Welcome to Glass and Window blog. This blog has had weekly entries since April 2010, making it one of the largest, longest, and most verbose blogs ever, with specialist focus on the glass and window industries.

The Glass Racking Company, a specialist supplier of glass and window factory handling and transportation solutions, with customers across the globe. Over time we have enjoyed working with clients to create solutions for them which save time, reduce rework and hence costs, and address health and safety requirements.


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2015 trends

14 December 2015

Last week I was asked what the biggest changes have been the glass and window industries in the last year. My thoughts are :

1. Acceptance by construction companies that site glazing is needed and incurs an additional cost which they should pay for.
2. Most glass and window companies increasing their margins
3. Most glass and window companies are sticking to their knitting. If for example they are a commercial window glazer they are turning away opportunities for other work to focus on what they are specialists in.

These are all good changes for the industry, and good for each companies bottom line.

Window Fabricator van frails

Almost 25 years ago we developed a glass frail for transporting glass on the outside of a van. This development was for glaziers who worked for glass companies.

Nowadays many of the glass frails we sell, install and service are for vans owned by window fabricators. The size of the glass units in their joinery has increased over time and they can no longer glaze in their factories, and have chosen to purchase glass frails (and other glass transporters) to get the glass from their factories to their customer sites to be site glazed.

For many years the industry knew it had to do more site glazing but was reluctant due to the extra time and cost incurred which would need to be passed to the end customer. The end clients wouldn't accept it. The workaround was to struggle and continue with factory glazing (and moving very heavy units to site), or do the site glazing and somehow absorb the cost. Fortunately this has mostly changed, and the costs of site glazing are an accepted part of the build cost.

There are still many window fabricators who contract out their site glazing, but increasingly we see the window fabricators employing glaziers and buying vans with frails to do the work themselves.

And that's how we came to sell more frails to window fabricators!

Wasted time

Last night I was butchering two deer that my son and I shot in the weekend. Two whole animals take up a large space in our kitchen. Before we made the first knife cut we worked out a process of how we would butcher the meat with minimal movement and lifting. By reducing these two aspects of the job it was completed quickly and efficiently. I liken this to glass and window factories – the good ones are well thought out and you don't see a lot of staff movement between machines and around the factory. The staff are in position doing their work.

When factory staff in glass and window factories are standing in one position doing their work we gain many benefits. These include :
1. Improved productivity by that staff member
2. Reduced disruption to other staff members
3. Improved health and safety (mostly)
4. Improved quality

On a blog a couple of years ago I challenged glass and window factory managers to track the movement of their staff around their factories for a day, and record how much time is spent walking around. For most roles walking around is downtime in terms of production, but incurs the same costs. Once you know the times and the costs you can look at ways to reduce movement, and in many cases that "expensive" piece of factory handling or storage equipment suddenly becomes very affordable. In fact it becomes essential.

Taking this to the next level, how about spreadsheeting the time spent by each staff member away from their workstation, and send me a copy. I'll do my best to work on solutions for the biggest offenders which will reduce their downtime cost.

Visiting the regions

Last week I travelled to one of the smaller regions to meet with the glass and window companies there. At one of the meetings we agreed that I'd do an audit of their fleet of vans and frails the following morning, with a view to organising any maintenance and upgrade work which may be required.

The fleet was in excellent condition with the exception of a few replacement parts. The staff were very helpful and the entire audit took less than an hour.

The manager of the business (and his operations managers) were delighted that I visited their site, and very keen for me to help them in their business. They also requested an audit of some other equipment which I'll do on my next trip. 

My trips to the regions are often like this. I suspect these companies don't get so many visitors who genuinely want to help them, and when someone does come to visit they "drop everything" to take advantage from their visitor. As a supplier to the industry this allows us to be at our best, and provide the most benefit.

Plea

Further to last weeks blog this weeks blog is a plea to let us do your easy stuff as well as the hard stuff. If you need some simple tables or benches, or you need a basic storage system for offcuts or raw materials please have us do it for you. At our heart we are a metalworker, and our business needs man hours a simple jobs to keep operating, just as your does. Without the volume of work we cannot afford to continue with the product development and the innovations we're known for. 

Product development

We're currently manufacturing some factory equipment for a glass company which is similar to items we've manufactured before, but on a much larger scale. They are longer, wider, and taller, and hence the materials and some parts of the design have been re-thought to make them work as the customer requires.

As a designer and manufacturer of this type of specialist equipment there is an enormous cost associated with product development. Nutting out the design details takes a lot of time. Sourcing all the components required takes a lot of time. Double checking all the workings takes a lot of time. All that time costs money. 

Another option for us as a company would be to just do the easy stuff and say no to the more challenging jobs. We would not develop solutions but just copy what others do. Our companies running costs would be less, and our pricing for the easy items would also be less. We wouldn't really be helping the glass and window industry, but it would be a lot easier.

However, that's not who we are. We have a strong and compelling passion to help glass and window companies to be more time efficient, to have less product damage and hence reduced rework costs, and to address health and safety needs and concerns. We honestly believe that the work we do helps the industry far beyond the simple manufacture and supply of steel items. 

This weekend the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup 2015, being the first rugby team ever to win back to back world cups, and also the first time the All Blacks of New Zealand have won the world cup outside of their own country (we've hosted the event twice). Many commentators from around the world have rated this All Blacks team as the best rugby team ever. Quite an accolade.

So what makes this team so good?

In my opinion the key to their success is their lack of weak links. Each player has a high level of fitness, skillsets, and has a backup player of similar ability who can come on as a replacement if an injury occurs. More importantly than this though is all the other aspects of the team, where there are no weak links. They have good strategies. They think positively and act accordingly without being arrogant. They all handle pressure well and don't get flustered, emotional, or angry. They all work well as a team without conflicts between team members. They support each other. They are sublime at PR, having the support of their home country and also have supporters from many other countries. They play an entertaining style of rugby which is a joy to watch. They have excellent sponsors who the team support, and who support the team in many more ways than just funding. And finally in the words of Steve Hanson, the All Blacks coach, "We have fun".

Simple things which are so hard to get right.

How do you size your next glass or window transportation vehicle?

Over the years the average size of windows and glass units has got bigger and heavier in all dimensions – taller, wider and thicker. End customers want more glass in their houses and architects have responded by designing and promoting houses with more floor to ceiling glass with wider dimensions. Views are more important than they've ever been. Easy to use indoor outdoor living is a key requirement for many homes. This is good for our industry, and although it also creates challenges, more is generally better than less. 

Our glass and window transportation solutions have a life expectancy of over 10 years. When planning the designing the dimensions of a new glass and/or window transporter today we need to predict what the likely requirements will be during the life of the vehicle, and size it accordingly.

Will the houses of the future have less glass and smaller units?

Overtime we expect to see the average size of glass transportation vehicles to increase. This means that small companies will buy vehicles that have traditionally been purchased by medium sized companies. This doesn't necessarily mean that the business is growing, just that the transportation requirements have changed. 

Another change we predict is more medium sized glass and glazing companies taking on a range of vehicles. Many in the past have standardised on vans. Vans will still have their place but many businesses will compliment vans with light trucks.

I could be wrong of course. End customers might decide that houses with less glass are more appealing, but I don't think so.

The power of the negative

Thanks to those who provided some thought provoking feedback to last weeks blog. I always appreciate your replies.

In the past few weeks I've been reminded of something I was told many years ago – that in personal and work relationships one bad experience can overturn all the good done by ten good experiences. Such is the power of the negative.

Logic says that if someone lets you down in some way, you should take a deep breath, and then reflect on what that person or organisation has done for you in the past. Consider whether this one event defines that person or organisation, or is it a single failure? That's the obvious thing to do, but most of us don't.

Split ups

On Friday I went to a funeral of a friend who died in his mid-seventies. He was a neat old fella, a very hardworking farmer and sheep shearing legend. His body was worn out and his time was up.

During his life he married and had children, then he and his wife split up in a very hostile separation. Sadly that anger targeted towards his ex-wife never waned and he held onto that negativity for the rest of his life.

I liken this to business relationships and partnerships that might at one time be very good then lessen or even fall apart. It happens. No-one plans for it, and most are sad when it occurs, but it still happens. To come out of these events with a long-term hatred or anger towards the other does no-one any good. A desire and plan to move forward for the betterment of your business is beneficial for the business as well as your own well-being.

Looking after yourself is as important as looking after your business. If you're heads in a negative space you won't do yourself or your business any favours.