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 truck loading

Truck Loading 

Following on from last weeks Blog about van weights here's some thoughts about load weights for small trucks.
Our Glazier truck body has a 3.5M long x 2.2M drivers side frail, a 3.5M x 2.7M passenger side frail (with height extension up), and dual 2.3M x 1.2M internal frails. The racks allow for a useable ledge of 120mm on the external frails and 1.5M internal space. Combined this provides for a theoretical glass volume of around 6.2 cubic metres. At a conversion rate of 2531kg per cubic metre this glass volume has a total weight of over 15.6 tonnes.
The Fuso truck cab chassis which the Glazier bodies are most commonly installed on come with a GVM of 4.5 or 5.6 tonnes. The dry weight of a Glazier truck, including the body, is around 3.3 tonnes. This provides for between 800kgs and 2300kgs of payload, dependant upon the GVM of the truck cab chassis.
This is all very theoretical. The maximum glass loads are rarely spread to all four corners of the racks, very rarely to the maximum widths, and very rarely 100% glass with no spacers and no double glaze units.
However, sticking to the theme of last weeks Blog, it is very easy to load these small trucks with a large volume and weight of glass – perhaps a volume and weight which would be better transported on a larger truck.
With the continued trend to build residential and commercial buildings with larger window sizes, more architectural glass, and more double glazing, the vehicles which were traditionally considered only required or suited to large glass companies are now fitting smaller businesses. Not because the businesses have changed direction, but because the market has changed.
We build our trucks to have lightweight bodies to increase the payload, and design racks to suit the glass sizes to be carried. In most cases this is internal and external racks for maximum capacity and to create loading options for the customer.
We also see the market for small second hand glass transportation trucks has almost disappeared. Most customers are looking for greater capacity and load carrying than the old trucks were designed for. 
If you're business is different and you are in the market for a 20 year old truck and glass transportation body please let me know. I'll happily point you to a couple of businesses which are trying to sell theirs so that they can replace them with vehicles more suited to their current needs.

Van frail glass loading

Van frail loading

We are often asked what the loading is for our racks. We are almost never asked what the loading is for the vans which will be supporting the racks.
During 2009 we redeveloped the top and bottom brackets for our van frails to suit the increasing sizes and weights of glass being loaded onto van frails. The new brackets are galvanised steel, designed with gussets for added strength. These brackets are a world first and make our van frails stronger than any others we have seen worldwide.
For our standard van frail offering of a 5 pole 2.9M long van frail, 2.2M tall with four roof rack bars, the van frail is rated to hold 1000kg of glass load. This has been certified by an independent engineer, and is a requirement for installation on COF vans. However, we know that putting 1000kg on the single side of the vans that this sized frail would typically be installed on (Toyota Hi-Ace, Mitsubishi L300, Nissan Caravan, etc) would affect the handling of the van and may overload it. For that reason we rate our van frails for 500kg of payload.
The following is the manufacturers specifications for van loading for their current models :
Toyota Hi-Ace ZL – Payload 930kg
Mitsubishi L300 LWB – Payload 1105kg
Nissan Urvan – Payload 1220kg
So, with a single side van frail installed (120kg), a ladder (5kg), a bucket of putty (20kg), general tools (20kg), an assortment of broken glass items (20kg), fuel (50kg), a glazier (80kg), and an allowance for another 20kg of "stuff" we have already loaded the van with 335kg. Add a passenger side frail to the van (100kg), another glazier (80kg), and a load of glass and the payload maximums are very quickly reached. No wonder the vans wear out!
Overtime we have seen the impacts that van frails and glass load has on vans. The most obvious is the wearing of the suspension on the side (usually drivers side) of the van due to the weight loading. For this reason most glass companies turnover their vans every few years. The day to day activities of a glazier or glass company are hard on the vehicle – it's the nature of the industry and product.
The second is that when loaded with glass the van frail is very heavy and under pressure. Few of our frails have failed just due to load. The more common failure is that when the frail is under load, if there is an impact or collision, then the frail and the van gutters are more likely to get damaged. The gutters can be fixed by a panelbeater, and the van frails are all monobolted together allowing for the simple and cost effective replacement of parts. Although this is an inconvenience, the primary cause was the collision.
Vans were never designed for the transportation of large heavy sheets of glass. They serve the industry well, but do have their compromises. We believe that we have the design of our frails right. The use of aluminium for weight reduction. The use of steel gusseted top and bottom brackets for added load carrying. The use of monobolts for construction to allow flexing and ease of part replacement.
This all leads to some basic advise - never buy a second hand glass van!



This week we commissioned a very cool coffee trailer for "Hit Coffee". The picture of this unique bright orange trailer with its radical graphics are only part of the story. If you go to www.hitcoffee.co.nz you'll see the rest of the Hit Coffee brand and story.
People who drink Hit Coffee rave about the flavour, and that comes down to getting the little things right. Enjoying the coffees flavour is a key part of the Hit Coffee brand but the overall experience is what will drive the loyalty.  
In my opinion this little business is destined for great things. They have all the building blocks in place for customer loyalty driving rapid growth.
For your own company I challenge you to test your brand. How does your business  stack up against Hit Coffee in terms of logo, image, website, differentiation against your competition, enthusiasm, ease of communicating, and being memorable?
Surely an established glass or window company should have a better brand than a start-up coffee trailer? 
If you're Christchurch based, contact Hit Coffee to have them start deliveries direct to your door on Mobile 027 727 6457, Tel: (03) 326 4155, or email  info@hitcoffee.co.nz. Go on, make the call …….


Football World Cup

By the time this blog is loaded the final of the football world cup will be over. It's been an interesting tournament, marred by the all to regular theatrics by the players to gain penalties and some appalling refereeing decisions. Unfortunately FIFA, the governing body for the game, has allowed this to happen. Their resistance to change to the obvious solution of video referees is holding the sport back. As a football referee myself I would love the opportunity for input to my more challenging decisions from someone able to view video footage of the incident in question.
Relating this to the glass industry we are laissez-faire, a freemarket, where the simple process of supply and demand dictates most of our industries activities. If a glass or window company comes up with a new idea and implements it, if and when it shows benefits, others follow and over time that good idea becomes the industry norm. We have seen this with the development of glass transportation where the first companies to invest in pole based retention systems and curtainsided trucks were taking a step out of the norm, and when the benefits were realised, were followed by the masses. Unlike football where a governing body sets the policy, these glass industry developments came from the creative spirits of freeminded entrepreneurs.
From time to time the glass industry's "referees" do have an influence on practises within the industry. These are typically around health and safety, and from my experience, are founded on common sense practises with significant industry input. A good example was when the LTSA proposed a law change to make all transported glass enclosed. This would have outlawed van frails and many other existing transportation practices. Metalcraft – The Glass Racking Company worked with GANZ to convince LTSA that the practises used by most GANZ members were safe. The proposed law change was put on hold. "Common sense" with "significant industry input" won. 
Oh, how much better soccer would be if FIFA used "common sense" like using technology to give the officials a better view of incidents, and "significant industry input" like listening to the thoughts of the supporters, players and referees.

Create a difference

Differentiate your offering

We recently released our Window Transportation System to the NZ market with four customers using this system on quite different vehicles. The vehicles range from large covered trucks, to large open trailers, and small open trucks. Each of these four vehicles provides a revolutionary step forward for the customer by providing a purpose built system for loading, securing, transporting, and unloading window frames.
What's been interesting is the feedback from others who have seen these vehicles. One off-shore customer described the large trailer as "The most thoroughly thought through product I have ever seen". Another stated "Don't tell me the options. I want exactly what they've got". 
This shows the power of creating a point of difference for your company. Vehicles are clearly a point of difference for window fabricators. The window fabrication industry has developed some wonderful technologies for their factories and offices, but for most, transportation has remained as it was 20 years ago. 
If you're struggling to differentiate your window fabrication business in a competitive market consider transportation. Our Window Transportation System may provide you the advantage you need to succeed.

R value and glass and window

"R" value challenges

One year ago the NZ government implemented changes to the building code based on "R" values, resulting in most new buildings requiring double glazing.
An average single glaze window pane of 1000mm x  600mm x 6mm has a total volume is 0.036 of a cubic metre and weighs 8.8kg. The equivalent sized double glaze unit is 24mm thick, 4 times the volume, and twice the weight.
During the last year an increasing number of consented building have been built with double glaze. This coincided with a dramatic reduction in volumes. The true impact of the move to double glazing has not yet been felt. When the market does pickup, and assuming that it reaches the same volumes as pre-recession, our industry will face challenges in processing and managing the volumes and weights of the required double glaze units.
A move to site glazing addresses some of these issues as it means that the most glass doesn't get delivered to customers via the window fabricator. For the window fabricator this lessens the impact of the change to double glazing. The new challenge becomes a mindset change within the building industry to accept the additional costs of contracted site glazing. This seems inevitable. 
Glass companies have new challenges : 
1. Manufacturing the quantity double glaze units
2. Factory handling equipment including lifting and moving
3. Efficient storage of the volume of double glaze units prior to site delivery
4. Transporting the volume and weight of double glaze units to site
5. Unloading and lifting the double glaze units into position
6. Coordination of staff, contractors, and customers
Solutions for all of these challenges exist. Partners to the industry, such as The Glass Racking Company, have been developing solutions for some time. Like with the builders, there is a mindset change required for glass companies to accept that new equipment and systems are now required and will now be a part of a typical glass factory and glazing business.
At the recent WANZ conference we demonstrated some of our new double glaze factory handling, storage and site equipment. These solutions address the challenges and create a point of difference for the early adopters.

Safe castor

Safe castors?

In the last year there have been two fatalities in the NZ glass industry. In addition to these I know of three other incidents where glass fell off a storage system or trolley, two onto a worker and another onto a bare floor. There may be other minor incidents which go unreported.
Glass is by its nature a heavy, fragile, and sharp product. Quality handling and transportation systems for glass are specific to the industry. The key suppliers of this equipment globally number around 10, with those companies typically making a range of storage, lifting, and handling products. Each manufacturer has their own systems and components which they have developed with their key clients over a long period of time. Most general fabricators avoid glass handling and transportation as they recognise that this is an industry suited to specialised rather than general equipment. The one anomaly seems to be trolleys.
I made a 2010 new years resolution to highlight to customers when I think their trolleys are unsafe. I'm sure many customers think this is part of my sales pitch, and maybe it is, but I also consider it my duty to the industry to speak up if I believe they are using unsafe equipment. The most common area of concern is castors. If a castor fails the glass will most likely tip and fall.
A typical 2 metre long A-frame trolley with 200mm ledges and 1700mm tall has the ability to carry around 2 tonnes of glass. I drive a Holden ute which weighs around 2 tonnes. Moving a loaded trolley around a factory is therefore equivalent to pushing my Holden ute around. Why is it then that so many trolleys use lightweight castors not rated for heavy duty applications?
I challenge you to check the castors on the trolleys in your factory. 
1. Check the diameter of the castors. Glass trolley castors should have a diameter of at least 150mm 
2. Check the castors load rating. If it is built for heavy duty application it will have a rating of at least 400kg per castor.
3. The forks that hold the castor wheel are a common point of failure. Well designed castors will have strong fabricated steel forks. Lighter duty castors will have pressed steel forks which are typically lighter and weaker, and prone to failing by folding over.
4. Check for wear in the swivelling mechanism (if it has one). 
5. Check for general wear on the outer surface of the castor. A heavy weight castor will take many years to wear under normal load.
6. Check the shaft and bearing in the centre of the castor. This should be firm and show no signs of wear
7. Check where the castor is attached to the trolley
If in doubt, replace!
The following photos show examples of where inappropriate castors have been used on glass trolleys. This is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously. We all need to take responsibility for reducing risk in our industry.
If you want help with your factory handling equipment you know where we are, and we are keen to help!

sizing your glass vehicle

Sizing glass vehicles

How do you size your next glass or window transportation vehicle?
Over the years the average size of windows and glass units has got taller and wider. 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. 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. In one example a large glass delivery vehicle has travelled over 1.4 million kilometres and continues to perform well. When that particular vehicle was designed and built the average size of glass units was much smaller, and the total weight of glass per house lot was a lot less. To replace it today we need to predict what the likely requirements will be during the life of the vehicle, and size it accordingly.
So, who thinks that the houses of the future will 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. This is one of the reasons we have developed the Glazier, Contractor and Open delivery light truck range as an option for glaziers and smaller glass companies.
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 more walls and less windows are more appealing, but I don't think so. 

Business confidence

Business Confidence and the All Blacks

This week a report showed that NZ business confidence is up, the highest it has been since May 1999. Furthermore the National Bank NBNZ report opened with the quote "We continue to take heart from the tone of NZ data. Not only is it pointing to ongoing momentum, but the mix to growth is positive for a durable upswing."
I'm somewhat cynical of such reports as there are many influences on business confidence. I understand that two of the greatest influences are the weather and the All Blacks. Business confidence always goes up in spring as the weather fines, putting people in a more positive frame of mind.
The success of the All Blacks is also a significant influence for exactly the same reasons. When the All Blacks win the Tri-Nations or complete a Grand Slam tour the positivity of the general public in New Zealand, including the business owners surveyed, trends up.
So why are the current levels of business confidence so high? We have just had a cold wet and miserable period of weather across the entire country. The NZ teams in the Super14 didn't even make the finals, and our All Black team is looking weaker than it has for many years. If anything you'd think that business confidence would be at an all time low.
Business confidence is all about whether or not business owners are planning to grow their businesses and employ more staff. Clearly many are, and more so than in the past 11 years. Despite my cynicism of such measures and reports, I believe that the NZ economy is on the rise, and that many small businesses will create new niches to grow their volumes and staff numbers. This small business success, based solely on hard work and innovation, will gradually pull our economy out of the mire.
As for the weather and the All Blacks, we can but hope …..

Emerging from a recession

Emerging from a recession ....

When our industry emerges from the current recession will it emerge in exactly the same shape with the same key players as it went in? Most business people say that it won't, that some new players will be stronger and some of the previously strong players will have a lesser role in the industry. For entrepreneurs today is the day to reassess your business long term goals and what role you want to play in the new industry. Today provides an opportunity which is unique in our careers, as at no other time is the industry so open to new directions. Don't waste this opportunity.