Every type of manufacturing process has its own set of limitations or parameters that you need to work within, especially when planning a shutdown, maintenance, or equipment installations. Glass manufacturing is no exception. There are a few rules when working around glass. You need to work safely, if you don’t you will get burnt or cut. You need to respect the glassmaking process.
One of the other unique things about manufacturing glass is that once you start melting the glass and hone in on the proper chemistry and dimensions you don’t want to (and in many cases you can’t) stop the flow of glass.
This means that for composition changes, product changeovers, maintenance, equipment installations, or other activities, everything must be planned to minimize the downtime and the disruption to the manufacturing process and product. Time is money, but time can also be quality. Similar to our experiences with Web Conveyance, you don’t want to take your equipment out of operation because of the productivity losses.
Considerations for Glass Batch Machinery Installations
When planning to install new equipment or change out worn equipment, there are several things that need to be considered. You can plan your maintenance or equipment changes. Based on previous life of the parts or equipment to be changed out you can “schedule” a change (preventive maintenance). The old equipment may not be to the point of failure yet, but by scheduling the change you can have the parts and equipment ready, the tools staged and the personnel on staff to change it most efficiently with the least downtime. The downside to this is that there still may be been life in the equipment.
The other option is to run the equipment to the point of failure or defects that can no longer be overcome. This means that you make the change when the part or equipment fails or when it creates a defect that can no longer be corrected. This could happen on an off-shift (night, weekend, holiday) when the most experienced staff may not be available or on-site to make the changeover. There could be additional downtime waiting for the proper resources to assemble. The upside of this is that you got the full use out of the equipment, but the downside is that you may have encountered additional downtime for the changeover if you were not ready for it, and your yields may have started decreasing as the equipment was becoming more worn, or more defects were introduced.
All that said, planning and scheduling preventive maintenance or equipment changeovers or machine installations is the best choice. The key is to optimize that downtime. You should look at what other things need attention while the line in down. It could be a great time to evaluate the wear on tank or other equipment. Depending on the extent of the shutdown or downtime (just one line, tank or furnace, or the whole plant) a full evaluation of not only the melting unit(s), but the batch house feeding those units is recommended. This would be the perfect time for inspecting silos, chutes, mixers, scales, feeders and other batching equipment.
Another good exercise is to do a glass batch house audit. (This can be done while in production or during a shutdown). This is a full evaluation of your batch house. A qualified glass batch expert will look at your capacity, the condition of your equipment, do utilization studies to benchmark capabilities, review changes for new production requirements, and help to plan multi-phased capital budgets. This analysis can be invaluable for your future capability and production planning.