Automation is a growing trend within the glass industry as companies look to improve efficiencies and reduce labor costs. Presenters at the 2019 Glass Processing Automation Days (GPAD) Conference in San Antonio today focused on trends in automation.
Ron Crowl, president and CEO of FeneTech, and Horst Mertes, vice president of sales and marketing at FeneTech and CEO of FeneTech Europe, welcomed attendees by framing automation and Industry 4.0 in the context of the glass industry.
“We believe that only by closing the gap between software and machinery you can eliminate islands of automation and an efficient work flow can be achieved,” said Crowl.
Dave Miller, business development, glass fabrication North America for FeneTech, continued the focus on automation in his presentation, “This is Where the Digital Factory Begins.” He explained that enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems shouldn’t be used solely to push data to the individual work cell but to get information back from those systems.
“We want to know when units are complete and what the status is so we’ll know if we will have the work orders done on time,” said Miller.
He gave an overview of the company’s FeneVision program and the ability to integrate it with computer-aided design (CAD) applications. This improves the efficiency of the fabrication process. Companies can also identify the most common fabrication configurations used and make them more easily available.
Terry Hessom, vice president of operations at HHH Tempering Resources, spoke about how automation minimizes downtime in the presentation, “Minimizing Downtime During the Automation Age.” He began by pointing out that on average manufacturers lose 800 hours each year due to downtime. Downtime impacts a company’s equipment and labor costs.
“You’re paying people for a lack of productivity during that downtime,” said Hessom.
Companies also pay for reallocated management time and the production supervisor and quality control manager focus on fixing the problem rather than production. Downtime also puts stress on personnel. It also has other hidden costs.
“When a company’s focus is on fixing machinery they’re not focused on innovation,” says Hessom. “A potential loss in customer trust is another hidden cost.”
He stressed the importance of management buying into the strategy of scheduling downtime and using automation systems to identify preventative maintenance needs to mitigate unscheduled and costly downtime.
“Invest in training tailored to each teach member,” said Hesson. “Train for machine-specific troubleshooting and maintenance and cross-train to reduce wasted labor costs.”
He also suggested that companies use the data provided by their machines to analyze what’s improving and what hasn’t in the production process.
GPAD runs through Thursday, March 28. Stay tuned to USGNN™ for more conference coverage throughout the week.