Glass Processing Automation Days, a two-day glass fabrication educational conference, drew more than 160 attendees to Nashville last week. The event, hosted by the National Glass Association, was held in conjunction with the Building Envelope Contractors Conference.
Whole Factory Solutions
The conference kicked off with the Whole Factory Solutions panel, featuring speakers from five machinery suppliers, discussing the importance of collaboration and communication in creating an advanced, future-ready glass factory floor. The panel was moderated by Ron Crowl, managing partner of FeneTech Inc., a 2020 company, and GPAD Founding Partner. The panelists included Brandon Bogart, president, Airtho Cleanrooms; Steve Steele, solution specialist, Billco Manufacturing; John Hickey, business manager-digital glass, Dip-Tech, a Ferro Co.; Troy Larson, US area manager, Forel North America, Nancy Mammaro, CEO, Mappi.
Automation and technology were key themes for the group. “We’re on a journey of automation. We’re looking to eliminate islands of automation on the factory floor to create complete systems, integrating each piece of machinery into a system,” said FeneTech’s Crowl.
“Factory automation is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. … We know we have labor issues moving forward. We need more automation, and better [automation],” added Dip-Tech’s Hickey.
Mappi’s Mammaro echoed the sentiment. “We’re living with the fact that there’s less labor. And glass is getting bigger and bigger.” As a result, automation is a topic for glass fabricators and processors around the world, she said.
The group also discussed the importance of communication and collaboration between the fabricator and the supplier partners. When incorporating new equipment or technology, glass companies should bring all machine and software suppliers to the table to ensure the integration of the new equipment goes smoothly and efficiently. Collaboration “reduces the time to market,” says Airtho’s Bogart. “When people get together early and get started early, you can get products into market early.”
“When all companies working in collaboration with one another, if the customer is doing well, everyone else is doing well,” says Forel’s Larson.
Insights from supplier partners
GPAD continued with more than 10 presentations from glass equipment and software suppliers, intended to provide fabricators with insights on glass fabrication trends, best practices on integrating new equipment, recommendations for maintenance and more.
Integration with software
Dave Miller, business development, and Craig Morris, vice president of engineering, FeneTech, looked at how integration allows fabricators to move beyond islands of automation. While work center automation can be completed locally, the complete integration of your shop floor can only be accomplished with strong software tools, they said.
Automation and virtual reality
Douglas Mangus, general manager, Bovone North America, discussed the next steps in automation, with virtual reality and augmented reality. New technologies and merging online and onsite is reshaping production and factories in all sectors. Bovone offers multiple solutions with automated robotic systems, and remote solutions to manage equipment remotely and access real time data for predictive and on-time maintenance.
The next generation of laminating glass
Kyle Lindersmith, sales manager, Burkle North America, provided information on Inline Flat Lamination. According to Gaiser, IFL advances the way that glass fabricators can produce their laminated glass needs, with faster, smarter, more energy efficient, and flexible solutions.
Combined to finish in the future
Heather Monroe, sales and marketing manager, Machines & Wheels, offered information on the CombiFIN software. Combined with ERP programs, the CombiFIN offers the fastest cycle times with the best in onboard diagnostics and highly-advanced software, according to Monroe.
Automating protective coatings
Syndi Sim, vice president, marketing and business development, Diamon-Fusion International, spoke on how automating protective coatings helps futureproof the glass industry. Fabricators see automating the protective coating process as the next step in expanding their glass offerings and differentiating their business. Sim looked at how these trends in automation have come about, its importance in futureproofing glass fabrication, and which markets are experiencing the most success.
How to move to full factory integration
Lattuada North America’s Nicola Lattuada, president, and Joe Gates, vice president, discussed what drives the move from automation to integration, and how to select the right partner and the right project. Know-how, specialized engineering and consultancy are crucial in this process of moving to an integrated factory, they said. Machines are not islands, but part of an interconnected system, which must always work perfectly to minimize downtime.
Terry Hessom, vice president of operations for HHH Equipment Resources, tackled the important topic of planned maintenance. The “futureproofing” of glass fabrication will be all about predictive and preventative planned maintenance across all glass tempering and fabrication lines, he said. Effective and scheduled routine maintenance will eliminate time consuming repairs, optimize schedules, increase readiness and productivity, create safer environments for workers and ultimately improve the bottom lines of glass fabricators.
Quality inspections and automation
Gary DiDio, president, LiteSentry, and Nate Huffman, director of sales and support, Softsolution offered insights on choosing the optimal glass quality inspection and automation technologies. The discussion highlighted the power of using multiple technologies, including true scanning and true bright field/dark technology, at multiple locations, for quality control. DiDio and Huffman offered guidance on understanding which technology is best for a specific application, and integration into a company’s ERP, material handling, or other production equipment.
Minimize human error
Although not completely avoidable, human error can be substantially minimized, according to Chris Cullum, sales manager and machinery advisor for CMS Industries. In his presentation, Cullum discussed why recognizing cause and effect of CNC crashes is critical in protecting production, and what a fabricator can do to efficiently recover from and minimize the frequency of these errors.
Glass defect detection
Scott Knisely, president, Viprotron North America, focused on the often-forgotten or underestimated requirement of adding quality checkpoints along the process stream a fabricator wishes to automate. These quality checkpoints ensure the glass being produced is at repeatable quality levels as defined in quality plans - ensuring maximum reliability and productivity.
Automating flat glass fabrication
GPAD closed out with a presentation from DeGorter Inc.’s Pete DeGorter, vice president of operations and sales manager, and George Rufra, special projects and lead solutions manager. DeGorter and Rufra discussed how effective automation requires an understanding of how technology, data, equipment and labor come together to meet ever-changing market demands.