NewsAnalysis: CNC CUTTING  
Investment Opportunities: When to  
Consider In-House CNC Operations  
hink about this: You run a small  
glass shop and choose to out-  
source most of your glass-cut-  
ting needs to a larger nearby fabricator  
that operates CNC equipment. Lately,  
however, you’ve found that you’re  
sending more and more jobs to your  
supplier and are starting to wonder if  
it might be time to purchase your own  
CNC cutting line. There’s a lot to think  
about before making this decision. At  
what point would this make sense?  
What’s In It For Me?  
CNC cutting equipment can help glass companies  
streamline their operations and also create  
a safer work environment since there is less  
manual handling.  
One reason companies might con-  
sider purchasing CNC equipment is  
labor availability—or lack of it. Steve  
Rodgers, a glass solutions specialist  
with Billco Manufacturing in Zelieno- find you have the flexibility to expand constraints of the glass channel where  
ple,Pa.,points out that CNC equipment your product offerings or enter a differ- speed, cosmetics, dimensional toler-  
requires less manpower than manual ent market with slightly similar prod- ances, design, packaging, etc., all play  
cutting, which can be an attractive ucts,” he says. “A company’s current a very big part, and control of these  
benefit for companies struggling to glass supplier, for example, might not manufacturing processes cannot be  
maintain a quality workforce.  
offer certain products. If you’re pro- ignored. Having our CNC machines  
“Also, when you’re manually cutting cessing in-house, you may find you’re vertically integrated into our processes  
glass, you’re typically moving racks able to offer products that [weren’t allows us that control.”  
in and out constantly requiring much available before].”  
labor. CNC equipment could reduce  
how much you’re moving the glass companies have chosen to bring their  
around, reducing labor costs,” says glass fabrication needs in-house.  
As an example, many shower door Before You Buy  
While the prospects may be enticing,  
companies need to do their homework  
Rodgers, adding that there can also be  
ergonomic benefits. That, he adds, also Ohio, fabricates its own glass, includ- right for them.  
leads to improved safety, as less han- ing CNC processing.According to Steve  
“They need to ensure they have  
Lotz, executive vice president of opera- proper utilities, power, air, etc., that  
Basco Shower Doors based in Mason, to make sure the decision to buy is  
dling of the glass is necessary.  
Tom Bechill, sales manager of Hegla tions, this type of business has evolved they have the floor space and the flow  
Corp., which has U.S. operations based from a “stock” product to a very “cus- of the product going through the plant  
in suburban Atlanta, says companies tom” product.  
is suitable,” says Jay Campbell, sales  
often choose to bring fabrication in- “The custom nature of the business manager with Billco.“In best-case sce-  
house because they believe it will allow means that we have a very short lead narios,you’re bringing the raw goods in  
them to operate more cost effectively, time, to make any design anyone could at one end of the plant and then ship-  
improve lead times and control the pro- ever order regarding glass shower doors ping the finished goods out through  
cess. He adds that the flexibility CNC and tempered glass,” he says. “Every another.”  
equipment can provide is also a plus.  
piece of glass is like jewelry. They are  
“Once you bring it in-house,you may different and complex. Overlaying the  
continued on page 50  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | September 2017  
NconetinwuesdAnalysis: CNC CUTTING  
It’s also important that companies ever the price point, from the low end investment in CNC equipment can be  
choose the right cutting system that can to the high, it’s still a lot of money, and significant.  
keep up with their expected growth.  
“That can be a major savings,partic-  
I think one of the biggest pitfalls that know what you’re getting from a capital ularly for a small shop,” he says.  
some companies fall into is they don’t standpoint. Are you shopping for price  
In addition, companies also need to  
look far enough ahead,” says Bechill. or shopping for quality? Customers know they have staff that can operate  
you have to be prepared. You have to  
This[equipment]maybewhatyouneed need to know what they’re buying.”  
and maintain the equipment.  
“Make sure you have quality people  
today,and that’s fine,but how flexible is it  
Rodgers adds that financing options  
for the future growth of your company? are available to help make CNC equip- operating the equipment,” says Camp-  
Everyone talks about a five-year plan,but ment more affordable.“It’s a long-term bell.“Give this job to someone who has  
the reality is,if you buy equipment,you’re investment, so companies should eval- experience. You need quality people  
going to have it for 20 years.  
uate the true cost comparisons and treating it right and taking care of it as  
He adds, “You need the ability to in- potential savings when comparing though it’s their own.”  
terface from a control standpoint … the manual cutting versus CNC cutting,”  
Fortunately, he adds, the equipment  
software you start with is a big decision. he says. “They should see savings in is usually easy to learn and understand.  
The software package needs to be mod- reduced labor, increased productivity  
ular so you can grow and add on to it.”  
Finances are also important.  
“A week to ten days can get most  
and increased cutting yields from in- companies operating the equipment  
tegrating optimization software with efficiently,” says Campbell.  
CNC cutters, across the board, are CNC cutting equipment.” He adds that  
Bechill adds that most companies  
priced better than ever and have more his company has done analysis for settle in and hit their stride within a  
features than ever, and the technology large-sized firms that showed even few months.  
is superb,” says Campbell. “But what- a 1 percent change in yield due to an  
—Ellen Rogers s  
Discover the True Capabilites of Glass  
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USGlass, Metal & Glazing | September 2017  

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