Volume 33, Number 8, August 1998


Software Solutions...

For Reducing Errors and Increasing Profits

by Andrew Narynski

One of the largest frustrations in any manufacturing industry, including the glass industry, is having a small error explode into a big loss of profits. For instance, having a job go through the plant with a size error of inch can result in tens of thousands of dollars in product being thrown out or reworked.

Having an information system that ensures that engineering standards are met and helps to make sure that the customer’s order is interpreted properly is essential in this age of decreasing margins. How can you measure your system’s performance with regard to this issue, and then how do you take corrective action?

The most effective way of improving any information system’s effectiveness is to identify the largest culprits in terms of frequency and dollars lost. To determine the best solution, a full understanding of why the problem occurs is necessary.

A common problem is having a wrong size or wrong product entered during order capture. The first preventative step usually considered is to have a second person double-check the order. This increases the dollars committed to the order-capture duties but could save expenses caused due to losses incurred. Another solution is to provide your customers and sales representatives with a copy of the quoting package that you use, preferably one that can directly download the quotes into your manufacturing system. This helps to ensure that the information sent to manufacturing is accurate and complete.

Overlooking engineering rules can be costly, as well. In addition, extra cost that cannot be passed along to the end consumer may be incurred when a salesperson or dealer quotes a job using materials that do not satisfy a building code. When a salesperson or dealer uses a quoting package that has your product database, along with your engineering standards, this problem is solved when the project is quoted.

Errors do not occur only at the front end of an information system. If your order-capture software is not directly integrated with your manufacturing software, properly captured information may need to be re-entered, thus creating an opportunity for error. There are really two solutions to this situation. The most effective method could be to invest in a software solution that does accommodate both order entry and manufacturing tools. If this is not a viable option, a well-written interface could be invested into, thus eliminating duplicate order entry.

Up to this point, we have primarily looked at errors that can occur at an order-capture and an information-transfer level. While these tend to be the most obvious, they may not be the most costly. Errors on the shop floor can be the most costly, while they are also the hardest to identify and track at times.

For instance, breakage or scrap due to poor or over handling can add up quickly. Unfortunately these costs are usually lumped into one category–waste. While this is fundamentally correct, there are many causes and categories to waste that can be identified. A common, but not always the most effective approach, is to try to increase yields only via an optimizing package. To control waste, an optimizing package must be able to not only achieve the best yields with "X" amount of glass, but also consider the sequence needed to best manufacture the product after cutting. By organizing your glass cutting requirements into a racking sequence at breakout, you will be eliminating the labor- and waste-intensive step of re-sorting. Without paying attention to a needed sequence you may achieve a 96-percent yield, but may add a waste factor of three to four percent during the manual sorting process—giving you a realized yield of 92 to 93 percent. If the necessary sequence is accommodated during breakout, a yield of 94 to 95 percent may be realized. This could result in not only a two- to three-percent yield gain because of breakage and scratching, but how many labor hours can be saved by eliminating the manual sorting after cutting?

Recognizing that the component used in manufacturing is glass, recuts are inevitable. The use of a manual method of re-ordering the glass recut can result in the wrong size or wrong glass type being cut, or even having the recut lost. By using a system that allows the user to identify the recut in the information system, via bar-code registration or a terminal, the opportunity for error is greatly reduced, as is the labor required. Even better would be a system that would re-optimize the breakage into the next run to achieve the best yield possible.

While every company has a lot of the same general issues, each will also have individual oddities that will have to be dealt with. By using an information system to not only capture customer order information but also to capture statistics from the shop floor, an evaluation of your company’s specific needs can be clearly determined. With the properly configured bar-coding solution, not only can you track the product through the manufacturing process but you can also determine where problems are occurring, what exactly those problems are and begin reacting to the data to eliminate errors and waste.


Andrew Narynski is responsible for North American sales for Albat & Wirsam North America Inc., Oakville, ON. He has been involved with the glass industry for seven years, with five years in operations management and the past two years in software solutions for glass companies.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.