The Potential of Automated Processes July/August 2022July 28th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs
PLUS: Four New Options for Connected Software
By Travis Rains
Window and glass fabricators increasingly turn to automated insulating glass (IG) production to bolster yields, efficiency, product quality and employee safety. But as those processes are established, several considerations come into play—each of which could affect the productivity and success of trending technologies.
Uwe Risle, head of product management for Glaston insulating glass, says his company’s customers are all looking into automating IG production processes. Most aren’t put off guard by the technical jargon that comes in the early phases, but there can be a learning curve for those new to the process, Risle says.
For example, a company must undergo some degree of reorganization when incorporating Glaston’s Thermo Plastic Spacer (TPS) IG line. Old processes may have allowed for IGUs to be placed on trucks and sent to customers upon completion of sealing, but the TPS line works a little differently.
“This is not possible with TPS; they have to wait a bit,” he says. “So the organization is a bit more challenging.”
Once processes are in place, however, Risle says companies fall in love with automated production.
“There’s a direct application, no displacement and with TPS, every time it’s the same quality,” Risle says.
Morgan Donohue, president of Erdman Automation in Princeton, Minn., says a customer must know what they want, and why, before technical discussions can begin.
“Is their goal increased production, a lower head count or higher quality? Those are three main reasons people look to automate,” Donohue says. “The other one might be are they changing spacer types, and, if they are, what are their goals with that?”
Bruce Wesner is the senior director of automation and reliability at PGT Innovations in Nokomis Beach, Fla. He points to volume goals as a paramount factor in pursuing automation.
“High levels of investment need to have high levels of utilization to get the return on that investment,” he says. “That has to be part of the decision-making process, but I think long-term impacts on quality and warranty are significant.”
Companies must then be mindful of the infrastructure, space and labor with which they have to work.
“Do they have the right people in place from a maintenance perspective? What is the actual interface between machinery and the data coming from their network?” he asks. “Once the groundwork is laid we can start offering solutions.”
Donohue agrees with Risle that most companies know what’s in store when they automate IG production. Companies putting in second or third automated lines will likely move through the process faster. “If they’re presently buying all of their insulating glass and starting from scratch, here’s a lot more to learn,” he says.
While companies adding second or third lines may produce and meet goals in as little as a week, those just getting started may need as much as two months. Donohue says that’s because companies familiar with the process already have employees cross-trained on other lines.
“We have many customers who bought one machine not thinking they’d buy another but shortly thereafter decide to, then sometimes another and another,” Donohue says. “It’s really a testament to what automation can do for reliability, sustainability and efficiency.”
Wesner says insulating glass can have a lot of quality issues because of the potential for seal failures. Automation can help mitigate issues.
“You have to have a good technical team behind it,” he says. “Any time you put advanced technology in, it comes back to creating the training on the technology side and on the operations side to take ownership and care of that equipment.”
Wesner also cautions against a reactive maintenance frame of mind when it comes to automated IG production. It’s preventative maintenance that helps his company stay ahead of trends and protect its investment.
“Folks have to understand that as you automate … you have to make sure you have the technical support teams around it,” Wesner says. “If you get the technology and don’t have the infrastructure in place, it makes it tough because with complexity comes the expectation for some rigor around ensuring the assets are going to perform.”
From Sales to ERP—the Latest Options Are More Connected Than Ever
1. The Features Keep Coming
In 2019, FeneTech released the latest version of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, FeneVision, including advanced purchasing and inventory control functions. In recent weeks, FeneTech debuted FeneVision Mobile Responsive WEB. Offered as an enhancement of the company’s existing sales tool, with FeneVision WEB salespeople can enter and upload quotes via an online website interface from their phones or tablets. The ease with which dealers, contractors and customers can now upload quotes will make a difference in getting orders into the pipeline,
company officials say.
2 Scanning to Connect
After making its debut and finding success in the glass industry, A+W introduced its Smart Companion app to the door and window industries last year. The platform serves as a simple, mobile information system and product terminal, allowing employees to scan multiple barcodes at once.
In the dispatch area of production, Smart Companion can be used to book finished elements and accessories onto racks while also assigning them to areas. As a mobile info terminal, it provides support by displaying such things as the production status of individual order items, while the stock area of the app allows for processing and tracking of goods receipt, material transfer postings, and inventory postings to be completely processed via the app. For example, an overview of all counted items can be displayed and found directly in A+W Cantor.
3. Instant Change
Recent studies show that 85% of construction projects were delayed in 2020-21, with 59% delayed for longer than two months. Many of those instances occur when plans are modified, which calls for recalculating plans and project costs. CostCertified’s software allows for real-time payments with accurate quoting between contractors and customers and it recently launched CostCertified Payments to reinvent the quoting process.
4. You Can’t Beat Free
To go with its door and window ERP platform, OpenJanela introduced a free online configurator and e-commerce or lead generation suite. The platform includes an open API to integrate with any current application, officials say, affording smaller companies the same opportunities found among large competitors for keeping up with online sales and lead generation.
Travis Rains is a contributing editor for [DWM] magazine.
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