The connections we make
How has the International market for Thermoseal Group’s products been driven by its ability to be incorporated into increasingly ‘connected’ factories? Thermoseal Group’s sales director Mark Hickox explains.
Thermoseal Group has seen continued investment over recent years in setting up bespoke manufacturing facilities and its own technical centre with EN1279 test laboratory to drive highest performance energy efficient insulated glass components to market.
The group has also made significant investments in developing its infrastructure to offer its multiple award-winning products to the UK and international marketplace. Its investment has paid off with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2017, and placement in the Sunday Times HSBC International Fast Track 200 league table of businesses with fastest-growing International sales; the Group now supplies to 27 countries in five continents.
The decision to manufacture our own warm edge spacers was made many years before the first Thermobar or Thermoflex warm edge spacers came off our first production lines in Wigan. This followed many years of market research as well as building and developing our relationships with raw material suppliers and key glass machinery manufacturers to ensure that our products are not only ideal for small set-ups, but also developing our product formulas to maximise their efficiency when working in fully automated factories.
Many contacts we met through exhibitions such as Glasstec, which we have attended for many years. This year we have a stand, and we’ll be throwing a party on the Wednesday night at Mclaughlin’s Irish Bar with free drinks, entertainment and food for all of our UK and international contacts.
In terms of automation, we have supplied samples of our warm edge products to a range of machinery manufacturers including those who supply worldwide, such as Forel, Lisec and Bystronic, as well as others such as Korean and Chinese manufacturers who supply to their own specific market rather than for export.
Although our products generally work on the majority of automated machine set-ups, we have tweaked our product formulas and worked with the manufacturers, distributors and customers, both in the UK and export markets, to build up a database of specific calibrations for each type of machinery. Ultimately, we took our time with product trials, which was more crucial when working with Thermoflex as we made minute alterations to the formula to optimise the way it runs on the wide range of different machines operating across different continents.
It’s important to add that in order to do this we invested heavily in our technical centre and EN1279 test facilities to ensure that any minor alteration we make to our products doesn’t have any impact on its highest performance thermal properties, or on the longevity of the product within the lifetime of a window.
As we injection-mould the bespoke fittings in house, we have also been able to monitor and modify these to suit and to ensure that we always offer accessories that flush-fit to the warm edge spacers we supply.
With Thermobar, it is important that it works using traditional automated bending machines, as well as the new ones entering the market, so we work with a wide range of warm edge bending machine suppliers to optimise the speed that the product bends and maximise output.
However, as bending machines have a high capex cost, Thermobar also needs to work optimally on alternative auto cutting stations. Again, although our products generally work on out of the box machinery, we have worked with a variety of suppliers, and our engineers work closely with customers, to calibrate machines to optimise output.
For sealants, we have worked with key suppliers to make minute revisions to the formula to make its use more efficient on robot sealing machines. In addition, for automatic desiccant filling with Thermobar, we have worked closely with customers to help speed up cycle times. Although we didn’t make any specific changes to the desiccant product formula in this instance, we now recommend that customers who want to speed up this process increase the size of their drill from a standard 6mm to an 8mm drill size, which increases the aperture for desiccant filling and improves the flow of desiccant into the spacer.
We also worked with saw blade suppliers, and publish a list of optimal blades for those working exclusively with a warm edge spacer such as Thermobar and want to maximise output. The blades are published with internationally recognised codes so our export customers can order them from local sources when required. We also supply Thermobar with straight connectors pre-inserted, which helps to optimise the speed of both methods of production and minimise any waste. Our connectors are designed specifically to flush-fit so they can be used to connect a number of straights to make up a premium unit.
There are a multitude of considerations when it comes to the manufacturability of our products, and our recommendations for automation have mainly come from product trials with our customers. Ultimately, we listen.
Peter Zehetmayr, managing director at Treforest Glass, said: “Thermobar has proved to be a very good ridged warm edge product for Treforest Glass and our customers: it has excellent thermal properties; it is cost effective; it has a good balance of handling characteristics during manufacture; it is not too stiff but stiff enough; and relatively easy to cut.
“As always, Thermoseal Group gives first class technical support and delivers as and when required. We took a long time to assess and decide on which ridged warm edge product we were going to use. We have never regretted choosing Thermobar from Thermoseal Group.”
Colin Haverley from Mid Devon Glass said: “Mid Devon Glass has been using Thermoseal’s Thermobar as the company’s sole warm edge spacer bar for many years, a decision it has not regretted. The performance rating, sales support and ease of use in the production environment have made it an excellent choice. The overall quality and construction of the spacer bar, coupled with the ease of corner key fitting without bar splitting, has made for smooth cutting, assemble and production. A quality product that we are happy to use and recommend.”
It’s always great to hear feedback like this as we do try to work with our customers as much as possible, both in the UK and for export. In fact, I would say opening up our products to export markets has extended the number of considerations we make in product development and helped us to raise our standards in many ways. With worldwide competition and a world of IG components and production methods to consider for compatibility with our warm edge spacers, we have had to expand our thinking and develop our test methods to suit.
Working with highly efficient international manufacturers has also seen various changes to our order systems to allow for very advanced forward ordering; and having previously transported our products using our own fleet of vehicles, we’ve taken on additional considerations to suit distributor requirements in different countries. From packaging thickness, banding of spacer, and orientation of products on pallets to maximise space in 20ft and 40ft containers, our orders are now planned to precision and delivered to suit high-volume distribution.
A current project we have in progress is the launch of an online ordering service that will be of particular benefit to our international customers who are operating to different time zones. This will enable purchasers to conveniently login on their phone or mobile device at any time and order from the factory floor. They’ll receive an immediate order confirmation and items will be shipped to suit.