Volume 13, Issue 7 - September 2012
Behind the Curtain
Talk about perks: It was three days well spent on the frontline of the door and window industry’s leading research developments and product innovations during the 2012 Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) Technical Conference. Somewhere between the back-to-back sessions that featured the latest and greatest, a group of conference attendees hopped on a bus and took a beautiful drive through flat green fields from Bloomington to Northfield, Minn., to take a look at one of Cardinal Glass’ coating plants. The glass manufacturer has six nationwide.
After being fitted with safety glasses as well as a set of ear plugs, which would soon prove to be a handy, several tour guides led conference attendees to the plant floor for an inside glimpse at Cardinal’s coating processes from start to finish.
Upon entering the large production space, it is hard to believe that a mere 93 employees run and operate the towering machines and equipment responsible for churning out the finalized coated glass.
“Different coatings are produced at different cycle times so it depends on product mix,” Kalousek says. “We have capacity to produce from 400,000 square feet and 600,000 square feet in a 24-hour period.”
Additionally, he says it only takes 7 to 14 minutes to coat one piece of glass.
So Where Does it All Begin?
“At Cardinal we produce float, laminated, coated and insulating glass,” Kalousek says. “We are probably best known for insulating units. They are the best in the industry. The failure rate at 20 years is 0.2 percent.”
According to Cardinal, “Every piece of glass is checked from start to finish. These inspections rely on calibrated scientific instrumentation. Therefore, results are objective, not subject to human interpretation.” This was evident by several hubs of computers throughout the plant floor, which received input values for different coatings for varying sizes of glass pieces. As uncoated pieces of glass are shipped into the plant, their route of production “depends on the specific customer’s needs,” Kalousek says. “We have two coaters with high- and low-volume cutting and tempering capability.”
Covering All Bases
“Across all Cardinal companies we have implemented Intelligent Quality,” he says. “Using our patented systems we thoroughly inspect our products from start to finish.”
At the Minnesota plant that Kalousek manages, he says the company’s push for close surveillance also benefits employees, vendors and customers in terms of safety.
“Safety is our first priority at the Northfield plant as it is in all Cardinal plants,” he says. “The same drive that keeps us improving and upgrading products and processes keeps us improving safety. As a result our safety performance is much better than industry averages.”
In terms of releasing new products, Kalousek says that overall the process from the concept to the release of a product will vary.
“Product design, process development and testing protocols all determine the amount of time it takes to release a new product,” Kalousek says. “Some products take as little as 30 days while others can take a year or more.”
As for the stages that a new product must go through before its release, Kalousek says there are multiple steps.
“The process spans from design, review, testing, certification and marketing,” he says. “One thing we do differently is field testing. Cardinal has test houses across the country representing different climates. We determine customers’ value from real-world testing.”
Kalousek says being a leading manufacturer is not without its difficulties, especially when it comes to developing new products. “I would say the top two [challenges with developing new products] would be navigating intellectual property [and] developing materials and processes that balance product cost with customer value,” he says.
Nonetheless, Kalousek says Cardinal manages to continuously improve and develop products as well as create ides for future endeavors.
“The need to develop and improve products and processes comes from many sources,” he says. “Some of those sources include code changes, market analysis and customer feedback. At Cardinal improving products and processes is continuous. We are always improving.”