Volume 34, Number 11,  November 1999

 

AFGD FORCE

The AFGD plant in Opelousas, LA, served as the test G Force
product—and was more than pleased

    by Tara Taffera

When Salem Distributing Company of Clemmons, NC, wanted to test its G Force G3 Tomcat Centrifuge, it asked AFGD Inc., a full service glass fabrication and distribution plant in Opelousas, LA, to serve as its test model. Six months and thousands of saved labor and equipment costs later, AFGD says the G Force has transformed its operations, while allowing the plant to produce a product that is superior to that of the competition.

Choosing the Test Case
Why did Salem hand-pick AFGD out of the hundreds of distributors in operation throughout the country? “AFGD represents the median standard of our customer,” said Howard Hanes, vice president of Salem Distributing. “There are mom-and-pop shops on one end of the spectrum and large shops on the other. AFGD is right there in the middle.” The AFGD plant supplies architectural, insulating glass, tempering, fabricating, beveling and silk screening glass products. The plant, which is located approximately 60 miles west of Baton Rouge, distributes its products to nine states and employs 150 people. The Opelousas plant is one of 48 locations in the AFGD Inc. group with the company’s North American field headquarters located in Atlanta, GA. At the Opelousas plant, its machines never stop—the company operates 24 hours and day, five days a week. “They [Salem] would be hard pressed to find another company who put it [G3] through the tests that we did,” said Danny Guilbeau, AFGD branch manager.
While Salem targeted AFGD as a viable test location, they didn’t have to coax AFGD into testing the product. In fact, Guilbeau wanted to purchase a centrifuge 11 to 12 years ago. “I was always familiar with the centrifuge and I knew what it would bring to our plant.”
So, how did personnel at the Opelousas plant finally convince AFGD executives that purchasing a G3 would be a wise investment? “We compiled a justification and once they saw it, it was approved,” said Frank Boudreaux, AFGD plant manager. “We explained that we wanted to stay a step ahead of the competition.”

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Previously, all four machinery lines led to one pipe which caused the line to get blocked due to glass sludge. Now two pipes lead to the G3.

Product History and Capabilities
While Salem’s G Force G3 Tomcat Centrifuge has been in existence for approximately two years, it is not the first product of its kind. The company is quick to add that the G3 product is superior to earlier versions introduced by other companies. According to Hanes, centrifuge products originated in the Orient. U.S firms, some of which later went bankrupt, then took the basic design and developed their own versions. “We are proof that it’s not always best to be first with a product,” said Hanes. “Sometimes, it’s the one who is third or fourth who gets it right.”
While centrifuge products have been used in other industries, such as paint, for years, there were several improvements and adjustments to be made for the product to work correctly in the glass industry. According to Salem, early models introduced by other manufacturers did not make the necessary
adjustments.
The G3 separates solids from recirculating coolant systems by managing the flow of glass particulate through a coolant system. The product disposes of the glass sludge at rates up to 40 gallons per minute. According to Hanes, use of this machine can positively affect the profitability and efficiency of any glass grinding application. The G3 is the midsize model in the G Force Centrifuge line and was designed for use in large to mid-size glass processing operations.
Using cleaned coolant increases productivity by optimizing equipment performance and maintaining surface finish quality, said Hanes. It also affords substantial savings by increasing coolant and diamond wheel operational life and reducing labor intensive swarf disposal.

Tangible Benefits
Before conversion to the G3, AFGD had four settling tanks full of sludge which had to be emptied every Monday. This labor-intensive process required the shut down of the four machines feeding into the tanks for six to eight hours. But, with the G3, a forklift simply empties the sludge once every two days (the G3 can be programmed to empty the sludge at any specified time). “Now, our shut-down time is nil,” said Guilbeau. “This results in significant reduction of our labor costs.”
Before the Centrifuge, all four machinery lines led to one pipe which would cause the line to get blocked due to the glass sludge. But, now there are two pipes leading to the G3 (see photo page 34), eliminating the sludge build-up. “One of the most important benefits of the G3 is that it eliminated restrictions in lines going to the sump pump,” said Boudreaux.
According to Guilbeau and Boudreaux, other benefits AFGD has realized after converting to the G3 include a dramatic reduction in equipment costs. These include:
• The G3 does not require the changing of hoses—just the press of a button.
• The G3 utilizes a butterfly valve, as opposed to the previous plastic valve which was frequently cut by the clogging of sediment and erosion. With the butterfly valve, the only part to be replaced is the inner seal. Previously, an entire new valve was needed.
• The G3 utilizes 20 gallons of coolant every week, as opposed to the previous 60 gallons. Additionally, the coolant can now be recycled.
• The G3 has almost doubled the life expectancy of the diamond wheels.
Boudreaux adds that another great asset is improved motor efficiency. The G3 utilizes two motors, one of which serves as a backup. Additionally, he said the motors no longer clog.
While the switch to the Centrifuge produced a variety of results related to reduced manpower and equipment, the G3 provided an even more impressive result—a better quality product. According to Guilbeau, the G3 deleted the problem of micro particles attaching to the diamond wheels, which affected the quality of bevels. Now, Guilbeau said, the clarity of the bevels is more detailed. “While all the other benefits are impressive, the most important factor is the quality of the bevels,” he said. “We now put out a product that is superior to our competitors—that’s all that matters.”

wpe11.jpg (20894 bytes)AFGD employees say the G Force transformed its operations.

Competitive Edge
Now that AFGD has improved upon the quality of product it produces, it seems logical that the competition would be eager to purchase a G3 as well. But, this doesn’t seem to be the case. “A lot of our competitors don’t want to pay for it,” said Guilbeau. “Twenty years from now, this product will be standard in the industry—but not yet.”
According to Hanes, many companies always look at machines in terms of, ‘What does it make?’ “ It doesn’t make anything,” he said. “We have to show them how it will save them money.” “Not even half of the customers out there believe ‘this is more than a nice product—this will save memoney,’” said Bob Long, Salem president.
While Salem aims to convince these customers that the G3 will offer them cost savings and improve efficiency, they also tell them of the superior quality of the bevels. “Most people purchase the G3 if they have a disposal problem,” said Hanes. “They are then pleasantly surprised by the improved bevel quality. They say, ‘the sales guy told me the product could do this but I didn’t know if it would ever happen.’”
Guilbeau admits it is difficult for some businesses to purchase a product without knowing how it will perform. “You always ask yourself, ‘Am I spending my money wisely?’ he said. “You never want a piece of equipment to take more than two years to pay off.” So, was the Centrifuge worth the investment? Guilbeau said yes—the payback time was less than one year.
Although there is a significant investment involved, Guilbeau said AFGD is always looking for opportunities to gain an edge—“the Centrifuge fit that,” he said. Guilbeau added that the glass industry is the only one he knows of where companies are selling less than they were ten years ago. “In today’s competitive environment, you better know how to do it quickest and fastest.” Salem agrees. “If you’re going to be competitive, the G3 is a good investment,” said Long.
But, what will happen to AFGD’s edge, if competitors purchase the G3? Guilbeau isn’t worried. “Good competition breeds more business,” he said. “We will always be upgrading to better and improved products.”

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Kenny Byrom, fabrication supervisor (right) sets the dump time while Brent Pitre, maintenance technician, checks the sensor.

An Effective Partnership
While AFGD agreed to test the G3, Boudreux said if the company wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the machine, AFGD was not committed to purchase it. “We offered the G3 with a 100 percent guarantee that we would take it back if they weren’t able to justify the need for the product,” said Hanes.
The opposite was true. AFGD was extremely pleased with the performance of the G3, as well as with the service and assistance provided by Salem. “They’ve [Salem] been supportive in working out problems,” said Boudreaux. “We believe in total cooperation between us and the customer,” said Hanes.
While AFGD was the first to use the equipment, the only problems it encountered with the G3 were related to the plumbing. But, AFGD had an in-house engineer who worked closely with Salem’s engineers to correct these areas. “The basic machine doesn’t function well without the plumbing,” said Hanes. “If the plumbing is not engineered correctly, the machine doesn’t work. We work with each customer to individually customize plumbing needs to their facility.”
According to AFGD, when selling the G3, Salem does not only care about increasing profits. “Everything [equipment, coolant, etc] I bought from them was cut in half,” said Guilbeau. “It doesn’t matter to them. They are concerned with meeting the needs of each customer.” 

Tara Taffera is the editor of USGlass magazine.

 


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Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.