Equipment Suppliers Change Up their Approach to Training and Support

By Ellen Rogers

The glass industry is changing, and so is its machinery and equipment. Companies are investing in new technologies, such as automation, and this often means a new way of thinking and learning. Machinery and equipment companies have responded to these needs, and are also taking new and unique approaches to provide customer training and support.

Intermac, part of the Biesse Group, for example, is taking strides toward helping operators and business owners address productivity and troubleshooting.

“To respond to evolving production needs, Biesse Group has developed an Internet of Things app and cloud-based software management tool, SOPHIA,” says Carey Brayer, vice president of sales, Intermac America Glass. “This allows users to achieve higher productivity by providing them with an easy to use dashboard containing real-time visibility of machine status, performance and functionality.”

A Move Toward Digital

Glaston Corp. has invested in research and development surrounding automated processes and real-time customer support. These efforts include artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

According to Kai Knuutila, digitalization manager at Glaston, one of the biggest changes in how they approach training customers on the equipment relates directly to the amount of data they are now able to collect.

“Once we start collecting more data from the machines [and sending it] to the cloud services and we understand better how it’s used we can give better service and it makes operations easier,” he says.

Knuutila explains that the more automated the machines, the more assistance they are able to provide the operators. And with more assistance from the machines, the training becomes easier.

The company is also doing more with augmented and virtual reality. For example, Glaston is using virtual reality to allow customers to see and experience how machines operate virtually, from any location. Knuutila says this tool allows customers to see and interact with all the different aspects and capabilities of the equipment, without actually being in front of the machine.

Glaston also has an augmented reality application available on smart phones and tablets that allows its technicians and support staff to see what customers are seeing on their machines remotely and assist with any issues they may be having.

“It’s easier to do it this way than in an email or report. We can straightaway see what the person on the machine is seeing. We can see and also zoom in on the details.”

Breaking it Down

Chris Cullum, national sales manager for glass, with CMS North America, has also seen significant changes in the way they approach training their customers. He says in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s they hosted customers at their facility in Michigan for training.

That has evolved to three types of training: maintenance and troubleshooting; software; and applications.

“For small operations these three types could be done with one or sometimes two people. For larger operations we would generally train three different people,” he says. “The maintenance training usually is a couple of days depending on the skillset of the maintenance personnel. Many facilities have multiple machines that work similarly to one another, so it’s just a matter of showing thetrainee where each of the components
are located and going through the maintenance section of the manual and highlighting key points,” he says.

Next is a week of software training.

“For larger companies this is generally with a person in the front office who is the dedicated programmer. It’s their job to take all of the incoming orders and write the programs for the CNC-based machinery,” he says. “The programs are sent out to the shop floor via the company’s intranet and actually written to the hard drive of the machine PC.”

Finally, there’s application training.

“This is where we train the machinery operator on how to load and run programs as well as move the machine manually and adjust tooling for wear, set up new tools, etc. This training is all done on site by one of our engineers since most of the machinery applications involve custom solutions that are unique to that customers’ needs,” he says. “We train them on their actual machines because many times they are the only ones configured exactly like that.”

CMS also offers software training in house. “This can be helpful to customers that experience turnover in their personnel. We like to be on site for the commissioning of machinery so that we can configure the network connections and set up the software properly at the customer’s facility,” he says. “Once all of that is in place, we can do refresher courses at our facility or even online via video conference.”

Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. Follow her on Twitter @EllenGRogers.

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