Midwest Fabricators Feel the Impact of Below-Freezing Temperatures

The forecasted high temperature in many Midwestern cities remained below zero degrees today despite warming up from yesterday’s record-breaking cold, which kept many glaziers and glass shops from working outside. Glass fabricators in the area have also been impacted by the frigid temperatures, prompting some companies to turn to precautionary measures.

“With our culture of safety first, we’ve given our team members the clear guidance to make the call on whether they come in for work or, in some cases, work from home. With school closures, this has given our team the ability to make arrangements that are best for the family,” says Ryan Park, global head of marketing and product management at SageGlass in Faribault, Minn. “We’ve also established connections to our maintenance team for those who have come in and end up having any car issues, whether that be a needed jump or carpool.”

Park says this week has been a “refreshing” one, but it hasn’t had a real impact on SageGlass’ production. Rather, the polar vortex has created a “heightened sense” and led to communication about making the right decisions centered on safety first.

Gregg Vanier, general manager at Trulite Glass & Aluminum Solutions’ fabrication facility in New Berlin, Wis., says the company has been impacted by the cold.

He says it started Monday when the area got more than 8 inches of snow for what he says is a combined 20 inches from January 19-28.

“More than half of our people called off and some lines had nobody,” says Vanier.

The facility closed yesterday when the high only reached -11 degrees, but was open today. Vanier says that three trucks broke down today in the sub-zero temperatures, meaning some glass couldn’t be delivered. The real problem, Vanier says, is that drivers whose trucks break down need to get inside quickly or they could get frostbite being outside.

While everything should return to normal Friday with temperatures breaking into the teens, Vanier says that production still needs to get caught up.

Viracon, based in Owatonna, Minn., stayed open yesterday. According to Garret Henson, vice president of sales and marketing at Viracon, the extreme cold did not cause any disruptions to production efforts, but it did necessitate that Viracon take additional precautions.

“For example, our maintenance team did supplementary checks on all manufacturing equipment that has external components such as cooling towers or the autoclave radiators that are outside and exposed to the elements. In some cases they put up additional shielding from the cold so that the exterior equipment would not freeze up,” he says. “There were a few minor issues impacting production, for instance some employees arrived late or couldn’t make it at all. But adjustments were made to ensure line crews were adequate to handle the workloads. There were a few inbound trucks that were late or cancelled delivery for the day. In the end, our 1,500 employees are a hearty crew that took on this challenge to make sure our customers felt no impacts.”

To assist its employees, Viracon made sure that its production areas were at a suitable temperature for them to work comfortably. The company also made provisions to assist employees in starting their cars in the extreme cold. Viracon brought in an auto service to be on campus at the changing of shifts to assist employees as needed. It also provided a few catered lunch options and was flexible with employees that couldn’t make it due to the inclement weather, school closings, etc., according to Henson.

“News of the polar vortex caused customers from around the country to postpone their plans to visit our facility and view their glass options in our mock-up wall this week—that was a good decision on their part. Each of those visits has been rescheduled,” says Henson. “The forecast is for the weather to improve significantly over the next few days, reaching a balmy 40 degrees this weekend. We may have to open a few windows to cool the facility down!”

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