NWDA Looks at Optimizing Production and Product Lines

January 24, 2012
Meetings & Events

Mount Laurel, N.J.–The Northeast Window & Door Association learned about reducing scrap, as well as potential product lines required to keep up with increasing energy efficiency demands in the residential market at its winter meeting here today.  The event, which also featured a tabletop reception, featured updates from a number of other speakers.

Joseph Machine's Parikh at NWDA meeting. 

Sanjay Parikh of Joseph Machine Co. kicked off the educational presentations by outlining the impact of scrap on a manufacturer's bottom line. Focusing on lineals, he calculated how a manufacturer producing 500 windows a day could save about $1 million a year by bringing its scrap rate down from 30 percent to 5 percent. Based on the feedback his company gets from manufacturer customers, he noted, getting lineal material yields to 90 percent is very possible. The two basic requirements, he noted, is a zero-scrap saw and investment in an optimization system.

There are numerous steps manufacturers can then take to get material yields higher--up to 95 percent and beyond, he continued. Those ranged from the use of multiple optimizing systems, use of tail end pieces in batches for stock parts or the next batch, and usage of different standard length extrusions. Parikh also outlined a number of steps to fail-safe production, eliminating mistakes and waste created through human error.  

Systems can be employed to require a saw operator to do quality checks on a regular basis, sensors can be used to make sure the right profiles–including the right color profile–is loaded into the saw. Other options include bar codes used on cut parts that are scanned to set the welder properly and sensors can can be built into welders and/or corner cleaners to make sure parts are loaded properly. Depending on a manufacturer's product mix, it might make sense to create one dedicated automated line or take production of low volume windows out of the automated process and handle them in a separate manual line, he added. 

Energy Efficient Upgrades
Pointing to recent estimates that only about 7 percent of windows in the U.S. use low-E, Quanex Building Products' Jim Blamble kicked off his session on energy efficiency upgrades by highlighting the opportunity still out there in the market. In addition to consumer demand, he also highlighted numerous government programs that continue to drive performance criteria higher.  He pointed to the recently-proposed Energy Star criteria, which the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to issue for 2014.  In addition, he noted that "Most Efficient" Energy Star designation that may become applicable for windows and the Energy Star Homes program.The Department of Energy's High Performance Volume Purchase Program and Home Score programs will also drive demand for higher performance products.  

Blamble reviewed Quanex analysis of the NFRC certified products directory. 

To provide a snapshot of where the industry currently is, Blamble presented Quanex analysis of the National Fenestration Rating Council's certified product directory, which he noted currently lists about 10 million products with a U-value equal to or less than 0.35. Those products, he continued, include about 940,000 double-hungs from 532 manufacturers. 

Pointing to the criteria range being discussed by EPA for Energy Star in 2014, Blamble noted that the number of manufacturers drops to 241 for companies making double-hungs with U-values equal to or less than 0.274, which is the high end of EPA's proposals for a Northern climate zone U-value requirement. Only 204 companies currently offer a double hung meet the 0.254 U-value requirement that Energy Star could go to if EPA opts for its more stringent proposal. The NFRC directory also shows 169 companies manufacturing products qualifying for DOE's R-5 program, Blamble pointed out as well.

He continued by showing how changing various frame and spacer options, as well as gas fills and low-E glasses, can enable manufacturers to get to the new more stringent numbers. Blamble urged attendees to try the Quanex Optimizer, an online tool developed by his company, in order to get a better understanding of the performance upgrades available and which options might enable them to cost-effectively reach the U-value requirements they need to reach or want to reach.

More than 80 percent of residential windows sold today are Energy Star qualified, he reported.  That's likely to dip down when the new criteria take effect, potentially down to 25 percent, but Blamble predicted it would rebound up again as manufacturers adjust. "Energy Star products are table stakes to be in the market," he said. "No one sees energy prices going down, so that's not likely to change."

Other speakers
Also on the NWDA agenda was NFRC's Ray McGowan, who offered an update on that organization's activities, including the addition of air infiltration numbers to labels.  Joe Reed of Architectural Testing offered an update on codes in the Northeast region, noting that nearly all the states have adopted codes based on the 2009 International Codes. 

Darryl Huber of B.F. Rich Co. offered a legislative update, reporting on a recent visit by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware to his company's manufacturing facility.  At the meeting, officials from his company re-affirmed NWDA positions about the negative impact of EPA's lead rules on the window replacement industry.  Also discussed was the Cut Energy Bills at Home bill now before Congress.  That bill would provide tax credits for homeowners that did energy audits of their homes and then did recommended upgrades, he explained. 

It's unlikely to move forward this year in the current Congress, Huber stated, and despite his personal reservations, he said it is a bill NWDA should probably study and potentially support. The window industry has raised its profile in Washington in recent years, Huber noted, and he concluded by urging NWDA members to stay involved, particularly in this election year.