Patent-protected Batchban changes hands

HP3 Software provides improved lean manufacturing capabilities
By Jane Holtje
October 1, 2007
COMMERCIAL : TECHNOLOGY

 

Newly formed HP3 Software of Sewickley, Pa., will compete with the likes of Albat +Wirsam, Bellevue, Wash., Lisec, Austria, and PMC Software, Flemington, N.J. The company purchased the batchless glass processing patent from Billco Manufacturing Inc., Zelienople, Pa., in March and assembled a talented team of software developers.

HP3 Software offers the flat glass and fenestration industries software with features such as order entry, batchless glass optimization, batchless furnace optimization, lean manufacturing control process optimization with bar coding and plantwide work piece tracking. The company also provides free 24-7 comprehensive customer support.

Phil Plant, sales manager at Billco of Zelienople, Pa., and a silent partner who is not a Billco employee, are HP3’s owners. Plant was originally a software engineer at Billco, where he developed the batchless glass processing software, Batchban. He is HP3’s president and has 15 employees. He dipped into nearby Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, known for its software expertise, for some of its developers.

Plant wanted to break off from Billco so the rest of the glass industry would have access to the Batchban technology. HP3 has no relationship with Billco other than purchasing its technology, and HP3’s products can be used on any glass processing line.

“Because of HP3’s batchless glass processing technologies and patent protection, we have the advantage of implementing true lean manufacturing practices in the offices and plant floors,” Plant says.

In 2005, Billco tested and implemented Batchban at Cardinal IG plants, and also sold the software to PGT Industries for use at its facility in North Venice, Fla. HP3 officials recently sold Batchban to PGT’s new Salisbury, N.C., facility, and to other companies including Northeast Laminated Glass, Scranton, Pa.

PGT purchased Batchban for the cost savings, says Dana Barnette, director of Florida Glass Operations. “[The] main benefit was much better yield. [Glass] cutter yield improvements in the vicinity of 20 percent were realized,” he says. Batchban takes the company’s daily product requirements, or schedules, and optimizes cutting yields when applied to large sheet glass received from raw glass suppliers. “The software also prioritizes the cut glass to fewer glass carts, which saves space and the headaches associated with extra glass carts,” he says.

Batchban requires significant upfront operator training along with a lengthy learning curve for new operators, Barnette says. Plant says the change to batchless optimization can be hard, but the cost savings make it worthwhile. “It’s a different culture,” Plant says.

HP3 wants to earn the reputation of being No. 1 in the industry for customer support, Plant says. If the office phone rings and no one answers, the call will keep rolling over to each employee’s cell phone until someone answers, he says.

The company also works with all equipment suppliers during software development to ensure compatibility.

HP3’s developers have already made technical improvements to Billco’s Batchban that will benefit all customers and have made custom improvements for specific customers, Plant says.

“Now you can monitor and get the pulse of different pieces of equipment on the plant floor; see which equipment is ‘starving’ for glass,” Plant says. “It’s like a brain controlling all fingers on the glass floor. If an edger is running out of glass, the software can tell the cutter to make glass for the edger.”

The company recently developed a software schedule customized for Cardinal, for loading the company’s trucks based on 24-hour order turn-around. “Since the first delivery for a truck is what’s loaded last, everything is scheduled backward, cutting line included, to get the truck loaded backward,” Plant says.

HP3 has been able to attract the same type of software developer who would work for Google, Plant says. Senior Software Engineer Akos Nagy who designs software and does coding, says HP3 has the best software development tools available. “People here are knowledgeable in software and the glass industry,” he says. They know what types of problems exist in the glass industry and how to overcome them.

“Poor support is a problem in this industry,” Nagy says. “Product is only as good as the support offered.”

For more information, call 724/933-9330 or e-mail Phil Plant at sales@hp3software.com.