Prepping Your Plant

Consider these factors before making an equipment purchase
Stacey Freed
June 28, 2014
FEATURE ARTICLE | Methods & Techniques

Thinking of acquiring new machinery or equipment? Assuming you’ve determined the right piece of equipment that fits your productivity and manpower needs (see sidebar), the following list is a good starting point for determining the physical plant characteristics you should take into account before making your purchase.

Space Limitations

Work with your supplier to determine where you want your piece of equipment to go. Will the machinery fit in the space you hope to put it? Will there be ample room around it for maintenance? Will there be enough space to accommodate your machinery operators?


Can an enclosed van or truck back up to your receiving dock, if you have one? Are your bay doors high and wide enough to accommodate the machine upon delivery? Can you get a forklift to pull the machine through?
“We’ve had to unload in a parking lot because [there wasn’t] a proper dock level,” says Rob Macaulay, vice president of operations at Urban Machinery in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Once you know the equipment can make it inside the building, make sure there are no obstacles in its path and there is room between structural supports to get the machine to its final location on the floor.
Be prepared for the installation and make sure you can handle it, i.e., “When the equipment is brought in and staged, there will be crating, skids, packaging materials,” says Kevin Felix, vice president of operations for GED Integrated Solutions in Twinsburg, Ohio. “How will you handle that? Is there a Dumpster on site? Is there enough room to store everything in one location or to spread out all the pieces before [the equipment is] put together?”


Pay attention to the condition of the floor. “We’ve installed machines in buildings with wooden floors, which can deteriorate over time,” Macaulay says. “Watch for un-level concrete floors, where under one of the leveling pads you’ve got three- or four-inch- thick steel plate and under the other one you’ve got almost nothing.”
The floor can be smooth or it might be pitted, Felix points out. “Will the equipment need to be leveled, and will you be able to level it over its span? You may need longer or shorter leveling screws,” he says. Think, too, about whether you can anchor into the floor in the chosen spot. “You may need to drill into the floor, and it makes a difference if it’s a three-inch or six-inch poured concrete pad.”
In addition, be aware of whether there is water, wet lines or radiant heat piping in the floor before drilling, and take into consideration if the piece of equipment needs to be near a drain.


Know where your air and electrical connections are, says Macaulay. “Are you replacing a piece of equipment and using the existing service? If you’re running new lines, what’s your capacity? Do you have enough current supply? Is your compressor large enough to supply air?”
Make sure there is network availability if the system has to tie into that, Felix advises. “Our equipment generally ties into the existing IT infrastructure, and we give [the buyers] a location for a wire drop—for things like the Ethernet—where we’d need it on the equipment.”


The factory temperature overall is important for the profile, the machinery, the final product and the workers, says Joe Sigmund, president of Rotox USA in Stow, Ohio. “Let’s say you cut pieces when they’re cold and weld when they’re warm; they won’t necessarily be the right size. It’s the same for sawing. The temperature is important for the vinyl and for the machinery, which can overheat in the summer and turn itself off.”
But be wary of where you place fans. “If you’re going to place a welder directly below a giant ceiling fan,” Macaulay points out, “you’ll have trouble keeping the plates hot all day long. It’s like putting a fan over your stove; you’re blowing the air off it and not allowing the element to heat properly.”


Consider the space around the machinery, Felix says. “Will there be enough space for the personnel needed to run it, space for the scrap generated? Think about how the coil coming in to roll a forming piece is going to get into the system, about the raw material coming in and the glass coming out. Is there cart space? Is it a safe environment with enough space for associates to move around? Is there space for maintenance, enough clearance for doors to open for servicing?”
The general layout of the line and the product flow is important, Macaulay says. “How do you have to load and unload the equipment? Is there enough room in front and behind it for access to bins and operators?”
In many instances, your considerations have to be common sense; e.g., ceiling height may dictate that you purchase a horizontal machine rather than a vertical one. And, although OSHA doesn’t have specific guidelines for the physical space in your plant, safety should be part of the equation for the type of equipment you purchase and where you place it on the plant floor.
      Model SMI-LP-V-Cut Automated Fabrication Saw from Stürtz Machinery
 GED’s Automated Tri-Lite Assembly System (ATLAS)
 AKS1900H Horizontal 4-Point Welder from Urban Machinery
 Multi-Head Welding Machine SMH from Rotox


Freed is a contributing writer for Window & Door.
  • Before considering your plant’s physical aspects, think about manpower and productivity when determining what equipment to purchase.


    Mike Biffl, national sales manager, Sturtz Machinery, Inc., Twinsburg, Ohio,, suggests talking with your equipment suppliers to determine what makes the most sense for you. Whether you want to add people or maintain the same level of manpower will play into the type of equipment you purchase; e.g., manual equipment might require more employees, but automated equipment requiring fewer employees might be too large for your space.
    Does your staff have the capability to operate and maintain the equipment? “Most of what we manufacture is going to be PC controlled,” Biffl says. “You need people who are comfortable working on a computer.”


    The combination of machines has to be consistent with a production flow at both the peak season and the slow season, says Joe Sigmund, president of Rotox USA in Stow, Ohio. “If you have a great big line that should make 1,000 windows a shift and you’re down to 250 during the slow season, you want to be able to put people in and out, and have the flow consistent. Automation can help, but there may be higher initial overhead.”

    Trending Now

    “This year in particular, we’ve seen a lot of people going to fabrication saws that are automated to some extent to do the cutting, drilling and routing on their frame and sash profiles. There’s a consistency to the product. It eliminates the mistakes operators can make. It also streamlines the process and reduces manpower requirements.” 
    —Mike Biffl, national sales manager, Stürtz Machinery Inc.
    “In the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of four-point welders, which wasn’t typical over the last 10 to 15 years.”
    —Rob Macaulay, vice president of operations, Urban Machinery
    “The Intercept Insulated Glass Production System, a combination of a roll former, an extruder, an overhead conveyor, a glass washer, an assembly system—which we call the ATLAS —and an oven. These are replacements for antiquated equipment or an expansion line for those adding and expanding a plant.”
    —Kevin Felix, vice president of operations, GED Integrated Solutions
    “We have a new machine for accelerated welding. It’s a high-performance welding machine for the simultaneous welding of four profile bars to a frame at an angle of 90° with parallel feed with servo-drives. We can weld twice as fast as anyone else. It’s very big in Europe and we’re just starting to sell it in the U.S.” 
    —Joe Sigmund, president, Rotox USA