Inside AGC Glass Co. North America's new Southeast fabrication facility in Lithia Springs, Ga.
Brian Martineau, director of fabricated product sales for AGC Glass Co. North America, calls the company’s new Southeast glass fabrication facility near Atlanta a “start-up.” The glass company operates 17 fabrication facilities and three float plants in the United States, but it’s doing things differently at the Southeast AGC facility in Lithia Springs, Ga., said Martineau during a recent tour of the 229,000-square-foot plant.
The plant is operating with new software, new equipment and new processes that affect every area of the business, from sales to glass handling to the product fabrication itself. “This location is working with new tools and approaching business in new ways. This is why I say we are a start-up,” Martineau said.
Here are some highlights from my tour of AGC’s new "start-up:"
- “All under one roof.”
At the Lithia Springs plant, AGC offers all architectural and residential glass fabrication capabilities, except for lamination, which is handled at the nearby Jacksonville, Fla., location. In addition to oversized tempering and insulating glass production, “we have a cutting saw for fire-rated glass, a new silk screen and spandrel line, and fabrication of shower doors. Soon we will have all fabrication capabilities here,” said Shane Sieracki, director of operations, fabricated products.
- Organized production flow.
AGC officials were able to choose the Lithia Springs location based on the company's current fabrication requirements, and organized the plant in such a way that the glass is able to move through the plant in an organized U-flow without unnecessary handling and transport.
- Room to grow.
Company officials also considered future fabrication requirements when choosing a location and organizing the production flow. As such, the company has set-aside space for future production lines, including a second tempering line and another IGU production line. Additionally, a section of the plant remains unused, ready for future fabrication lines.
The plant relies on automation that limits glass handling. “From cutting through tempering, there is almost no touching of the glass,” said Sieracki, describing the high level of automation used on the plant’s two cutting lines. “Glass gets scratched when people handle it. Now it’s only touched after tempering,” he said.
The Lithia Springs plant is the first AGC facility to incorporate FeneTech’s FeneVision neo software, which allows the company to closely monitor every step in the process. The software also increases yield, tracking exactly how much of every glass sheet is used. “After we cut the glass, what do you do with the rest of the sheet? This plant uses an RPS system that saves the extra pieces of glass,” Sieracki said. “FeneVision knows the sizes of those extra pieces, and where they are located. It can pull that piece when needed.”
- Quality control.
Along with the new software system is the location’s increased focus on operational quality control. The Lithia Springs plant employs three process engineers that bring a level of technical assistance to the facility. “We have three process engineers here, compared to just one at AGC’s other facilities,” Martineau said.
The plant includes a training center, a dedicated classroom-like area where all employees receive complete job skill education. “Our employees spend three days just on safety,” Martineau said. “Everyone participates in training, even our sales force.”
- Segmented sales teams.
In the ACG Atlanta plant, the sales staff is divided into three groups, each serving a specific market segment: glass shops, glaziers and residential. “This provides our sales staff with a better understanding of the market they serve,” Martineau said.
Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at email@example.com.