Volume 37, Issue 8, August 2002
Hey! Where is My Order?
Customer Service Still Goes A Long Way
by Dez Farnady
Just like everywhere else, successful business enterprise in the glass industry is based on customer service—be it glazing, distribution, manufacturing or fabrication. The secret to success is service. Complete orders, delivered on-time, even hold the edge over price where the components are critical, but their share of the cost is only a fraction of the cost of the job.
For the glazing contractor, a few cents a square foot difference on the price of the glass does not make up for the back order that prevents him from completing the job. The cost of a man and a truck going back to a job to install one lite that was back-ordered is a lot more money than that nickel a square foot was worth from a vendor who was cheaper but could not complete an order.
These are basic elements of service that determine success or failure in a production-based business. So how come so many still do not keep their promises? The three-day lead-time that comes up two lites short has been a primary curse in the glass business for decades. The early morning call to the tempering plant from the field that starts the day with “Hey, where in the h--- is my glass?” is one we have all heard more than once, and yet to this day fabricators continue to have “service issues.” Surprise, surprise, glass breaks. Glass breaks, glass gets scratched or rejected for minor flaws both at the front and back end of the cutting table, the tempering furnace, the insulating line, the laminating line autoclave, before and after the bending process, at the polishing line and at every other production enterprise you can imagine.
The tracking game starts at the point where the given piece of glass is broken or rejected. Back we go to the front of the cutting line for a re-cut or maybe even back to get re-optimized to be batch-cut again. It has to get started again to catch up with the rest of the order or the other lites of glass to which it will be insulated or laminated.
Finally, “high-tech” has provided a boon to the glass business, and particularly for the production operations required for cutting, tempering and insulating glass. When the supermarket checker can scan a cart full of groceries and check 20, 30 or 40 items by product and by price in minutes, it has put grocery shopping into the high-tech business. So why not glass? Barcoding is the simple system that has enabled most manufacturers, as well as retailers, to track products quickly and efficiently at any stage of the process, whatever that process may be.
Obviously, I don’t have to explain barcoding to anyone anymore, with the possible exception of a few reluctant manufacturers, who need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. How anyone with a complex or extensive production fabrication process lives without this new technology escapes me.
Let us take a tempering facility for example. Forget the insulating, lami, mirror or the fabrication line. Let’s just focus on tempering. Temperers traditionally break more glass than any other fabrication process. Furnace breakage is actually calculated into the price of the finished product. Yet temperers are the most reluctant to join the current century. I wonder if it is in the genes. They also have the hardest time completing orders. Guess why? Glass breaks.
Check the glass label on your next tempered order and I will bet the family farm that four out of five of your tempered suppliers do not barcode the product or, for that matter, complete all of their orders. Back orders are no longer a necessary part of life. The simple act of scanning every glass label at every station in the production process can quickly let the office know the status of every piece of glass in the system. Breakage can be picked up immediately at the station where it has occurred and a re-cut can be initiated immediately to catch up with the order. The office is aware of the status of every piece of glass in every order at any time or any place in the system.
But this is the glass business and saving money, completing orders on- time with no back orders, would take all of the fun and excitement out of the job. And the customers would have nothing to complain about.
Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.
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