Connecting  
the Dots  
How Integrated Software  
Enhances Automation  
b y K a t h e r i n e C o i g  
s attrition rates, or lack of un- Forward Thinking  
ing environment. They have the capital  
qualified labor, rise in the glass  
With automation providing a num- and resources to invest in this technol-  
industry, manufacturers and ber of benefits, some glass fabricators ogy and also the most to gain through  
A
fabricators are looking for ways to keep may be opting for more manual-free volume processing,” he says.“However,  
production costs low and output high. production. According to David Bren- many smaller fabrication businesses  
Some companies are finding a solution nan, managing director of the software are now realizing the benefits of auto-  
in automation. Equally important to company Smart-Builder,many of these mation. CNC milling centers and saws  
the process is the integration of soft- fabricators are large-scale operations are becoming more commonplace in  
ware throughout the facility. Software that need to yield more product in a many workshops.”  
and automation often go hand-in- shorter turn-around time. “The glass  
Integrating software allows auto-  
hand; the synergy of the technologies fabricators are the ones going toward mation processes to streamline. This  
makes for a successful and efficient automation,” he explains. “They’re the eliminates the need for human capital  
operation compared to just an auto- ones with the biggest volume, and with in the production process. Ron Crowl,  
mated machine. Simply put, integrated data that relies on being consistent.”  
software can make the workplace safer  
president and CEO of FeneTech, ex-  
Echoing Brennan’s sentiment is Rod plains that finding skilled employees  
and production less costly because, as Hurley, strategic accounts manager for is a challenge in itself for the fenes-  
Gemma Martini, CEO of Vitrum Glass Soft Tech Group based in New Zealand. tration industry as attrition rates rise,  
Group, puts it, it’s the string that ties “Typically, it’s the larger businesses but integrated software automation is  
the fabrication process together.  
that work in a centralized manufactur- a promising solution.“Any progressive  
company is looking at automation,”  
says Crowl. “In today’s age, it’s hard to  
find employees who will work when  
you need them to work.” He adds that  
since the glass industry is facing an  
aging workforce, there won’t be many  
millennials willing to replace them.  
“Young people just don’t enjoy these  
manufacturing jobs.”  
Filling in the Gaps  
When it comes to automation, soft-  
ware is the bridge between manual  
and automated processes, according to  
Hurley. “Without [software], we don’t  
have true automation,” he says. So,  
what processes are moving toward full  
automation?  
Smart-Builder’s integrated software allows automation processes to streamline.  
“By far, the most common processes  
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USGlass, Metal & Glazing | January 2017  
www.usglassmag.com  
in the industry [are the ones] sending panies to cut down those manual steps.”  
manufacturing data directly to ma-  
Troy Johnson, vice president of the  
chinery,” says Hurley. “Cutting of pro- glass and architectural metal fabrica-  
files and milling operations performed tor SIGCO Inc., explains that his com-  
on those cut pieces are commonly sent pany began incorporating software  
directly from estimating software to more than a decade ago and has been  
CNC saws and milling centers at the reaping the benefits ever since.“SIGCO  
Benefits of Being  
Interconnected  
click of a button.”  
went live with FeneVision (by Fene-  
Without integrated software, em- Tech) in 2005, which brought not only  
ployees manually enter manufactur- automation, but true integration,” he  
ing data, which can result in costly says. “Software significantly improved  
errors. “Software provides accuracy,” racking, work flow and tracking.”  
says Brennan. “We’re people—we get  
Martini says her company incor-  
distracted; data often has to be re-en- porated enterprise resource planning  
tered, which holds up lead times, and (ERP) software almost three years ago,  
there’s a cost there. There’s also the and now it can adopt and configure all  
cost of materials. If a glass fabricator of its needs into one program. “The  
has the wrong measurements, it’s often only work station that is consistent  
not discovered until installation time.” for all of our products is the glass cut-  
Software greatly reduces these risks. ting. Beyond that, there are 58 different  
Crowl explains, “If you automate a routes that the piece of cut glass can  
work cell, it operates more efficiently, go through before it hits the shipping  
and the integrated software provides floor,” she explains. “The challenge  
visibility of the production floor in with that, of course, is coordinating  
real time.”That means glass fabricators those 58 routes to get to the end step  
can produce consistently higher-qual- just before the target shipping date.We  
ity products with better yields while simply could not do it without the sup-  
If you’re looking to integrate soft-  
ware, here are some ways Gemma  
Martini, CEO of Vitrum Glass  
Group, says their ERP system sup-  
ports the factory. It:  
1. Provides capacity limitations  
at the time of order entry.  
2. Optimizes the glass to in-  
crease yield.  
3. Gives a schedule by depart-  
ment based on the ship date  
and the time required in all  
departments, both before and  
after a particular department.  
4. Collects scan data at every  
station to confirm completion  
at each.  
maintaining lower labor costs.  
The work of the ERP software, in my software, Martini says, has allowed the  
opinion,is … to enhance our fabrication company to be completely connected.  
environment,” says Martini.“It becomes  
Aside from consistency, integrated  
port of our software.” Adding the ERP  
the one string that ties it all together and software also reduces the need for  
gives important data and information to manual labor,the epicenter of work-re-  
every team member ...from those work- lated injuries and mistakes. “Automa-  
ing on the floor, to the sales team, to the tion means less human error, which  
5. Handles remakes fluidly to ex-  
pedite their process through  
the factory.  
6. Confirms that all processes be-  
fore a particular station have  
been completed so no process  
gets missed.  
customers and to the executives.”  
ultimately reduces waste and increases  
And Hurley agrees.“It’s a very com- consistency and quality,”explains Hur-  
petitive landscape out there,” he says, ley. “It’s pivotal in reducing the risk of  
so more and more companies are injury to workers and increased work-  
looking internally for ways they can place safety.”  
7. Records efficiency of each sta-  
tion by scan data.  
save time and money.Automation adds  
If companies replace employees with  
8. Handles the bill of materials  
(BOM) deductions and gives  
feedback to purchasing on  
requirements based on min-  
imum/maximum levels and  
project forecast requirements.  
9. Handles all of the dispatch  
and truck manifests, etc.  
10. Controls and holds all docu-  
ments related to an order.  
11. Produces automated emails to  
customers when their order is  
acknowledged, and then again  
when it has shipped.  
process, process creates efficiency, and software integrated automation, what  
better efficiency means higher returns.” does that mean for the fenestration in-  
dustry’s existing workforce? Some may  
The Upside  
argue an unfavorable economy, but  
One important benefit that software software companies might disagree.  
provides automation is production con-  
While Hurley recognizes that the  
sistency. Companies want to keep their need to automate and stay competitive  
customers happy, and the best way to will lead to a decline in the demand  
do that is by timely and efficient opera- for lower-skilled jobs, there will be a  
tion.“Software is so important because greater demographic of workers able  
it gets those machines to talk to each to transition to positions that formerly  
other. Without it, there is no automa- required specifically trained employ-  
tion,” says Sam Frankland, sales man- ees.“Production line workers see auto-  
ager at Smart-Builder. “It’s critical in mation as a threat to their livelihood.  
avoiding repeat data entry. Humans are  
12. Handles all of the company’s  
trucks, shipping routes and as-  
sociated paperwork.  
error-prone, but software allows com-  
continued on page 50  
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January 2017 | USGlass, Metal & Glazing  
49  

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