Achieving more with less

When fabricators think about automation, they often assume it just relates to large output machining centres – but they would be wrong. Matt Thomas, MD at Haffner, discusses the benefits of automation throughout the fabrication process and highlights its biggest advantage right now.

The benefits of automating window and door fabrication have always been clear. Machine automation can boost efficiency and productivity on the factory floor whilst delivering consistent product quality.

It also brings greater flexibility to production schedules and allows fabricators to scale production output as fluctuating demand dictates.

But automated machines also have the ability to resolve one of the most pressing issues affecting the industry – the skill shortages that have become even more of a problem since the pandemic.

We’ve known for some time that there’s a shortage of younger workers coming up through the ranks and with older workers leaving the industry, the problem of a skilled workforce has just got a lot worse. Add in the loss of an estimated 200,000 EU nationals post-Brexit and you have a perfect storm.

Automated machines provide the ability to achieve more output with less manpower, which means they are a powerful way for fabricators to adapt to the worker shortage in addition to increasing their output. As our sales figures show, the market agrees.

The timesaving properties that automated machines deliver was confirmed in recent feedback from two major industry fabricators who recently purchased our KT assembly tables to further improve their efficiencies.

The assembly tables are able to transform the speed of manufacture with minimal skilled manpower. One company confirmed that the automated door table can prep three hinges on a door in under three minutes.

This has saved them around 40 minutes on French doors. They also confirmed that their new tilt and turn table will prep a tilt and turn sash in under four minutes too which has dramatically improved the speed of their output.

Just as important is that the machines are fully automated, so they do not need to be operated by a skilled operator. Even more impressive is the fabricator confirmed that the tables had saved the time of around four people, which is hugely beneficial for fabricators struggling to find skilled labour.

The KT assembly tables are designed for use on single and tilt-and-turn window systems and door sashes of various dimensions. The intelligently designed machines optimise sash assembly by combining several processes at one table. And by taking these operations off a conventional machining centre means you will further increase the output of your existing machines too.

They have triple drilling for handles and milling for the espagnolette channel with easy positioning of the tools. There is a punch unit for cropping the single or tilt-and-turn espagnolettes, as well as scissor hinges, which is all done according to sash dimension and without requiring measuring. Hinge holes are also drilled automatically without an operative needing to measure for the location. The automatic screwing unit includes height adjustment for espagnolette and scissor hinges.

To create a worker-friendly environment, the tables can be shifted 15° for ergonomic working, while the shelves for hardware and other tools ensure efficiency – as well as enhancing shop floor health and safety by providing intelligent storage.

The accuracy is far superior to traditional methods of a tape measure and jig too. CNC positioning of the frame and sash ensures all hinges are in the correct place, leaving little adjustment on the finished door. This unique measurement system allows for tolerances in welded frames and also reduces the time needed to check and adjust each door on the bench which further improves production output.

The machines make a compelling case for helping fabricators overcome worker shortages. But of course, even in a crisis like this one, it’s important to choose your next move with care.

When you work with Haffner, you’re working with a multi-award-winning business and a team of industry and technical experts who really understand the fabrication industry and are truly committed to adding value to your business. And we offer free and genuinely impartial consultancy to help you choose the machinery that’s right for your business.

Alongside our cutting-edge machinery, we also offer finance packages and part exchanges, subject to status, to help you invest for the future of your business. And once your new machinery is up and running, we have a team of dedicated engineers for peace of mind and minimal downtime.

We have always highlighted the benefits of automation across our various PVC-U and aluminium fabrication machines. Those benefits haven’t changed – but in the current market they’ve become even more central to fabricators’ success.