Volume 9, Issue 7 - July-August 2008

Protect the View

A Fixer or a Waster
What Category Are You In?
by Mike Burk

In a weekly commentary on our “disposable society,” CBS commentator Andy Rooney recently said: “There are those of us who save things and those of us who throw things out. Everyone is clearly in one category or the other.” The same can be said of manufacturers of insulating glass. Most are clearly in one category or the other. There are those that save things or try to save things at the risk of lower quality. Then there are those that throw things out with little regard to cost or impact to the environment. 

Raw materials, work-in-progress and completed units are discarded without hesitation in some insulating glass (IG) facilities. It is easier and faster to remake the unit. There is no approval required. There is no measurement of scrap, no root cause analysis or any attempt to determine or correct the failure.

This disposable attitude was demonstrated recently by a frantic call to one of our industry’s trade and certification organizations. The business owner explained that the test units produced and witnessed by the external auditor were discarded by a new employee. The company needed the auditor to return as soon as possible. The cost of this mistake will be measured in thousands of dollars, weeks of delays and perhaps a career change.

Some Things Can’t be Fixed …
On the other side, there are manufacturers that will do anything to rework or “fix” a defective unit. Production lines will be stopped to hand-wash a lite of glass and units will be pried open to remove and replace a scratched grid. Other units may be declared “good enough” and sent on for glazing and possible field failure.

Is it possible that we can prove Mr. Rooney wrong about “everyone is in one category or the other?” There are definitely times when it is best to discard an IG unit and start over. There are also times when it is effective to fix or save a product. Finding the middle of the road is the difficult task.

Above all, do not ship defective product or repaired product in an attempt to minimize scrap. Defective IG units will only become more expensive defective IG units if they are allowed to be sold and installed. Acceptable and unacceptable quality limits must be clearly defined. There should be limited room for opinions. The cause of the defect should be determined as soon as possible to eliminate future waste. The amount of waste should also be measured and recorded. 

But Much Can Be Recycled
Along with putting restrictions on what is discarded, consideration must be given to what material can be reused or recycled. The number of landfills in the United States is decreasing steadily while the cost to dispose of waste at these landfills is rising. 

Glass is a good place to start. Environmental groups estimate that glass buried in a landfill will take “millions of years to degrade.” Recycling glass cullet can be beneficial to the environment. Glass cullet costs less to obtain than virgin glass material and, in some applications, equally useful. Cullet has a lower melting point than new glass, reducing energy costs and furnace wear and tear. 

Glass cullet also has benefits beyond the production of new glass. Crushed cullet looks and behaves much like natural sand. It has been used as landscaping material, golf bunker sand, highway construction, water filtration applications, aggregate for construction materials and septic tank systems.

The website for one glass recycling company reports that much of its glass is post-industrial window scrap supplied from large flat glass manufacturers and window manufacturers. The cullet is then sold to highway bead manufacturers that recognize the importance of reflective glass beads in highway paint, which helps to improve the visibility of center lines, edge lines, crosswalks and safety zones.

The next time you are driving at night, let the glowing paint line remind you to keep your IG department waste in the middle of the road. Limit the amount of waste by determining disposal rules. Never allow those rules to justify the shipment of defective product.

Finally, consider recycling. Reducing the material sent to landfills will protect the view of our beautiful world. yMike Burk serves as product manager for Edgetech IG. He may be reached at mike.burk@edgetechig.com. Mr. Burk’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.


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