GPAD Conference Focuses on Industry 4.0 in San Antonio

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, held in San Antonio during March, 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 can you 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.

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 down- time. 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 for the pro- duction supervisor and quality control manager to focus on fixing the problem rather than production. Downtime also puts stress on personnel and has other hidden costs.

“When a company’s focus is on fixing machinery they’re not focused on innovation,” said 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 team member,” said Hessom. “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 ma- chines to analyze what‘s improving and what hasn’t in the production process.

Doug Mangus, machine sales director and owner of Salem Flat Glass & Mirror, highlighted the benefits of robotics using the Bovone Robotic System (BRS) as an example. He explained that robots move exactly the same every time based on the information input into the machine.

“Everything is handled precisely which reduces risk.” said Mangus. “All of the work cell is contained by safety barriers. Operators are not allowed in there when producing glass. The risk of handling, dropping pieces, loading and unloading risks are gone, which is a huge benefit.”

The reduction in safety risks also reduces insurance claims from repetitive motion or accidents.

During Forel’s presentation about high-speed insulating lines combined with sorting systems, sales director Marco Schiavon and U.S. service and parts manager Troy Lentner discussed the benefits of high-speed production.

“Every facility l talk to says they’re 25 short,” said Lentner. “With high-speed lines we now have three people working the line.”

He said that using these automated lines reduces the direct costs of labor, including payroll, taxes and benefits.

Schiavon and Lentner also said that combining a high-speed automated system with a sorting system results in less waste and saved time because people don‘t have to go looking for specific glass remnants.

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