Is automation the key to stability in a turbulent market?

Tony Palmer
Tony Palmer

Tony Palmer, Edgetech head of sales, makes the case for automation as a way for IGU manufacturers to modernise their businesses in an uncertain economic climate.

The last few years have been a peculiar time for the glazing industry.

On the one hand, the industry has remained strong, with the post-Covid home improvement boom being one of the busiest periods for fenestration in recent memory.

Yet, despite the strong sales, IGU manufacturers have also faced unprecedented challenges.

Companies have been hit by materials shortages, price rises, and inflation. Additionally, the UK continues to grapple with a skills shortage which has made the competition for talent fiercer and recruitment very difficult.

These factors, combined with ongoing supply chain disruptions, have resulted in a difficult environment for IGU manufacturers to operate in.

I believe that these challenges explain why Edgetech has noticed a significant surge in interest in automation.

Whilst automated spacer application lines have been available for some time, many more IGU manufacturers now consider it a more reliable alternative to the traditional, labour-based model.

The benefits of automation

Industries of all kinds are now increasingly embracing automation. The World Economic Forum expects that by 2025 only 53% of work will be done by humans, with 47% completed by machines, leading to the expectation that the demand by the global market for automation technology will increase by billions of dollars over the course of the decade.

The possible gains IGU manufacturers can expect by automating their processes are substantial. Automated lines can continuously apply flexible spacer more quickly and efficiently, and to a consistently higher standard than by manually applying rigid spacer bars.

By switching to a fully automated Super Spacer application line, manufacturers can save tens of thousands of pounds each year, increasing output by up to 18% while requiring less than half the number of operators.

Embracing the future

One IGU manufacturer who has long recognised the huge potential of automation is our valued customer Cleartherm.

Cleartherm was an early adopter of the technology, becoming only the third UK company to acquire an automated Forel Super Spacer application line in 2006.

Now, Cleartherm has invested in a modern replacement, ensuring it will continue to offer quality, consistency, and speedy service for years to come.

“When we first started using Super Spacer, we applied it by hand,” explained Cleartherm managing director, David Laing.

“Then, following a visit to America, we saw an automated line for the first time. That was a real ‘wow’ moment for us. We had seen the future.

“We knew we had to incorporate automation technology in what we did – and before long, we’d acquired only the third automated Super Spacer line in the UK”.

17 years later, having seen the sizable benefits that automation can provide, Cleartherm made the decision to reinvest.

“With automation, the quality is far superior, unit processing is much faster, and you can make considerable savings on labour.

“We were reminded just how much automation has improved our lives back in December, when our previous automated line was taken out.

“For the last week of 2022 and the start of 2023, we had to process all our IGUs manually – every member of the work force was counting down the days until the new line was up and running!”

We’re delighted that Cleartherm have decided to reinvest in Super Spacer automation.

As a thriving IGU manufacturer with a reputation for quality, technical excellence and innovation, they’re a perfect example of what automation can achieve.