January 20, 2023 | TechTip

Optimization Software and Productivity


Optimization Software and Productivity

When most people think of the word “optimization” the immediate thought is material savings. While this is significant reasoning for optimization that alone doesn’t paint a complete picture.

First, let’s start with the definition of the word “optimization”. As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary optimization is an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible. This definition makes no mention of material usage or savings – it’s more about the process in general.

This leads to a brief history of optimization in the window and door industry. In the late 1980s when automated glass-cutting machinery became available the ordering processes were typically a list of cut dimensions scribbled on a notepad (a holdover from the manual glass-cutting days). With the level of automation available on newer machines this became impractical due to the time it takes to key in this information at the machine and excessive glass scrap. With PCs now available the advent of the first glass ordering systems were developed, making the operator more efficient and reducing scrap. This was a quantum leap for most manufacturers well into the 1990s and introduced concepts such as harp carts to sort glass in the correct production sequence, glass yield improvements, and more efficient manufacturing. This also migrated into other production processes such as spacer, muntin, and frame/sash fabrication. These methods were all done in a centralized scheduling office and pushed to the appropriate machinery on the floor.

As PC horsepower improved and the introduction of more user-friendly HMIs associated with operating system evolution there was a second shift toward PCs within the automated machinery having their own onboard scheduling tools. This would allow the operator to handle process exceptions and keep products flowing to production lines more efficiently. The concept of dynamic scheduling such as GED’s Look-Ahead optimization was born. Now scheduling done in a centralized office can be distributed to different machinery which can combine items such as remakes and rush orders into the current production process. The benefits of this are numerous…

  • Flexibility to line supervisors to keep different production Kanbans level loaded while getting the best material yields (the basis of GED’s Glass on Demand system).
  • Increase line efficiency of remakes as they can be inserted on-the-fly (no need to break into production). Not only does this help the machine efficiency in producing the product, but the production processes downstream waiting on that material.
  • Reduces material drops which alone increases productivity. For example, every glass sheet drop on a cutting line takes 1 to 2 minutes from loading to cutting/edge deletion and breakout. Eliminating 10 sheet drops during a shift would account for 10 to 20 minutes of saved production time. That’s over 40 to 80 hours annually!
  • Fewer machine cycles reduce machine wear and tear (and consumables usage such as cutting fluids), and longer times between raw material reloading, cullet bin emptying, etc.
  • More efficient breakout process as improved optimization reduces unnecessary scrap glass breakout/removal.
  • Reduce material waste caused by operator data entry errors and machine downtime associated with operator intervention.

Considering these factors can increase overall productivity by as much as 10%.

With regards to material savings, a typical window manufacturing facility on average can save between 4% and 7% in glass alone by utilizing dynamic optimization such as GED’s Look-Ahead optimization technology. While these significant material savings are huge by themselves, the significance of efficiency increases highlighted above should also be included in any ROI analysis.

The next logical question is: how to get started optimizing a production process? A good approach would be as follows:

  • Contact your machinery or software solution provider. Most have analytic tools available to assist with optimizing your process(es).
  • Benchmark your current production and identify any bottlenecks. Include items such as material handling, operator intervention, or other activities which affect productivity.
  • Review material usage yields. This can be as simple as reviewing raw material sizing to see if, for example, a different glass sheet size produces better yields. Or changing your scheduling process could produce better results.

With this information, you can identify where to focus the optimization effort for the greatest benefit.

Whichever approach to optimization is implemented periodic process monitoring is recommended. Factors may change which can have a significant impact on productivity. Typically, this can be automated via data acquisition systems like GED i-Sight platform which not only analyzes material usage but machine production rates and idle time. With the proper tools implemented this monitoring process should be relatively simple with little time required and keep your manufacturing process optimized.

Written By: Tony DiFiore

As the Software R&D Manager, Tony is an expert in industry topics including databases, SQL, ERP, Microsoft Visual Studios Suite, optimization algorithms, networking and network architecture and setup, and computer software development and PLC logic and maintenance. “A lot of manufacturers don’t realize the potential for software development and growth in the industry, and in the window and door production process.”