There are plenty of reasons why automated production has gained significant traction in the commercial glazing industry over the past several years.
One of the biggest has been the ongoing labor challenge. Finding good people and training them with the right skills to build consistent, quality commercial glass products has been a major headache for plenty of glass producers, and the ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated these issues for many organizations. For those reasons, automated equipment for IG manufacturing has become an increasingly critical solution for fabricators to meet demands while operating with fewer people. It also has the added benefit of helping organizations comply with social distancing safety measures, helping to keep employees properly separated and healthy.
Whether you’ve invested in an automated line already and are waiting for your new equipment to arrive in the coming months, or if you’re considering making the investment sometime soon, there are a few things that should be kept in mind to maximize your return.
Perhaps most critically, you need to prepare the reliable workers you do employ for the coming changes on the plant floor. Here are a few ways to do that:
Take time for onboarding. Changes on the manufacturing floor may cause some alarm bells to go off in the heads of shop employees. Primarily, they may wonder whether or not their job is safe. For managers, a critical task here is to get ahead of that mindset and reassure their teams that bringing in automated equipment will be beneficial for everybody. Because automation isn’t about eliminating labor—it’s about maximizing the labor that’s already in place.
Create buy-in by properly communicating that new equipment will make it easier and more effective for your employees to do high-quality work. Also make it clear that, implemented properly, this kind of investment will put your company in a better position to operate cost-effectively, delivering consistent, high-quality products for the long run.
Make everyone’s role clear. Implementing an automated IG line has far-reaching impacts across the entirety of the shop floor, and therefore, it will impact every floor employee’s job. It’s not just the men and women on the existing IG line—everyone plays an important role in successful implementation.
Early engagement, before your new equipment arrives, is key to success once everything is up and running. Work collaboratively with your teams on how to avoid bottlenecks that can result from higher-volume production capabilities. For example, does your glass cutting station have enough capacity to keep up with available production? Will your inventory teams be ready with enough raw materials? Is there enough storage space on the plant floor to keep units moving away from the line once they’ve been complete? Are your shipping teams prepared to get these completed units out the door efficiently?
These are all questions you should be asking before automated IG equipment arrives on your shop floor. Work collaboratively with everyone throughout your plant to work out the answers.
Keep maintenance in mind. It’s also important to consider the ongoing needs of your new equipment once in operation. Proper maintenance procedures, helping ensure that your equipment is running at maximum efficiency, will be key to success.
Don’t wait until your first planned maintenance event to get started on planning for the new maintenance activities that will be required for your equipment. Develop processes and schedules, and familiarize your teams with the upcoming changes early on in the process. Some of your suppliers of IG components, like your spacer systems, who have experience with automated equipment may be able to help you get started.
In the end, getting the most from your equipment requires a solid plan and engagement with your workforce. Preparing your teams and doing your homework can go a long way.
Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Joe.Erb@Quanex.com.