Technical Services Manager
Quanex Building Products
January 16th, 2024
Shoring Up Your First Line of Defense
When I’m consulting with door and window manufacturers around the country, there’s one crucial aspect of the business that I try to remind my customers of. Because for all the investment you’ve made in top-of-the-line equipment, and for all the thought and planning you’ve put into production schedules, success ultimately comes down to one thing: your people.
The workers on your shop floor are a first line of defense against quality defects and one that can have an adverse impact on your business. So, it’s worth asking yourself: Are you giving them the resources they need to do their jobs effectively?
Your answer here is important. Recent years have seen technicians with significant experience retire or leave the field. New hires are hard to find, and turnover rates have remained high. It all points to a need to get people up to speed quickly—a task that is often easier said than done. And that brings us to today’s tip:
Invest in your first line of defense (your people).
Consider a scenario. You’ve just received the results of a quality audit provided by one of your suppliers. The report notes several important items relating to your insulating glass production:
- Some units are being sealed improperly;
- Spacer is left out in the open when your line is not in operation; and
- There are some cleanliness issues relating to the glass itself, which can compromise a seal’s adhesion.
It’s important to correct those issues before they turn into seal failures and warranty claims. So, you bring the audit to one of your shop supervisors to communicate in detail the adjustments that will need to be made. This may work out just fine. But so far, we’ve left an important group out of it: your line operators.
As the people responsible for cleaning the glass, applying spacers and sealants, and transporting your units from the line to storage or shipping, it’s important that line operators are tuned in to where, why and how errors occur—lest they continue doing the same things while under the assumption that nothing is wrong. It’s important that they understand the most critical ways that seal failure can happen, including glass cleanliness, spacer application, spacer storage and a few other highly important factors.
This is especially true for new hires. Because even if they won’t be able to account for every opportunity for failure, they should know the big ones. For example, a small scratch in the corner of the unit is ugly, but it won’t lead to a unit failure. A gap in your seal, on the other hand, can cause fogging within a year.
Additionally, you must impart an understanding of why these issues matter. How does proper seal application contribute to the quality of the final product? What happens when something goes wrong here? How does it lead to unit failure? For crews that you need to get up to speed quickly, it’s far easier to remember what matters when you know why it matters.
For all of these reasons, it’s critical to invest the time required to properly train the line operators who you rely on to make quality products. It’s worth evaluating your available resources today to equip your teams with the necessary skill sets to prevent problems tomorrow.