The pace of the fenestration industry has been red hot for over a year. The ebbs and flows of a typical busy season, followed by a winter lull, seem long gone. It feels like busy season all the time.
It has certainly been a challenge, and it may seem like there’s no time to do anything else on your shop floor except produce, produce, produce. Think about it: It’s February, a month when you might ordinarily find yourself with a bit of downtime. Under normal circumstances, it’s a good opportunity to perform some maintenance and housekeeping tasks you feel like you don’t have time for during the rest of the year. But it’s 2022—who has extra time (or people) on their hands?
No one. But that doesn’t mean routine service of your production equipment should go by the wayside. Now more than ever, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the importance of routine maintenance tasks that enable efficient and high-quality production.
And it’s not just because lapsed maintenance routines may cause your equipment to go down. That’s a worst-case scenario, and the consequences of poor maintenance can cause problems far before the machine fails outright. Product quality can suffer when production equipment hasn’t been properly maintained or calibrated on the right schedules, sometimes in ways you won’t notice until a customer’s making a claim. Here are a few reasons why:
Garbage in, garbage out. I’ve written plenty about the virtues of high-speed automation for reliable, consistent production of high-quality insulating glass. Especially as labor continues to be a challenge and as you need to get as much as you possibly can from available raw materials, automated equipment can be of major assistance.
But whether you’ve been operating automated equipment for a long time or have just started, one thing remains true: It’s only as good as what you’re feeding it. For example, if your crews are loading roughly cut glass into your machine or touching up dirty glass coming out of the washer, you’re going to have aesthetic issues or potential glass breakage/failures no matter how sophisticated and efficient that machine is. What’s more, fixing or remaking poor quality units can eat into any efficiencies you may have gained by investing in automation in the first place.
Which brings us back to maintenance. Regular inspection of the wheels on your glass cutting machine is essential to ensure you’re getting cleanly cut glass every time. If you’re skipping this inspection, you may not realize your cutting wheels are too dull until it’s too late. The same goes for your glass washing station—it’s not uncommon for members of the Quanex Technical Services team to find that a glass washer’s brushes are not even coming in contact with the glass or that the machines are using dirty water.
These are the kinds of issues that can be easily missed if you’ve put maintenance tasks on the back burner for too long.
Don’t wait for downtime. Quality problems relating to poor maintenance routines are illustrative of why it’s important to make time to perform those routines—and make them a part of your year-round processes and operations. Regular maintenance schedules should be established, and following them should be just as important as any other part of production.
Of course, you may have found that the past year has disrupted established schedules and procedures that had worked well for you for a long time. Try to stay nimble—ask yourself what changes might be appropriate to fit the current conditions.
And remember: Make it a priority. Keeping your quality commitment depends on it.
Joe Erb is commercial sales specialist for Quanex Building Products.