New Research Lab Works to Advance Jobsite Safety, Productivity and Quality

By Ellen Rogers

When Tadao Yoshida, founder of YKK, was a boy, he was influenced by reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie. It’s no surprise that Carnegie’s beliefs in giving back to help others have inspired YKK’s own corporate philosophy, the “Cycle of Goodness,” which states that “no one prospers without giving benefit to others.”

Decades later, the influence of Carnegie is still evident in YKK’s operations. This time, the Japanese manufacturer has partnered with Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh. The team’s efforts focus on research and development in emerging technologies that will lead to safer and more efficient jobsites for fenestration installations.

The company celebrated its newly designed research and development center in Pittsburgh on July 10, 2023. The 7,576-square-foot facility is located on the third floor of Mill 19 Building A and was built in a structure that was formally a steel mill. The development of a “virtual factory” will create enhanced efficiencies in the production and installation of YKK AP Inc.’s fenestration products. It will also improve the company’s logistics and global management systems.

According to CMU professor Kenji Shimada, the university’s partnership with YKK began four years ago. It focuses on areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and information technology. Core issues behind much of the research include addressing worker shortages, creating safer jobsites and improving the quality of installations.

The official opening included several demonstrations of the team’s research, which is working to develop ways that technology can solve key issues in the industry. Demos included a safety alert system, robotic inspection, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ground vehicles (UGV) for site inspections.

The activity tracking demo involved technology that could identify hazards on a jobsite. If workers step on a site without a hard hat or try to move a ladder without a second person to assist, alerts will sound. Alerts also sound when one individual attempts to move or lift a heavy window, which requires two people.

In the second demo, attendees met Spot, an agile, mobile robot that resembles a dog. Spot is used for quality assurance on a jobsite in this research project. Spot can detect issues in the window framing and collect images showing what needs to be improved.

The third demo involved the use of UGVs and UAVs for site inspection. Both devices demonstrated how they can detect obstructions or issues on the jobsite. UAVs, or drones, can also be used for window inspections.

“Our goal as an organization is to improve construction productivity and quality through the research and development of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality technologies,” says Shiori Fukada, chief digital officer of YKK AP Inc. “The advent of new technologies presents an opportunity for true innovation and the ability to fill crucial gaps presented by the ongoing skilled labor shortage.”

Laminators Inc. Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Laminators Inc. is celebrating 60 years in the glass industry. The Hatfield, Pa.- based manufacturer of architectural systems was founded in July 1963 by Joe Thompson. The family-owned company is now in its third generation of ownership, helmed by president and CEO David Thompson. Garrett Thompson is vice president of sales and marketing, and Scott Thompson holds the role of take-off support for construction services.

“As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, I feel proud and blessed when I look back at the journey of these momentous and remarkable years,” says David. “We couldn’t have done it without the support from our dedicated customers throughout the last six decades. Our commitment to providing high-quality products, innovative application solutions and exceptional customer service has helped us build long-term relationships with our customers. The many years to come will be exciting and packed with new achievements.”

Laminators Inc. was founded as a panel manufacturer of chalkboards and bulletin boards. The company became a manufacturer of various other panel products, including swing doors for truck trailers, above-ground pools and temporary housing camps.

The company dipped its toes into the commercial construction industry in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it introduced insulating glazing panels and developed various installation systems for its architectural panels.

Laminators Inc. has three divisions: architectural systems, sign panels and original equipment manufacturer solutions. It features 20 different composite panels, six installation systems and more than 60 standard colors and finishes.

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