Shop Talk
by Hector Cortez
Senior Tech Service Representative
Quanex Building Products
February 16th, 2021

Sharpening Your Skills by Any Means Necessary

We all know what happened. About a year ago, life as we knew it changed, as did the way we do business.

Speaking as someone whose profession involves travelling about 80% of the time, I can affirm that statement with some certainty. As a technical services representative for Quanex Building Products, I visit customers on-site, get into their plants and help them evaluate and enhance their insulating glass manufacturing practices. It’s a hands-on job—one that can’t be performed virtually as travel and visitor restrictions become the norm. Or so I thought.

After a couple of months, I got creative. I got my hands on some shuttles, glass, spacer and a couple of webcams. I built a table, set up a makeshift application area in my living room, and began offering “Tele-Tech Services” via Zoom.

It’s been a valuable experience, for me and hopefully for my customers. It has also served to highlight the importance of proper education for shop floor staff—by any means necessary. And that brings us to today’s tip:

Don’t undervalue technique.

Making reliable insulating glass is a delicate process that requires knowledge, skill and dedicated adherence to best practices. For example, one of the more common mistakes I’ve seen throughout my time on shop floors throughout my territory is the tendency for technicians to under-press units as they’re making them. This is often the result of a poorly calibrated press, or perhaps poor technique—a technician simply “eyeballing it” when, in reality, inaccuracies are measured in thousandths of an inch. No matter why it happens, under pressing can lead to seal failure not long after IG has been installed.

But the reality is that your reputation rests on consistent, high-quality units. Replacing a failed unit once it’s in the field is expensive, in terms of direct costs and the damage it can do if that customer spreads the word about receiving a poor-quality window. The root cause of common IG field failures can typically be traced back to how it was made.

Another example: Achieving ASTM E2190 certification for insulating glass units, involves sending away a group of sample units for a robust battery of accelerated weather testing. Getting certified requires that every unit pass, necessitating mistake-free fabrication for each of them. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a close look at how units are being assembled and sealed on your floor, certifiable performance might not be a guarantee.

A consistent process for every unit that comes off the line is not always easy to maintain, especially given some of the factors my colleague John Ryba outlined in this space last month. A rush to get an increasing amount of orders out the door can lead to sloppy work on the production line, while the ongoing labor shortage may have led to higher rates of turnover in your shop. And of course, pandemic-related safety protocols may limit your ability to get the help you need.

But technique can’t be compromised. For window manufacturers who are looking to stay ahead as demand continues to surge, do what’s in your power to ensure your teams are equipped with the right skills to make high quality units every time. Work with your suppliers, and if necessary, get creative. It’ll be worth the effort.

By Hector Cortez, senior tech service representative for Quanex Building Products



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