Commercial glass manufacturing isn’t easy work—it takes expertise, dedication and the ability to streamline operational efficiency across the board. Many of us pursue continuous improvement efforts, striving to achieve greater consistency and quality every day.
But our jobs, like any other hobbies or work we pursue outside of the fenestration industry, fall at risk of becoming rote tasks when we do them every day. We know our operations inside and out—and sometimes that’s the problem.
You’ve probably heard of the expression about giving something “a new set of eyes.” Outsiders can catch errors you’ve overlooked, things you’ve gotten used to. It’s why I always have my blog posts proofed before they’re posted! The same is true of your plant floor. Third parties can catch errors you might be missing or areas that can be improved as you work toward higher efficiency and consistency.
Take, for instance, one common source of unseen trouble that I ran into frequently when I was regularly walking customer plant floors: the glass washing station, which represents around half of an IG line’s preventative maintenance tasks, and as such one of the most critical tasks on the line. Glass cleanliness can lead to lasting aesthetic issues as well as performance problems like seal failures. Water quality, water temperature and the machine’s overall general cleanliness must be constantly monitored to avoid issues.
Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon to find an automated glass washer in the field that has been incorrectly calibrated, with the cleansing brushes barely or not even coming into contact with the glass itself. Water temperatures might also be off. These might seem like small or relatively inconsequential issues, but they can have an impact on your overall quality goals. And often, quick fixes can be performed to issues like that on the spot.
Another example: Secondary sealants play a critical role in the longevity of commercial IG, and the proper mix ratio and consistent mixing of two-part sealants is critical for achieving desired long-term performance. As we continue to drive efficiencies through automation, the volume of sealant pumped through these delivery systems increases. That means check valves, mixer tubes and seals will all wear more quickly. Worn components may not initially show visible problems within the IG, but if the sealant mix ratio or consistency is off around the perimeter, your desired cut rate and performance may be in jeopardy. An outside perspective from your sealant or equipment supplier may be just the ticket to help identify improvements and adjustments here.
Plant floor audits highlights the value of bringing outside perspectives onto your plant floor to help identify issues that might be occurring without your realizing. Whether it’s a vendor whom you trust or some other third party, giving your operations a “new set of eyes” can help identify some of these details, and it can make a big impact. Likewise, beyond specific fixes, there might be unidentified areas of opportunity on your plant floor, and a third party might be able to spur new ways of thinking.
Be open to the possibilities, and I’d encourage all manufacturers to consider where they can be finding fresh perspectives in a market that demands continued improvement.