The busy season is right around the corner, and commercial glass professionals should be in the midst of getting prepared. As orders ramp up, so does the pace, and you need to be sure you don’t miss a step in order to keep your customers satisfied throughout the season.
But challenges can arise quickly if you’re not ready to run production efficiently and effectively to meet an influx of orders. For example, a machine may be idle because raw materials aren’t fed correctly. Conversely, if your production is humming along quickly, logjams can show up at the end of the line as the product piles up without anywhere to go.
These situations can become a headache but can be alleviated with the right strategies. Applying modern solutions at every stage of your operation can help reduce bottlenecks and/or logjams. For example, a robust, user-friendly enterprise resource planning system that complements your equipment is available from various vendors and can help you formalize/automate processes, better track line inputs and outputs and run things more smoothly overall.
Elsewhere, perhaps it’s possible that you can better optimize the totality of your production line. You should know exactly the raw materials you have on hand at a given time. Are you clearly identifying raw materials and inventory? Grouping things by material type? Are they easily retrievable and movable, ready to go into production? Finally—are your vendors keeping you well-supplied with everything you need? Clear communication with your vendors is important here. Share inventory information so you’re not running out of materials before you realize you need them.
Barcoding is a good way to stay organized at the end of the line. Every completed unit receives a unique barcode that lets you track where the unit is and where it needs to go. This way, your units can be swiftly taken from the line because the barcode knows which truck they need to be loaded onto, which route they’re being shipped on, and when they’re being delivered.
You can work hard to optimize plant flows—but sometimes, the unexpected can occur as products are headed out the door. Driver shortages and the cost of shipping have caused logistical challenges, no matter how efficient you are inside the plant. On the jobsite, weather- or labor-related delays or construction stoppages can mean there’s no room to store glass or windows that cannot yet be installed.
Does your plant have the storage capacity to manage this kind of backflow when it occurs? Here, communication between customers and installers is critical. Communication is critical in both directions—grant visibility of order status to your customers so they can best anticipate and prepare for its arrival.
Today’s plant floor operations depend on a network of stakeholders operating fluidly and seamlessly. When there’s friction between supplier, manufacturer and customer, efficiency can slow to a crawl. Be sure to keep lines of communication open and transparent. Here’s to a successful busy season!
Joe Erb is a national account manager for Quanex.