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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Glass safety arms

The 14th of March 1966 was a memorable day for me. Happy birthday Barx!

Last week I listed some learnings from the recent earthquake, specifically about stored packs of glass. For those that want to see more about the earthquake checkout our company Facebook HERE.

Attached to this blog is a photograph of bulk glass storage which was retained using a single vertical straps. The vertical strap retained the glass until that point where the pressure on the glass was too great and the glass cracked around the strap, and fell to a heap directly below the storage system. In this particular factory this allowed the staff to safely exit the factory on clear floor and without a risk of being cut by broken glass. 

Another factory I visited had used horizontal straps. The top of the glass sheets broke off, and "flew" away from the storage system landing and smashing well out onto the floor of the factory. If this had of been in the pathway of the staff exiting the factory there it's highly likely that they would have been injured. 

So, several solutions exist. The first is more straps, including vertical straps. This will help retain the glass better, reduce the breakages, and encourage the glass to fall vertically rather than out from the storage system. This works but is very time consuming. Additionally one glass worker told me that they had noticed that the straps were getting frayed on the edges, but hadn't ensured that they were replaced. In short there is room for human error with any system which uses straps.

So what I've learned is that the requirements for safe storage of bulk glass in open areas of factories (assuming that Concertina racks or Swing racks are not used) are :
1. Stops the glass from gaining momentum 
2. Easy to use
3. Doesn't wear out
4. Cost effective (If more money was available then Concertina racks and Swing racks would be used)
5. Uses vertical supports, so that broken glass "falls" rather than "flies"
6. Able to be retrofitted to existing storage systems
7. Able to be managed as part of the companies health and safety policy  

Next week I plan to post photos of a safety arm system for bulk glass storage which I believe to be a very clever solution. 

Rework and storage

Rework – Storage

Aside from transportation, storage of finished goods in a window fabrication business creates the most expensive rework. Window frames are often stored on a concrete floor and leaned against each other. Areas for damage include the hard surface of the floor, any factory debris on the floor (shavings, swarf, shelled glass, etc), and the hard surfaces of each item sitting against the next. Where the damage most often occurs is when units are shifted into and out of position. The best example is when the unit at the back of the pile of windows is needed before those at the front.

This is finished goods so the cost per damaged item is at its maximum. Most often the damage is not seen at the time of the damage and only realised and addressed either when loading the vehicle or at site. Maximum cost. Not good.

There are some simple solutions to address this rework. The first is creating raised blocks to sit the finished goods on. Use a soft bearing surface such as polymer rather than a surface like carpet which will hold swarf and other debris. The swarf and debris will fall between the raised blocks and the finished goods should have a nice clean bearing surface. See details of our Trestle Topper product HERE which uses a polymer bearer and can be adapted to finished goods storage.

The second solution is to separate the window frames with a soft bearer such as our Reveal Foams. See them HERE.

The third is to change your transportation system to demountable frames so that there is no storage system. Units are loaded from the manufacturing process directly onto the transportation demountable frame and then the frame is stored for forklifting onto a vehicle at a later date. The reduction in double handling and movement leads to less damage. See them HERE.

The fourth is to change your business operation to use "lean" manufacturing or what used to be known as "just in time" manufacturing. One of the benefits of this is that you have less finished goods in storage, hence reducing the problem. To learn more about "Lean Manufacturing" click HERE. 

The fifth is training. If all staff know the implications of damaging a finished goods unit, and understand the actual costs of reworking that unit and what that additional cost means to the business (their employer), then goods may be handled more considerately leading to less damage. 

Glass and window rework - transportation

Rework – Transportation

I met with a customer last week who said "These things are great. They've paid for themselves many times over by stopping the damage that we used to get to our window frames while we transported them to customer sites….(pause)….. although I'm not sure how much we've saved".

As some of you will know this is a hobby-horse of mine. Rework is one of those blind expenses that eats away at profitability but is never shown on the financial statements, and in most cases, is never calculated or truly understood. It's an interesting exercise to calculate what the cost is of damaging a small window frame or DGU while it is being transported to the customer site. I challenge you to go through the process of working out what the actual cost is.  It's a great exercise to do with your staff so that they realise the implications and downstream impact of damage to finished goods. Make sure you factor in an allowance for your reputation with the builder and the end customer. If you believe your calculation is complete and accurate please email it to me, and I'll print the best one. 

The product this customer was referring to was The Glass Racking Company Reveal Foams. See them HERE. I sometimes get told by customers that they are expensive for what they are. I have never yet been told that they don't do what they are supposed to do, or that they are not cost justified.

This weeks tip to reduce rework is for window fabrication shops to create an environment where your cutting saw operator can operate without distraction or disturbance. Most saw operators will make few if any cutting errors if allowed to just get on with the job. Systems such as Darlicts (email me if your interested) allow the factory to be organised so that the cutter only cuts, and is fed the raw lengths of extrusion. This provides operational efficiency for the saw function as well as reducing errors and rework. Factory layout and design which keeps the saw and operator facing a wall in a separated section of the factory also help by reducing distractions. 

Rework - demarcation

Rework – Clear demarcations of responsibility

This is the fourth in my series on tips to reduce rework in glass and window fabrication businesses.

Earlier this week I spent most of one morning in our factory pulling apart a rack which our factory had made for a client. It was subsequently rebuilt 200mm longer. Our factory had built the rack exactly as I had specified it. Where the error had occurred was in a last minute change to the specification, and who was responsible for making sure that that change was actioned – clearly the demarcation of that responsibility was with me, the person processing the sale and advising the factory what to build. Having others with me at the time did not change this.

The cost of this error was significant, and far more than the profitability in the sale. Ouch, the stinging cost of rework!

Avoiding costly rework requires clearly defined demarcations of responsibility in all areas of the business. Grey areas and blurred lines cost money. Instructions written down need to be complete, and updated when specification changes are made. When focusing on reducing rework its easy to just focus on the factory errors, when in reality anyone in the company can create the need for rework.

Now four weeks into this series on reducing rework I feel I'm stating the obvious and may be teaching readers how to suck eggs. In contrast I've been double checking with customers along the way and they have confirmed that despite their experience and years in business these kinds of errors are still causing them to complete expensive rework. How does your business stack up? Your thoughts please.

Rework in glass and window factories

Rework – Factory Safety Arms

This is the third in my series on tips to reduce rework in glass and window fabrication businesses.

Damage to glass, DGUs, and widow frames being moved around the factory can only occur if a hard surface rubs against the unit. The hard surface is most likely another unit. The solution is to either put a soft bearing surface between each unit, or secure them so that they can't move and rub, or both.

Securing units while on trolleys is typically done for health and safety reasons, to stop units falling off the trolley while being moved. The same solution also provides a rework benefit by stopping units moving and rubbing together. Solutions for this vary from very complex and expensive, to very simple and low cost. For a simple and low cost option checkout The Glass Racking Company safety arms HERE. 

Rubber separators are readily available and not expensive. The key is to make sure that they are used, and moist importantly that they are used when the factory is busy. This is a factory management challenge. Some of our protection products are shown HERE.

Rework - sitting units on debris

Rework – Don't sit units on factory debris

This is the second in my series on tips to reduce rework in glass and window fabrication businesses.

Glass factories typically have shelled and broken glass littering the floor, and window factories typically have swarf or shavings from aluminium saws of their floors. The amount of debris varies between sites, but no site would have zero debris. Often this debris is also present on the ledges of factory handling equipment used to store and move units around the factory. Trolleys with solid plywood ledges are especially prone to this.

Sitting cut glass, DGUs, spacer bars, aluminium windows, and other items on top of this debris increases the likelihood of damage to the bottom edge of the units. The debris sits up proud of the actual bearing surface (on the trolley or floor) and the weight of the units rests on the debris.

This damage and subsequent rework can be avoided by ensuring that units are never placed on the floor of the factory, and that all factory handling equipment has raised base blocks for the product to sit on. Debris then falls down between the base blocks onto the floor leaving a nice clean surface for the units to rest on. 

If you're not sure what I mean by base blocks checkout some photos and videos of The Glass Racking Company trolleys HERE.

Glass and window rework

Most of our products create one or more of the following benefits for the users :
1. Save time
2. Reduce rework
3. Address health and safety
Calculating time savings and paybacks is easy. Addressing health and safety is not always about the dollars. But, rework is an interesting challenge as it's often difficult to calculate the actual savings from a solution which reduces rework. From my experience people often underestimate what rework costs them, and as its not shown on financial statements this cost often goes un-noticed.  

In previous blogs I've calculated the costs for reworking a window frame which was been scratched during delivery to the customer site at around $360. 

For the next few weeks I'm going to provide examples of things that can be done in a glass or window fabrication business to reduce rework. So here goes with the first one:

Hard surfaces

Any hard bearing surface creates an opportunity for damage to the product. Hard surfaces touching the flat surfaces are more likely to create noticeable damage than hard surfaces touching the end or edges of the product. I challenge you to walk through your production line from delivery of the raw material to delivery of the finished product "feeling" all the places where the product is stored or processed. 

In many smaller factories and with some traditional window and glass factory equipment, timber is used for many of the bearing surfaces. Timber ages and can change from a soft to a hard surface, and often the fixings (nails and screws) loosen or become proud and able to damage the product. 

This is a simple problem to fix either with foam strips, or The Glass Racking Company provides a purpose built polymer bearer slotted into an aluminium extrusion which can be laid onto existing bearing surfaces.

Go on, go for a walk and check all of the bearing surfaces in your factory!

Back at work

Today is my first day back at work from annual leave. I've been very fortunate to spend the last week water skiing, hunting, camping next to a beautiful lake, soaking in hot pools on the lakes edge, eating exquisite foods, enjoying kiwi beers, and partaking in a nightly ritual of singalongs at the campsite. We stayed with a large group of like minded families with kids of similar ages, which for me, is what annual holidays are all about.

This week I'll be completing the 2011 version of our Product Catalogue. This was a very well received document last year, and will be packed with new products and information for 2011. If you'd like a copy sent to you please click HERE, include a mailing address in your email, and I'll get a copy in the post to you. 

Next week I'll start a new series of blogs with information relevant to the glass and fenestration industries. If there's any specific topic you'd like discussed please let me know and I'll do my best to research and report on it.

Great speakers

I collect notes from great speeches. They are a passion of mine and I have a draw full of them. This year I'm starting my first blog with a favourite from Theodore Roosevelt which for me summarises the passion of a man who was dedicated to change through superior leadership. 
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Glass and window transportation and site safety

Merry Christmas!

This week I look at on-site safety. This is perhaps the last blog for a while on the safety topic, and I thank one of my readers for asking me to complete this as they felt I had omitted an important safety area in this series. So here are some thoughts. 

Positioning the vehicle
Most truck, van and pickup racks for glass and window transportation are set at 5 degrees of lean, as opposed to 7 degrees of lean for most factory handling trolleys. The reduced lean is so that the footprint required for the rack is minimised while still providing a safe leaning angle for when loading and unloading with the securing system (such as poles) removed. 
A key for the safe unloading at sites is to have the rack at a safe lean for the conditions. Ideally this is perfectly flat ground, which is rare. We install an inclinometer on all our vehicles (click HERE to view) to give staff a factual visual representation of the lean of the vehicle and hence the rack. This needs to be linked to a safety policy which dictates if the vehicle can be unloaded or not. In most cases safe positioning can be achieved through unloading one side of the vehicle then turning the vehicle around and unloading the other side. Given the right tools this is not rocket science and should never be the cause for an injury.

Remote workers
From time to time I have a few beers with window and glass installers. Most will break into stories about risks they've taken to get the job done. There is a certain pride that installation staff take in getting things done on their own, or quickly, or where others would have failed. From a business owners perspective this can be good and bad – the bad being the consequences if and when things go wrong, as they will eventually. One of the problems with health and safety policy for site staff is that they are "out of site" and often "out of mind" for the management. "What happens on site stays on site". Maybe the new year is a good time to review your health and safety policies for site work, with a focus on ensuring that they are implemented and managed.

Site challenges
My old boating friend used to say that boating accidents happen when two things go wrong at once. For site work this is very much the case An injury is more likely to happen when for example a staff member is struggling with carrying a unit and someone else on site is doing similar work or creating an additional hazard. Some simple rules apply :

1. Have a health and safety policy. Encourage staff input so that they have some ownership. Document it. Print and bind it, and put it in all vehicles. Revisit it regularly at staff meetings. Enforce it
2. Log and review all safety incidents. Use these to teach staff of problems to avoid. Create a culture where safety risks are discussed openly
4. Create a culture where staff want to be safe
5. Create a culture where staff ask for help
6. Ensure management are role models for safe practise

A quote I hear regularly which burns my ears is "Those guys that set this policy just don't understand what its like on site. Sometimes you just have to break the rules to get the job done". That may be the case, and its vital that each and every case of rules being broken is fed back into the system to ensure that changes are made to avoid these situations in the future. In most cases its about providing staff with the tools they need to do the job, or coordination of the project, or availability of the right staff at the right time. None of this is hard.

Lets rid the industry of injury, fatigue, and unnecessary risk taking.