Jan-Feb-March 2002


Building the Blocks to Success
by Sal Digregorio

Automation has become an attractive investment and wise choice for many insulating glass (IG) manufacturers as they continue to seek ways to improve efficiency, increase productivity and improve profitability. Manufacturers invest a tremendous amount of capital into automated systems—with good reason. Automation can streamline production, improve quality, minimize labor costs and dependence and cut costs.

However, automation is not an option for many manufacturers simply due to this large capital investment. For example, if a manufacturer invested $500,000 in an automated IG system that produced 1,000 units per shift, he would have to purchase another automated system or add an additional shift to meet an increase in demand of 50 units. Either scenario results in an inefficient use of capital. 

FENESTRATION Spending capital incrementally drives the capital cost down.

The Modular Approach 
By using a modular (or building block) approach for IG systems as an alternative to high-volume, high-cost automated systems, a manufacturer can purchase equipment on an as-needed basis, expanding as demand increases. As a result of spending capital incrementally, as opposed to all at once, that capital cost per unit (CCPU) is driven down over time (see graphic at top). 

The modular approach is built on four core components:

1. Flexibility: A manufacturer can add equipment and reconfigure his line according to production instead of investing large chunks of capital in an automated system that doesn’t meet his demands and runs inefficiently;

2. Low capital: Since many manufacturers do not have the large, up-front capital to invest in an automated system, the modular approach is a viable alternative;

3. Low incremental investment: Again, since a large investment isn’t required in the beginning, the manufacturer can make smaller capital investments as production demands increase;

4. Efficient production levels: Equipment purchased for smaller volume production is still used at higher levels of production.

The modular approach applies to the four main IG production systems: cut, stack and gun (hot melt, polysulfide, polyurethane); extruded hot melt—cut spacer; silicone foam spacer and all-in-one flexible spacer. Also, the modular approach is an appropriate method for all levels of manufacturing. Not only will the small and mid-size manufacturer find this option attractive, but also a large manufacturer who, for example, is opening a satellite location.

Successful Implementation
BF Rich, a manufacturer of vinyl and aluminum replacement windows, storm windows and doors, has implemented the modular approach successfully. Fourteen years ago, BF Rich started out making 100 to 200 units daily. Now, the manufacturer produces in excess of 1,600 units daily, while still using its original washer and press as part of its expanded manufacturing 
So, regardless of your size or the production system you use, the modular approach is a viable alternative to high-cost automated 

Sal DiGregorio serves as Northeast sales supervisor for TruSeal Technologies Inc., based in Beachwood, Ohio. 


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