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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Curry and rice

Curry and Rice

My mother used to make curried sausages using Greggs curry powder, a very bland western style seasoning mix, and probably the only one available at the time. Mums curries were served up on boiled rice. For my Mum, that's what a curry was.

Today my family enjoy a range of curry's originating from Thailand, India, Japan, Malaysia, and various pacific nations. The quality of the ingredients has dramatically improved from the options available to my Mum and the resulting curries are far nicer. We have three rice cookers, currently have 6 varieties of rice in the house, and enjoy the options and tastes that these rice bases add to our meals. A quality curry deserves properly chosen and prepared rice.

I went to dinner recently at a friends house and had an exquisitely prepared Indian curry meal served on gluggy boiled rice. A classic mix of the new and the old. All the focus was on preparing a perfect curry, with no consideration or attention to the rice.

Fascinating Barx.

Recently I've seen several companies buy new factory equipment for double glaze production. The time, effort, and capital which is devoted to sourcing just the right equipment for each business is a delight to see. These businesses are seeing opportunities, acting on them, and going forward.

However, the systems which surround the new equipment for lifting, cutting, pairing, moving, and transporting the glass are often boiled rice. The DGU line has polymer rollers and bearers to support the glass and not mark it. The transportation systems have old timber bearers screwed into steel frames. Great care and attention is placed on the way the glass unit moves along the DGU line. The trolleys have 20 year old castors with flat spots and small diameters which catch on any floor debry. The DGU line has an immaculate paint job which is regularly polished. Now I'm not going to suggest you polish lifting gear, but at least make sure its painted, protected, and looks professional. 

An efficient factory is like a good meal. It's a combination of all the right ingredients which come together for a taste sensation. Great factories designed by Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay would have great machinery plus complimentary great factory handling. An efficient and effective meal.

Earthquake - safety arms

Safety Arms

Last week I had an interesting conversation with the manager of a mid-sized glass shop. The business is based in Christchurch, my home town, and the victim of a massive devastation at the hands of mother natures earthquakes in recent times. The conversation was about safety arms to hold pack glass onto freefalls.

Much of the damage the glass shops was caused by full packs of glass freefalling onto cutting tables and bending them. Most tables simply couldn't sustain the momentum and force generated by a falling pack. A bent cutting table is worthless, and requires replacement which is both costly and inconvenient.

The Glass Racking Company supplies three styles of safety arms. One style is used predominantly on our bulk storage racks (such as Concertina racks), another is used predominantly on our trolleys and carts, and the third is a pole based system used for transportation. 

The first two are interesting for earthquake retention of freefalls as they were responsible for massive savings of glass during the earthquake. The systems themselves and clever in their design, low cost, and quite lightweight in their componentry – the secret to retention of stored glass is to stop it from gaining momentum rather than to be strong enough to hold the entire weight of the load.  

Post earthquake many glass shops began securing their glass packs used straps and ropes. This works but is cumbersome and time consuming. Many customers, such as the one I spoke with late last week, will be considering a more practical long term solution.

Post earthquake

3 weeks on ...

This week my two business partners Bryn and Warwick are in Dusseldorf at the GlassTech show. I'm in the office doing my job, serving our walk-in customers, answering phone calls, keeping an eye on the factory, and making decisions as and where they are needed. 

During the weekend I took the time to reflect on the last three weeks. Despite our city having one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country (1079 earthquakes in the last 3 weeks) as a business The Glass Racking Company has continued to push forward. We've helped out local glass and window businesses, we've showed products at GlassBuild in the USA, we've developed some new products, updated our website and some of our documentation, and secured some new clients. Our international clients and business partners need not know about the earthquakes. We've also helped out staff, family and friends who have been affected by the quakes.

The media has been full of horror reports about how the quakes have impacted on peoples lives and businesses. I hope other Christchurch businesses who have been fortunate enough to be unscathed by the earthquakes have done what we've done, kept their chins up and moved their businesses forward. In a time when it's easy to put up the white flag our economy needs us to be progressive.

Glassbuild 2010

Returning from GlassBuild 2010
Today I returned from a week at GlassBuild 2010 in Las Vegas, and a brief trip to our branch in Seattle. At GlassBuild we showed our Glazier site glass truck and some glass and window factory handling equipment. One man who visited our stand, Chris, introduced himself and quickly said that he was at the show to uncover innovations that would help his business. He said that he was proud of being the first company in the industry to implement many new products and processes, and went on to name them. Myself and others on our stand spent about 30 minutes with Chris and he left our stand excited and wide-eyed about the opportunities put before him. Chris maximised the benefits he got from our stand and our people, and the other stands at the show that he spent time at - and it was all due to his approach.
If there was an award for the GlassBuild attendee with the most refreshing attitude to the show and business, then it should go to Chris. 
At the other end of the scale one individual told me outright that they had all their factory handling equipment and glass transportation sorted out and didn't need anything. Imagine thinking that your business is so good that there is no room for improvement! I wonder what value that attendee got from GlassBuild, and why they bothered investing the money in attending. 
All the best for the future Chris. You deserve to succeed.

Earthquake reflections


It's Saturday afternoon as I sit in my office writing this blog. For me this is the first quiet time I've had in what has been a hectic and at times stressful week. Just over a week ago my city suffered a massive earthquake which was 7.1 on the Richter scale. This was followed by another 380 earthquakes in the following 7 days, including two measuring 5.4. In places the devastation on the land, buildings and people has been huge, with estimates of the financial damage ranging from NZ$4B to NZ$5.8B.

At times like this the better side of humanity shines through as people from all walks of life band together to fix problems and help each other. This has been seen in families, neighbourhoods, suburbs, across the city and region, as well as in business. 

For me this involved checking on all the elderly who live near my home. For them it was knowing that someone cared enough to check on them, and provide them with a pot of boiling water to make a cuppa. (Ah the benefits of gas fired cooking when the power is out!)

From a work perspective I was fortunate the secure a cherrypicker and the services of an engineer to re-certify the cranes used by our customers. Together we got the cranes operational to clean up the mess. Everywhere we went people helped us to help them. We had a common goal without distractions. We achieved a lot. It was a good feeling.

As the clean-up continues and we begin working on rebuilding the city I suspect we'll be surprised how much we can achieve. They key will be to work together on a common end goal.

For more details on the earthquake checkout the pics at :

Earthquake #1

Christchurch rocked by massive earthquake

The Christchurch glass and window industry is beginning the cleanup after the massive 7.1 earthquake which hit at 4.30am on Saturday morning. The glass companies have lost 20-80% of their glass stock with many crates and packs falling onto and breaking equipment. Fortunately the factories were not staffed and there have been no reported injuries in the industry. Likewise the city has no reported deaths, which is in itself a miracle. The carnage to our city is difficult to describe, and we have a massive clean-up ahead of us before the rebuild can begin.

The Glass Racking Company is totally focussed on helping get these window and glass businesses up and running so that the fixup of our city can begin. 
See the comments section on or Facebook page which will be updated.
I'll also keep in touch.


Barx (Ian)

Glass false economies

False economies – Glass storage

I guess its human nature to feel proud and think we've got a good deal when we pay less for something than someone else did, or less than someone else quoted us. But how often is this a false economy? My Dad always told me to "Buy quality shoes and quality fishing gear, spend the money and you'll never regret it". He was right, but does his logic apply to transportation and factory handling equipment for the glass and window industries?

In the last couple of blogs I've looked at the false economy of buying a transportation rack with no poles (low capital cost) rather than a transportation rack with poles (more expensive but a quick payback). Over the next few weeks I'm going to look at various items of transportation and factory handling equipment to better understand what the payback is, and if there is a false economy with the cheaper items.

This week the focus is bulk glass storage. 

In New Zealand most of the bulk glass storage in medium and small sized glass businesses is on A-frame racks. The large companies tend to use concertina racks, but many middle sized companies store their bulk glass on A-frames, most commonly the reddy brown coloured A-frames that are shipped with many containers of pack glass. 

The benefits of these A-frames are :
1. Cheap to buy (often gifted at no cost)
2. Cheap to install
3. Simple to load and unload
4. Longevity – they rarely break!
5. In laymans terms, they do the job

The design of A-frames means that as you walk along a storage system there is a space for accessing the first pack of glass, then 2 packs leaning towards each other in A design, then another space to access the glass, then two more packs leaning towards each other, and so on. This takes up a lot of floor space as the internal space of the A-frame is wasted, and there is an access space for every 2 packs of glass, where typically only one access is required at any one time.

For storing packs of glass a Concertina rack is far more efficient. Concertina racks have all the packs of glass leaning in the same direction, on separate bays. The space saving comes from not having the wasted spaces in the middle of the A's. The second space saving comes by the Concertina rack having all bays moving on a steel structure so that the bays can be "wound" to the left or right to provide access to specific glass packs when needed. Combined, the two space savings result in a Concertina rack taking up half as much space as A-frame storage.

So what's the payback and is the cheaper A-frame a false economy?

Typical factory space is around $2000 per square metre to buy. This varies according to location and building type, and this is a fair average to use. 

An A-frame storage system which is 12 metres long and 3700mm wide will therefore have a footprint cost of around $88,000. 

A 10 bay Concertina rack to replace that would be 6 metres long by 3700mm wide, being half the space. The footprint cost for this Concertina rack would therefore be around $44,000.

The Concertina rack will cost around $50,000 installed, and assuming that the total cost for sourcing and installing the A-frame racks is $10,000, then the total costs is $98,000 for the A-frames and $98,000 for the Concertina rack.

So, based on the cost of the equipment and the floor space there is no false economy either way.

However, what we often see is medium and small sized glass companies outgrowing their buildings and requiring more space. The space is usually to fit some new machinery like a double glaze line, or a furnace, or edging equipment, or wanting to stock more bulk glass. When they run out of space in their existing building the options are either to extend the building (if possible), or move to a large premise. Both these options have large capital costs, quite aside from the time required and disruption to the business. For these glass companies the cost of $50,000 for a concertina rack to free up a foot print of 6 metres by 3700mm seems like a bargain and is a logical capital expenditure.

There is also other operational benefits associated with Concertina racks, and having the glass stored in a smaller footprint which have not been factored in to this calculation.

Cost justification

Time savings calculation for a pole based glass transportation system

Last week I wrote about the benefits of poles and blocks for glass retention on vehicles. One of the benefits over ropes and strops is the speed to load and unload, and the blog went on to summise that the additional costs for poles and blocks was more than cost justified over the life of the product.
So, how can we calculate this?
We recently timed a glazier tying a glass load onto his van rack using ropes. From start to finish it took 3 minutes and 25 seconds. By comparison the time required to secure a glass load on one of our glass van racks using our pole and polymer block system is around 10 seconds per pole. Assuming the load is along the entire length of the rack and requires all five poles, this equates to around 50 seconds (lets call it a minute), and a time saving of 2 minutes 25 second savings per load (lets call it a 2 minute saving).
Assuming that your glazier and his van have a running cost of $50 per hour, and completes 5 loads per day, then the savings in the time to load are $8.30 per day, or $41 per week, or $1992 per year (assuming a 48 week year).  A standard 2.2M pole with polymer blocks costs around $150, with 5 poles per side for a standard van, for a total capital cost for the poles of around $750. The poles pay for themselves two and half times a year in the load time savings alone.
At $1992 in savings per year, how much more could a pole based rack cost to still be a better financial option than a non-pole based rack? Even allowing for some additional costs for the rack to accommodate the poles, I believe it's a no-brainer.
Please note that this calculation is only for load times. Add into this calculation the time savings in unload times (untying the ropes), cost savings through reduced transit rub and damage (reduced rework) and the financial case is very clear. Other benefits include improved securing of the glass, longevity, simplifying training, image to your customers, and health and safety.  

Pole based retention systems

Glass retention systems

I remember as a child asking my Dad why his signature had 3 dots after his name. He said he didn't know why, but he thought that his Dads signature had the same thing. Over time I adopted the same style of signature with the same 3 dots. It just happened. I didn't try to copy his signature, just as I guess he didn't try to copy his Dads. My kids at 12 and 9 years old are now developing their signatures, and you guessed it, the 3 dots have appeared.
It's a weird thing about humans, but unless someone questions why we do things a particular way, or shows us a better way, most of us are very much creatures of habit and natural born copiers. 
In some of the markets in which we operate the most common form of retention of glass onto the rack of a vehicle is with ropes and strops. To the best of my knowledge this was the first glass retention system ever tried. I've watched, filmed and timed glaziers securing glass in this way and to me it's a no-brainer that a pole base system is better.
Benefits of a pole based system include :
1. Speed of load
2. Speed on unload
3. Improved securing of the glass
4. Reduced transit damage due to less movement and rub
5. Longevity (parts rarely wear out or get lost, unlike ropes and strops)
6. Less training required (poles take away the need for experience)
7. Image to your customers
8. Health and Safety (our pole based systems come with user guides, ropes don't)
The only downside I know of for a pole based system is that the capital cost is greater. This is more than offset by the benefits and savings listed above over the life of the product. Perhaps the other downside is that for some glaziers a pole based system is new and different and easy to turn a blind eye to.
When it comes to the retention system on the poles the best option also seems glaringly obvious. Some clamps and retention systems used on poles are quite complex, which creates greater capital cost and leads to maintenance issues. Others have hard surfaces. In all other areas of glass production and processing we try to keep hard surfaces away from the glass as we know that they create scratches and markings, so why use them for transportation? Likewise black rubber, it marks glass so why use it as a bearing surface for transportation? The use of polymer blocks for glass retention is extremely simple and effective, and in my mind, the glaringly obvious choice.
Some of the components I've described above are historic and being replaced with more modern solutions. One of the good things about the glass and window industry is that most business owners are open to new ideas, and keen to gain competitive advantage. 
I'm going home tonight to question my kids on why they sign their names with the 3 dots. It's out of date and a waste of time. A better signature exists and they should make the change!

Glass capacities

Glass capacities

In the last few weeks blogs I've been discussing vehicles and loadings. This week I want to drill down into actual capacities.
30 years ago a typical house had 20 windows, averaging about 1/2 of a square metre each, and predominantly 3mm glass. This was before the days of tall ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, common use of bi-fold doors, and architectural glass. Based on these numbers the average house had 10 square metres of glass, 0.03 of a cubic metre of glass, and a total weight of 76kgs of glass.
A typical house of today has an average of 41 glass items, averaging ¾ of a square metre each, double glazed with an average glass thickness of 5mm x 2. Based on these numbers the average house has 31 square metres of glass, 0.31of a cubic metre of glass, and a total weight of 784kgs of glass.
The total weight of glass has increased by 10 times.
More interesting is the true volume of the DGUs. The glass items have increased from 3mm to 24mm in thickness. In terms of capacity this is an 8 fold increase. Therefore the actual volume of glass items in the new house is actually 0.738 of a cubic metre. More than half of the capacity is air (or gas).
The total capacity of glass has increased by 25 times.
What this means for glass transporters is a change from focusing on the weight carrying of the vehicle to the volume carrying. The traditional small ledges on the outsides of trucks are no longer sufficient, and internal storage has become the norm.
Glass factories are finding they are running out of space. It's not surprising. No wonder we make an increasing number of concertina and swing racks to go into existing glass factories to create more space.
(Editors note. The figures used are estimates based on discussions with glaziers and glass industry staff. If you have some factual figures on the growth for your business please let me know).