Most Innovative Plant

2013 Crystal Achievement Award Winner

 
  The use of Solar Innovation's own products, including a transom window pattern around the entire building, provides adequate natural light throughout the facility.

 

Solar Innovations

Pine Grove, Pa.

Solar Innovations operates a 250,000-square-foot headquarters facility, producing a wide range of highend glass and aluminum products such as conservatories, greenhouses, sunrooms, skylights, doors and windows. The facility serves as an example to the community for its environmental consciousness and American manufacturing prowess. Opened in 2009, the manufacturing plant is LEED certified and vertically integrated as much as possible.

LEED Certified
The plant is currently LEED Gold certified under Operations and Maintenance, which requires the building and Solar Innovations’ 115 employees to be green. In planning and constructing the plant, Solar made environmentallyfriendly building selections such as low-VOC paint, replaceable carpet and ceramic tile squares. A transom window pattern around the entire building―and more than 10,000 square feet of glass―ensure the facility receives adequate natural light. Motion sensor lights also help to control energy use, while exposed beam ceilings allow for easy repairs to the lighting systems and wiring without requiring further ceiling repair.

 
  Two phases of the manufacturer's roof-top solar panel array are complete, equipped with racks built by Solar Innovations.

The building also had its roof prepared for photovoltaic panels and a windmill to generate energy. The first two phases of the roof-top solar panel array are complete, equipped with racks built by Solar Innovations. The second phase of the photovoltaic array took the facility 85 percent off the grid and prevented a million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere in 2012, the manufacturer estimates. The third phase of the solar project is planned for 2014, along with the addition of a solar water heating system, as the company works to achieve LEED Platinum status for the facility. Other steps to enhance the plant’s sustainability include preferred parking for energy-efficient and carpool vehicles, bike racks, refurbished furniture, a cistern to collect rain water, CFL light bulbs, building orientation that allows viewing of the natural environment, a complete recycling program, and bio-retention basins to filter and treat storm water run-off. Solar’s people throughout the building—both in the offices and manufacturing plant—participate in an extensive recycling program that keeps the facility almost landfill free. Everything from Christmas lights to broken glass, Styrofoam and aluminum shavings is recycled.

 
The company's greenhouse initiative helps provide employees and their families with fresh fruit and vegetables.
 

Another unique program at Solar Innovations is its greenhouse initiative, designed to provide its employees and their families with fresh fruit and vegetables. Working greenhouses, cold frames and outside gardens at its corporate offices serve as learning tools for potential customers. The gardens are maintained by Solar team members, with produce distributed throughout the company during lunch hours and break time.

Vertical Integration
Solar Innovations sees its emphasis on vertical integration as another unique feature of its operations. It seeks to produce as much as it can in-house. Outsourcing as little as possible allows the company to better control product costs and shorten customer lead times. As a result, Solar Innovations offers custom powder coat and liquid paint finishes that are applied in-house. Standard finish options are stocked, but custom finishes can also be achieved. Many of Solar’s projects have unique configurations, often requiring custom bending. Over time, as demand for custom bending increased, Solar started bending in-house to reduce cost and lead times, and increase quality assurance. As customers began to request taller and heavier doors, the hardware that was being used could not withstand the increased strain. Solar Innovations therefore began manufacturing its own sills, hinges, wire pulls, recessed pulls, two-point locks and thumb-turn locks. Currently, everything from the sills of its greenhouses to the hinges for its doors are made in its facility. It also has its own strut machines for inserting Insulbar thermal break. Solar Innovations also operates an in-house testing lab that can perform AWS and Florida impact tests using thirdparty certification with quicker timeframes and minimized costs. The lab allows all involved parties to witness and analyze preliminary tests before the final version, and learn from any mistakes. The lab has enabled Solar to test and adjust products to create higher performances with time and cost efficiency.

 
  Solar Innovations prides itself on its vertical integration, as it seeks to produce as much in-house as possible.

One of Solar’s latest innovations at its plant is the introduction of shop coordination meetings that use reporting and visual aids to track the movement of customer orders through the internal supply chain. Illustrated as “buckets,” the reporting shows how each department’s bucket in the supply chain is filled and emptied by another. The “buckets” can show all jobs in production or narrow down to a single operation. Departments can see when they will be low on work, and pull jobs from another department. The bucket illustration allows each department to know how “full” its own buckets need to be. “Buckets” have provided Solar a new way to reduce waste, improve efficiencies and empower its workforce, the manufacturer reports. A number of the judges for this year’s manufacturing awards were impressed with Solar Innovations’ efforts, particularly in the green arena. “Solar Innovations has embraced LEED certification and is living it throughout the organization…pretty cool,” said Gary Delman, president of Michigan-based Sunrise Windows. “Solar Innovations has made an unbelievable commitment to an environmentally sustainable facility and operation,” added Steve Chen, executive vice president of New York-based Crystal Window & Door Systems. “As an environmentally responsible manufacturer myself, I understand the dedication of effort and financial resources they have made.”

 

 Other 2013 Crystal Achivement Award Winners:

 TECHNOLOGY

 Most Innovative Window

Large Manufacturer
VSS No Leak Solar Powered Fresh Air Skylight
Velux America

Small/Medium Manufacturer
Hybridex and Tri-Bridex Windows with 5 Seal Defense System
Durabuilt Windows & Doors

 

 Most Innovative Door

Large Manufacturer
Lemieux Torrefied Door Collection
Masonite International Corp.

Small/Medium Manufacturer
Series 9600 Four-Track Sliding Vinyl Door
MGM Industries

 Most Innovative Component

Window
Solutions by Veka USB Charging System
Veka Inc.

Door
Z-Series Articulating Cap Sill
Endura Products Inc.
 

Glass/Glazing Component
View Dynamic Glazing
View Inc.

 

 

Most Innovative Machine

IG Production/Glazing
Erdman 400 Series Spacer Applicator
Erdman Automation Corp.

Frame/Sash/Door Fabrication
SMI-LP-DM90-F Automatic Double Miter Saw with Inline Fabrication
Stürtz Machinery

 

MARKETING

 Most Innovative Marketing Progam

Large Manufacturer
"We're for the visionaries" Consumer Campaign
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc.

Small/Medium Manufacturer
Radio Campaign
Mathews Brothers Co.

Industry Supplier
Genius Ultra-Performance Window Launch
Deceuninck North America
 

 Best Product Literature

Large Manufacturer
"We're for the visionaries" Consumer Brochure
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc.

Small/Medium Manufacturer
Product Brochure
LaCantina Doors

Industry Supplier
Product Literature Overhaul
Phantom Screens
 

 Best Industry Website

Large Manufacturer
KolbeWindows.com
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc.
 

Small/Medium Manufacturer
LaCantinaDoors.com
LaCantina Doors
 

Industry Supplier
deceuninck-americas.com
Deceuninck North America
 

 

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