In modern glass production, there are also many independent developments that have gone beyond the research stage. However, we also want to clarify other aspects of this in the next article.
In the past few years, engineering has made tremendous progress. Machines have higher and higher output, they operate more accurately, and usually consume much less energy than a few years ago. The last parameter becomes more and more important, especially in the context of sustainable development.
In the course of the event, new technologies achieved market readiness, while other technical solutions became obsolete and disappeared from the market. An example of this trend is definitely laser technology. Until a few years ago, laser technology was considered peculiar and too expensive, especially for glass finishing. However, machines have become cheaper and more efficient, so today they can be used economically for drilling and drilling interception or sizing display glass. Even laser-based surface treatments are becoming more and more valuable, for example, now offering more possibilities than sandblasting.
Although automation has been at the forefront for many years, the focus has now shifted to other areas due to the new possibilities of digitization. As a result, manufacturing was reorganized into a holistic, all-encompassing process aimed at further optimizing the transition and interaction between the machine and machine operator, cycle time and material flow.
"In order to make full use of the potential of this equipment, as the degree of automation increases, the tasks and relevance of internal glass logistics in manufacturing must also be determined. The term "workshop logistics" appropriately describes what happens in classic production. A process of change: After all, with the latest equipment, production efficiency no longer depends on the output of the machine, but on the speed and the precise cycle time required, explains Bernhard Hötger, general manager of the Hegla Group. The volume of glass and the huge time pressure A smooth, precise and transparent material flow is required to reduce or avoid downtime caused by manual handling or missing pieces.
Despite a lot of optimization and a high degree of automation, the company has encountered their limits time and time again. One of the reasons is the current labor market, because many companies now lack skilled labor. Although in theory the company’s machinery and equipment capabilities are usually sufficient to handle customers’ jobs, the increasing shortage of skilled labor coupled with high requirements for coordination and rising time and cost pressures have caused many companies to encounter bottlenecks in practice.
Digitization that ideally covers the entire company is expected to bring improvements here. According to the control concept and the depth of integration, modern software in manufacturing can not only map each part of the production, but even digitally display each "slice" and optimize its workflow.
A prerequisite is to select, capture, and collect the required data and output parameters so that they have actionable insights. In addition, the efforts of employees on the company's machinery must be continuously supported. This is achieved by providing help for the workflow, providing data for the job, through control instructions and equipment status information or more user-friendly and intuitive control.
As digitalization and connectivity increase, more possibilities for digital support and process control will emerge. Machine operators will become less and less dependent on local data access on the machine or control panel, and will be able to use the App to trigger a new work order for the damaged glass panel, find the storage location of the glass shelf or establish downstream processes, retrieve maintenance information, Report failure or reorder supplies.
In modern manufacturing, humans and machines actually work hand in hand. In this process, the system has set up a cycle and manual support.
"Of course, this includes the complete value chain from batch plants and furnaces, cold ends to warehouses and downstream processing. In short: the consistent digitization of all processes speeds up the workflow, makes it transparent, and ensures all necessary information It is highly available at all times,” emphasized Egbert Wenniger, senior vice president of the Grenzebach glass business unit.
Of course, digitization does not just stop at the company premises. When talking with customers or working in the field, the field team of the digital company can naturally also access all the necessary data through the application.
Many large companies have joined the "digital trend." However, many small and medium-sized enterprises still view this development critically. They may avoid related investments. But just like the unstoppable progress of digitization in people’s daily lives, the digitization of processes is essential for glass manufacturers to remain competitive and future-oriented in their businesses.
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