for and inventoried, makes it easier and quicker for the manufacturer to retrieve parts when they need them.
Consider your vinyl extrusions. You might receive extrusions on racks, meaning you 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 should be moved as few times as possible, requiring a high level of organization that can be made easier through labeling and barcoding. Are you using clear markings? Grouping things together by material type? Are they easily retrievable and movable and ready to go into production?
In addition, the production line should move in as straight of a direction as possible, with minimal distance between key tasks. Another example includes marked and labeled profiles, which can be stored directly behind a cutting and fabricating station, requiring minimal work from the saw operator to load.
Production and Assembly
Next, your production area is where quality and efficiency are of utmost importance. To that end, there’s a reason why automated equipment has revolutionized the industry. In addition to speed of production, vertical automated lines offer unparalleled visibility into insulating glass (IG) fabrication, as operators can easily spot efficiency and quality defects with ease. That makes it easier to fix issues if they arise.
Fully high-speed lines may not make sense for every manufacturer, but today there are automation options that can scale to fit any IG production need. Choosing vendors who provide exceptional support in helping you make the most of new equipment can be advantageous, too.
Once your units have been made, you need to know exactly where they’re going. Organization and storage are just as important at this phase as they are at the beginning of the process.
Barcoding is how most first-class manufacturers are organizing units today and for good reason. Once a window is finished, it gets a unique barcode that enables manufacturers to track where the unit is and where it needs to go. 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 its being shipped on, and when it’s being delivered on that route. Organizing units on your trucks in precise order eliminates touchpoints and potential for damage, and helps optimize routing efficiency for delivery. If you’re still tracking all of this with paper, it may be time to reconsider.
Use the early part of the year to take a close look at your operations and don’t be afraid to lean on your suppliers who can offer insights. It’s what we do. And we’re looking forward to doing just that and more in 2023.
Here’s to a successful year!