We received a message through our website the other day from a glass industry company we’d never worked with before:
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.
Machine guarding is often thought of as something associated with industry and manufacturing plants. It is true that the potential for hazards from machines is greater in those settings. But even in our homes we often have machines where safety guards have become common. Our garage doors have sensors so that if anything cuts the plane of the door the opener will reverse the action and open the door. Riding lawnmowers have seat interlocks to shut down the engine when we get off the mower. Table saws have sensors to shut the blade off quickly if it comes in contact with a finger. And even kitchen appliances like a food processor have interlocks to keep clumsy home operators from cutting their fingers.
Glass manufacturing is a science, but there has always been a bit of mystery to it, and it is often treated like an art with touch of black magic and a deep rooted theme of “this is how things have always been done.” The glass industry is one of the most conservative that I have seen. It tends to be slow to change and no one wants to be the first to try something. Glass melting is a 24/7 operation; you cannot stop the flow of glass without impacting the quality, and what you want is consistency, so you really don’t even want to be changing flow rates. This leaves little time for maintenance, whether it be preventive or dealing with some type of catastrophic failure. There is much planning involved when a line or furnace is to be shutdown. It is a window of opportunity and you must accomplish as much as possible when it occurs.