Volume 35, Number 7, July 2000


Banding Together

implementing the team approach as a way
to measure automation

by Joe Almasy

There are several types of automated systems on the market today designed to make the manufacture of insulating glass more efficient. Sorting through all of the vendors’ literature and sales pitches can be a daunting task. However, there is a way to ensure you purchase the right equipment for your operation.

There are three objectives you should consider when researching automated IG equipment: reducing unit cost, reducing reliance on labor and improving quality. Understanding how the various automated systems can help you to achieve these objectives is imperative to making the correct purchase.

Getting a firm handle on an automated system’s full impact on a business is a time consuming, detailed process. A team approach should be considered due to the variety of cost centers, time required and department-specific requirements.

To help simplify matters, the three major objectives can be broken down into a task list for the team to follow.


Objective #1: Reduce Unit Cost

The cost of producing a high quality insulating glass unit is the most important consideration for manufacturers. Cost is generally presented as a very simple equation of dollars per lineal foot of raw materials plus the direct labor costs it takes to produce a unit.

To determine whether an automated system will help you achieve this objective, you should complete the following tasks:

• Gain a full understanding of the total plant IG requirements and how they impact the system of choice;

• Compare labor rates;

• Analyze total material cost, including raw materials scrap and labor scrap;

• Determine the cost of the equipment in dollars per unit;

• Know the cost of maintenance;

• Understand the implications of training new personnel from a productivity viewpoint.


Objective #2: Reduce the
Reliance on Labor:

The reality of today’s workforce is that it has become more difficult to find individuals willing and capable of performing the necessary functions required to build insulating glass units for a wage that allows a manufacturer to remain competitive. Because the availability of qualified workers is so low, many manufacturers are looking to automation to solve their labor issues.

To decide if a system will enable you to reduce your reliance on labor, you should:

• Analyze the new system for the number of skilled positions required;

• Know how you will fill and retain these employees;

• Know in detail what each employee must do for the system to produce the stated throughput.


Objective #3: Improve Quality

A careful study of each step in the process should include the cycle time each operator must achieve to produce the desired quantity, while maintaining the quality expected. Understanding the performance requirements of the various mechanical components of the system is equally important. How well the system and the line workers manage these requirements is key to reliable performance and improved quality.

The following steps will help determine whether a system will provide the means to an improved product:

• Analyze the system for application consistency, grid location accuracy and unit assembly accuracy;

• Know what the performance levels are for each part of the system and how to keep them there to maintain necessary

• Know the impact of human intervention. How much skill is required from how many people to produce a good unit?

Accomplishing the above tasks may seem overwhelming, but the potential cost savings are substantial and well worth the time and effort. You may discover that you require more flexibility than an automated system can provide.

The need for special shapes, remakes and small rush orders can increase the glass department’s complexity. An experienced vendor should be able to supply a sealant system, facility layout, production flow diagram and equipment quotation that covers all of the insulating glass that must be produced.

wpe2.jpg (1653 bytes) Joe Almasy serves as technical services representative for TruSeal Technologies in Beachwood, Ohio. Fenestration Focus appears monthly with rotating columnists.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.