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May  2004

You Have Questions:
Burk Has Answers
GED’s IG Supervisors Workshop Answers a Variety of Questions Regarding IG Production

From the exterior, this building resembles its neighbors. It could be another corporate office, distribution center or manufacturing facility. But 9280 Dulton Drive, Twinsburg, Ohio, at 10,000 square feet is neither. It is a sizeable training center with a few classrooms and equipment from end to end that are used to manufacture insulating glass. Many courses are offered at the Glass Equipment Development (GED) Training Center, most on the proper use of the company’s equipment. But one in particular is a two-day workshop for those who supervise the manufacture of insulating glass. 

A wealth of information covering every aspect of this operation is packed into a three-ring binder for each attendee. But what makes this workshop worthwhile and exceptional is more about the instructor’s methodology than the information referenced. For 12 years, Mike Burk has been visiting insulating glass manufacturers as a field service, technical service and training specialist, advising supervisory people on safety, environmental and equipment issues. As the company’s training manager, he brings these experiences into a classroom setting. Burk’s ability to create an environment of sharing non-sensitive information for the good of the group is what makes the two days in a room with competing companies unique. His first order of business, or challenge, is to create that comfort level.

“If each person can talk about specific issues that we can openly discuss as a group, but that do not leave this group, then all of us will learn from each other’s experience,” says Burk. “Then we can go back to our companies, better informed and in a position to make changes and do our part in making our insulating glass operation more efficient and more safety conscious.” 

Topics for the two-day workshop include glass production, spacer production, sealant and desiccant application, muntin application, unit assembly, gas filling, sealing, handling and storage of IG units.

Glass Production
“So how far in advance of your IG production do you cut glass?” Burk asks as he goes around the table polling each participant, a technique he uses throughout the workshop to encourage participation. 

Following the responses, he advises. “Keep it to a minimum. Two to three days is too long. The glass will get lost or broken, ”he warns. 

“How many lites, or how many square feet, should be cut per hour?” 

He answers the question by asking another. 

“Is someone waiting for the glass? That is the more important issue. So is where the cutting table is located in relation to the next step.” 

As to whether glass should be inspected when it is received, Burk says, “check for quantity, type and quality. If the glass is damaged, don’t unpack it. Ship it back.” 

Burk also suggests that scrap hoppers not be located “near an aisle and be sure they are accessible by a forklift, without disrupting production.” 

Regarding the life of cutting wheels, “don’t wait until they are bad,” he urges. “In my travels, I am seeing bad cuts and edge damage. If the cutting wheels are dull, the glass will flake,” he warns. 

A demonstration dramatizes the point. His message is to change cutting wheels once per day or per shift. He asks everyone how much cutting oil they require. 

To avoid or reduce scratching, “don’t stack and don’t slide the units on the conveyor. I see scratches from pinch rollers on the washer fairly frequently. Check for scratches at the earliest stage. If you are seeing them at glass washing, the problem has to be early in the process and the cause, most likely, is careless handling.”

Using another anecdote to make his point, Burk says. “I went to a plant where there were failures because there was so much oil and no soap in the washers.” 

He strongly advises the use of a good cleaning agent and approved soaps only.

Washing Glass
Burk offers these pointers on washing glass:
• When glass doesn’t come out of the other end of the washer, the best thing to do, if possible, is to open up the washer and remove it. Some companies run more glass to force it through. If there is breakage, the broken glass won’t go away;
• There is a tendency to push or pull the glass on the washer conveyor because operators do not want to wait for the conveyor. Don’t allow it. Pushing and pulling is a cause of scratching;
• Change wash water once a shift if not once a day.
Wash with the coated side up to avoid scratching;
• Glass must be absolutely dry or it will fail. Don’t dry it with a rag. Use the green tube. Don ’t spot clean if there are dirt particles. Re-send it through the line; and
• Clean washers routinely with a high-pressure wash or you will wind up with dirty glass.

Muntin (Grid) Fabrication
“How much time does ‘touch-up’ require”? Burk asks.

He listens to each response then offers his view.

“The correct answer is a minimal amount of time. Don’t spray paint. It gets into the sealant. It will discolor. Use a brush.”

He advises the group to clean muntin sections with alcohol or a solvent that evaporates quickly and won’t damage the paint. One of Burk’s pet peeves is too much handling. “How many times during the course of assembly are muntins picked up and put down?” he asks. “To reduce scratching, keep handling to a minimum. Do not bundle them or handle them in large groups.” 

He cautions against using stickers or labels as a form of identification because these can adhere to the sealant. His solution is to hang the completed grids on a rack or tree in the correct order. 

“Re-sharpen punches when they start to deform the muntin as it is punched. Change the saw blade on a regular basis. 

Burk’s advice for preventing a breakdown is to “listen and get to know the sound of your equipment. I can tell when the chains in the roll-forming box are not smooth and something is going to snap. Your operators should get to know the sound of their equipment so when something is not right, they can anticipate the problem before it occurs.”

General Comments
In his wrap-up, Burk provides advice of a general nature so supervisors will be more effective in dealing with broad issues. 

“What do you do when you discover a defective unit?”

Burk says that when certain issues surface, most employees are afraid to be honest about who is responsible for the products that come off the production line. They need to know they will not be punished. 

“Explain in simple terms the function of materials. What does the sealant do? What does desiccant do?” 

He says that by understanding the importance of each material, supervisors can do a better job. He urges them to spend more time on the floor, show workers units that have failed and explain why quality is necessary. He also urges supervisors to ask questions and look for a variety of behavioral patterns. These include:
Draggers: They reach across conveyor units and drag something off;
Shovers: They shove units into the oven because they can’t take the time to lift them;
Grabbers: They grab something off the line instead of waiting;
Snackers: They eat snacks on the line; and
Huggers: They pick up a large quantity of things in their arms and risk accidents or damage.

Burk urges the class to correct these behaviors. “I can’t tell you how to run your department, but I can tell you what I have seen and I can recommend things you should do.”

He says that safety varies from state to state, city to city and company to company. 

“It is up to you to see that the safety program is enforced,” says Burk. “OSHA is putting emphasis on enforcement in Spanish-speaking operations. You, as the supervisor, are responsible for your people.”

Burk then asks his last question of each attendee.

“So what is the most important thing you will take back to your company today?” 

Everyone agrees that issues relating to sealants and the failures that result from neglect are the areas that require the most attention.

“From the things we have discussed and shared as a group, each of you has the knowledge to return to your job as a more informed and better supervisor. Hopefully, what you have learned here will have an impact on the people who work for you.” 

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