Case Study

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Automotive Glass Maker Gains a Clear View of Production and Reduces Scrap 30 Percent with Manufacturing Intelligence

Analytics software from Rockwell Automation provides customized reports for system optimization

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  • An automotive glass manufacturer needed to upgrade an acquired facility to meet growing customer demand


  • Manufacturing Intelligence - A new manufacturing intelligence system based on FactoryTalk Metrics and FactoryTalk VantagePoint software provides more accurate reporting on scrap, product count and the financial impact of changes to KPIs
  • Hourly production reports – customized to specific roles – enable plant-floor staff to react to production issues and optimize processes


  • Reduced Scrap - Production insights helped the glass company reduce scrap by 30 percent
  • The new system identified a significant issue within a month, paying back 90 percent of its cost

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.

A Solution by Stages

The glass manufacturer decided to get rid of the homegrown solution, and designed a manufacturing intelligence system that would be deployed over three years in two stages. The system would collect information across the process and discrete areas of production.

The system design heavily focused on manufacturing software solutions from Rockwell Automation. According to the company’s project lead and engineering manager, the decision came down to the support availability and the off-the-shelf nature of the offerings.

“Developing custom code would only put us back on the path to a homegrown solution,” the project lead said. “We selected a manufacturing intelligence solution from Rockwell Automation that would allow us to customize a standardized solution across lines, and provide us access to a Rockwell Automation field engineer for help on-site when needed.”

The first stage: data-collection and analytics requirements. The team deployed FactoryTalk® Metrics software from Rockwell Automation on more than 20 work cells per line. Engineers use the software to generate real-time data reports on OEE, production counts and yield counts. Coupled with FactoryTalk View HMI software, engineers can see this information via any plant HMI or via a web browser from their desktop, laptop or mobile device.

We selected a manufacturing intelligence solution from Rockwell Automation that would allow us to customize a standardized solution across lines, and provide us access to a Rockwell Automation field engineer for help on-site when needed.

In the second stage, the project team implemented FactoryTalk VantagePoint® software from Rockwell Automation to produce reports specific to individual production areas, so each work shift could make changes to reduce scrap and improve productivity. They also set up a self-service station for plant-floor staff to access the scalable reporting tool.

Engineers – even those relatively new to the position – can easily walk up to the station on the plant floor and choose the desired data set and time range. They can pull two-hour reports specific to their production area and the responsibilities associated with their role. With these insights, control and process engineers can dig into data behind any production issues to identify bottlenecks and root causes. Management can access real-time and trending production totals, enabling them to make production changes as customer orders arrive.

The team also employed a notification functionality in the software. They can now send emails and texts with production information to plant-floor staff on-site and off-site. This helps further reduce downtime and mean time to repair.

Rapidly Reducing Scrap

The FactoryTalk VantagePoint self-service station has reduced requests for data pulls from project leads by 90 percent. The team works directly with each other and more easily collaborates to optimize operations, reducing downtime section by section.

The upgraded facility is helping the glass manufacturer meet customer orders, allowing the company to continue growing. In addition, the system’s insights are enabling future improvements at the facility. The team is aiming for a further 30 percent reduction in scrap by the end of the year.

The team is also considering expanding the system to include energy-management reporting and FactoryTalk AssetCentre software from Rockwell Automation. This will provide access to critical energy information and better manage asset information from a central database.

The results mentioned above are specific to this company’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

FactoryTalk and VantagePoint are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.


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