What’s Behind a Windshield?
Lower car sales in the United States during the Great Recession widely impacted automakers and their suppliers. By 2011, car sales were back to prerecession levels. This economic revitalization created opportunities, but also brought production challenges for companies, such as glass manufacturers.
One global windshield manufacturer and supplier saw this firsthand. The upsurge in car sales was good news, but the company was outgrowing its existing production space. To meet growing customer orders, the company acquired a U.S. automotive fabricated-glass plant. The plant provided the glass manufacturer with more square footage and was already averaging 2,000 to 2,500 windshields per day across the three existing lines.
Updating an Acquired Facility
The acquired facility presented some challenges because the owners had not made any investments in the plant for over 20 years. The glass manufacturer planned to install new production lines to reach a total of five windshield lines, a tempering line and an area for attachment pieces, such as wipers. Due to the age of the existing equipment, new lines could not be installed to match equipment on the three standing lines. To reach the desired level of output and quality, the entire facility would need to be upgraded.
Topping the list of issues was the facility’s homegrown, inefficient solution for capturing production data, which required workers to manually collect information.
Production lines were pieced together with outdated equipment, and software patches were used to write over problems. Scrap in any area of windshield production – from cutting, washing and painting to heating, trimming and packing – can cost the company over $1 million each month. This makes it critical for engineers to swiftly identify and fix any root causes of scrap.
With the outdated system, engineers were unable to directly access production data, and were relying on tribal knowledge and guesswork. This led to incorrect and inconsistent reporting of waste, and missed opportunities to quickly remedy issues that led to scrap.
In addition, high turnover in staffing at the facility created a knowledge gap on how to manage the cumbersome systems.
Management’s goal for the facility upgrades was to gain more accurate end-of-the-line reporting on scrap and product count that clearly communicated the financial impact of scrap to both engineers and management. They also wanted to build systems that could adapt to new production and analytics requirements, and provide engineers with the reporting software needed to easily pull and act on process data.