The dog days of summer are upon us. It’s the midst of the busy season and working quickly is a necessity. Fabricators must pull it off without sacrificing our commitment to quality and maintaining safe working conditions.
But this time of year comes with its challenges. Moving more insulating glass (IG) down the line to meet demand can lead to the potential cutting of corners. Then there’s the heat, which may lead to increased fatigue among your workforce, decreased focus and greater injury risk.
With these conditions in mind, fabricators should make a concerted effort to keep conditions manageable and safe. What can be done? Here are a few ways plants can reduce risk and prioritize safety this busy season.
Think small. The temperature may be the most direct risk associated with summer on the shop floor. Fatigue and dehydration are risks for your workers, but fatigued employees can risk everyone’s safety if a mistake is made.
Luckily, there are some simple ways to combat the heat. Consider pumping chilled air onto your floor space if possible or create designated “cool zones” where workers can escape the heat periodically. And while this may sound like a no-brainer, be sure always to make cold drinking water available to your workforce. You can even go the extra mile and provide popsicles.
Take advantage of your equipment. The rise of semi-automated equipment and fully automatic high-speed insulating glass lines in commercial glass manufacturing has brought many benefits to shop floors everywhere. One of the most important is the impact they can have on safety in the manufacturing plant.
But first, there’s the matter of ensuring all teams are adequately trained to use such equipment safely and effectively. Automation solutions are large pieces of machinery moving near and around your workforce—equipping operators with the proper knowledge to operate these systems effectively, efficiently and safely is of the utmost importance. Workers should also be well-versed in proper maintenance schedules and procedures to keep the equipment in good working order at all times.
The safety benefits will manifest from there. Fewer touchpoints on an IG line regarding spacer application, for instance, means fewer chances for workers to contact the sharp edges of glass. Think about your glass-cutting processes, breakout tables, edge deletion and more—each is an area that has the potential for automation.
Rethink transport and handling. Commercial glass is big—and as size increases, traditional manual methods for spacer application and frame assembly can become more demanding and complicated, requiring several workers to complete these tasks. Not to mention an increased risk of accident or injury dealing with oversized units.
But the right equipment can help us move and transport units of all sizes more effectively and efficiently around the plant floor. Robotic lifts can provide great assistance and are also immune to the heat of summer—meaning you can allocate your employees to help keep track of orders as they move throughout the plant floor. Using machine-assisted equipment for loading and offloading units onto and from a line helps reduce fatigue and the need for brute force at another critical touchpoint.
Keeping your manufacturing floor safe is critical to the success of any organization. As we continue to work through this summer, let’s make sure we’re keeping that commitment and that we’re deploying the right strategies to make it happen.
Joe Erb is the national account manager for Quanex.