Volume 36, Issue 5, May 2001
Back to the Shop
Shop Fabrication and Glazing Offer Labor Savings Plus Improved Product Quality
by Steve Green
What if every time you went into your office something had been rearranged? Your files might be in a different drawer, your pencil might be missing or your desk might be moved across the room. Chances are you would work less efficiently because a lot of time would be spent adjusting to the new arrangement instead of working.
For contract glaziers who work in the field, this scenario is a reality. Conditions on a construction site can vary from location-to-location, from day-to-day, and even from hour-to-hour. To ensure quality work, contract glazing companies must be able to respond to these constantly changing conditions.
This is why many contract glaziers are opting to move field labor back to the shop. Shop work eliminates the variables that glazing subcontractors encounter in the field, helping to increase quality control and cut labor costs—an especially important consideration given today’s employment market.
Product Design Plays a Role in Determining Options
Product design is the main factor in determining if working in the shop is feasible. In some cases, field fabrication and glazing may be your only option. Very large lites of glass typically need to be installed in the field. Some framing systems are not structurally capable of shop glazing and therefore need to be glazed on-site. Other framing systems are designed to be field-fabricated and installed.
However, if product design doesn’t dictate being field-fabricated or glazed, the shop-glazed option will likely be the best choice. Shop glazing and fabrication increases control over working conditions—something that is very difficult on a construction site.
A Consistent Environment
The absence of changing temperatures and weather conditions is perhaps the biggest advantage of shop installation. On a construction site, temperatures can fluctuate from arctic to tropical, and can have a major impact on the quality of an installation. Cold temperatures can reduce sealant cure times while wind,
rain or snow can add additional complications.
But in a shop or warehouse, environment temperatures can be held at a consistent level to provide optimal conditions for installation. Interference from moisture or wind is eliminated and lighting levels are constant, making it easier for the contract glazier to see what he or she is doing.
Shop fabrication and glazing also result in a cleaner, more consistent seal. Sawdust, leaves or other materials can contaminate the sealing process in the field. In the shop, the environment is cleaner and automatic dispensing equipment can be used to provide a more consistent output of sealant with reduced labor costs.
Labor costs may also prove to be less expensive if fabrication is done in the shop. In the field, you may be required to use higher paid trades for certain jobs, which increases costs. However, with assembly in the shop you may not have to meet this requirement.
Faster Field Assembly
Benefits of a shop fabrication carry over to the final installation process. Set-up time for staging is greatly reduced and your glaziers won’t necessarily have to hang from the side of a building to put the glass in place. The building can also be enclosed more quickly because all the “pieces” are ready to go when they arrive at the construction site. Additionally, the metal and glass would already be put together so there would be a shorter time between groundbreaking and enclosure.
One drawback to using pre-glazed units, though, is increased complications with transportation. Assembled pieces can’t be packaged as efficiently as non-assembled ones because it is more cumbersome to package a piece of glass that is already in a metal frame, instead of packaging all the metal together and all the glass together. This may also increase the risk of damage during transportation.
However, in many situations the benefits of a shop glaze far outweigh the drawbacks. For example, Hutt’s Glass in Pennsylvania is using a shop glaze for our 1900 Series Ribbon Windows successfully. The continuous interior sill runner system allows easy installation of units locked into place, dramatically reducing labor time on the installation site.
The consistent conditions in a shop environment lead to increased productivity, cutting a glazier’s labor costs. Building owners reap benefits, too, with a high-quality product and faster project completion.
These factors—increased productivity and consistent quality—will continue to be key in today’s competitive market.
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