Staying Focused on Training and Education

Toward the end of my post last month, I noted that our industry’s journey toward delivering increasingly efficient glass solutions for new buildings will most likely require the application of new and emerging technologies. Staying innovative in this way is something fabricators can’t lose sight of, despite some of the other challenges our industry has faced for the past year and a half.

There’s something else there I left unexplored. Adopting cutting-edge technologies to meet new codes and keep up with demand requires certain skill sets to leverage that new technology. Making a switch from metallic spacer systems to high-performing warm-edge systems, for example, requires the right knowledge to fabricate high-quality commercial insulating glass (IG) units properly. The installation of a high-speed line and shifting from manual to automated production require a similar shift in thinking and skills. Proper education is necessary to make sure these types of solutions are brought online correctly—because even if you’re utilizing high-performing components, they’ll only perform up to standard if they’re implemented correctly.

Developing these kinds of skill sets requires an organizational commitment to continuous education and training among your workforce. Training can, however, sometimes feel like a necessity that’s impossible to keep on top of. Considering the rates of plant floor turnover these days, it’s possible only 50% of a line operating team you trained in April is still working on your plant floor. You may have needed to fill the gaps with temps, or perhaps your supervisors have jumped in to perform some of the manual assembly work.

But no matter who is assembling units, it’s essential those people are equipped with the necessary skills to do so effectively. Some of my recent conversations got me thinking about a few things commercial fenestration pros should be considering as we head into the winter months:

Train your entire teams. Shop floor technicians and line operators are your first line of defense against poor quality, so it can be easy to focus training initiatives largely on these teams. But investing in training for all of your plant staff, including supervisors, can be a good insurance policy.

Here’s why: Instilling a greater depth of technical assembly knowledge among your supervisory staff means they’ll be able to teach new recruits properly and will be able to reliably step into an assembly role if the situation calls for it. Additionally, investing in training for your supervisors makes longer-term sense, given that these are roles that are not as vulnerable to high turnover as line operators. By making sure you’re thoroughly training your higher-level staff on the best practices of IG assembly, you’re ensuring that the right knowledge is already in place even if it’s been tough to staff your line reliably.

Use downtime strategically. Given the pace of demand in recent months, “downtime” may seem like something strange and foreign to many commercial fabricators.

But it does happen. We’re entering the winter months, a traditionally slower period for building and construction. Or perhaps you’re waiting longer than expected on a glass shipment. These are opportunities to build knowledge throughout the shop floor. Here, nothing formal is necessarily required—maybe it’s a quick 30-minute refresher on spacer application. Perhaps it’s a lunch and learn, where your staff will appreciate a hot meal along with the opportunity to grow their skill sets. Or maybe it’s a cross-training exercise, where teams from two separate departments gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to carry out the tasks of their counterparts.

All of these can be valuable, particularly as your organization looks to bring new technologies online and rapidly innovate to succeed in an evolving industry. If you have any training tips you’ve found to be successful on your shop floor, I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line at

Joe Erb is a commercial sales specialist for Quanex.