Where is the biggest bottleneck in your process?

John G. Swanson
July 25, 2007
THE TALK...

 

The Talk, Page 2...

 Survey Results for 07/25/2007:

Where is the biggest bottleneck in your process?

Welding/Cleaning

 

 

23%

 

Glazing

 

 

16%

 

Sash/Frame Fabrication

 

 

13%

 

Hardware Attachment

 

 

13%

 

IG Fabrication

 

 

10%

 

Packaging/Shipping

 

 

10%

 

Everything

 

 

9%

 

Door Routing/Processing

 

 

5%

 

Cutting

 

 

3%

 

 Last week, we reported about a new piece of machinery designed to address what many have pointed to over the years as one of the biggest bottlenecks in vinyl window production—welding. You can weld four corners at a time, you can multi-stack to do more than one square at a time, but you can’t reduce the actual time it takes to heat the ends of two pieces of vinyl and press them together to create a solid corner.

And the results from last week’s poll reflect the fact that many manufacturers see this slowing them down. Asked “Where is the biggest bottleneck in your process?,” the welding/cleaning operation was pointed to most often.

That would bode well for the concept introduced by GED Integrated Solutions. While the pre-loader doesn’t actually reduce welding time, it does reduce the time of the complete welding cycle by allowing an operator to load cut profiles onto a rack for one sash or frame (or a set of sash and frame) while the previous square, or set of squares, is in the welder. By the time the welder’s done and ejecting the welded parts, the rack is hovering over it, ready to quickly load the next set.

Of course, our results also bode well for ideas like friction or ultrasonic welding that have been tried, but have not yet been commercialized.

Glazing scored next highest as “the biggest bottleneck,” and we’ve seen a lot of activity in recent years targeted directly at that operation. First, a handful of equipment suppliers introduced tables to automate the application of backbedding materials. Then we saw numerous suppliers introduce new sealant and adhesive formulations with high green strength—products that don’t require the window to sit idly in the plant for hours waiting to cure.

Personally, I was curious that hardware attachment didn’t rate higher. It isn’t necessarily a slow process, I guess, but it does remain very labor-intensive. I’ve toured countless window and door plants, and it’s always striking to me how many more workers there are near the end of the line—where final assembly takes place and assorted hardware is snapped in or screwed on—than at the beginning. It may not be the biggest bottleneck within their production lines, but I expect many manufacturers would welcome more automation for this area of the plant.

One thing I do know, you never get rid of your biggest bottleneck. Once you speed one process, some other step becomes the slowest in your line. That sounds like a source of frustration, but fortunately, it also inspires innovation.