Latest in Glastory: How and why to automate the flat glass tempering process

by Miika Äppelqvist

Lately, we’re hearing a lot about automation, the Internet of Things and digitalization. What do these terms mean? And how do they relate to the glass tempering business?

The purpose of automating a glass tempering line is not to add technology to the process just for the sake of technology. Instead, it’s about eliminating non-value-adding work and actions.

In this blog, I want to present the steps we need to move from where we are now to a fully automated process. Plus, certain technology issues will have to be solved before we can completely automate the tempering glass process.

Similarities between cars and tempering lines

To make it easy to understand, let’s compare our case with Tesla passenger cars to help show where we are on the path to achieving a fully automatic car. Self-driving cars are not yet a reality, but are well on their way. Cars already have automatic parking, adaptive cruise control and other advanced features.

Of course, the drivers are very different for passenger cars than in the glass tempering process. Common drivers in our business are increasing production, providing better service to customers, improving cost efficiency and optimizing your overall factory operation.

Five steps towards full automation

A five-step model can be used to illustrate the level of automation in the car industry, with level one being zero automation and level five being full automation with self-driving cars, fully automated in every respect. Level one has a certain amount of driver assistance. The next level offers more driver assistance. Lately, we’re seeing many assisting features, like self-parking. But taking the next step forward always requires certain innovations.

If we look at the glass tempering process, we have an operator instead of a driver. When we move along the same automation model, the operator gets more assistance. The first new measurement devices allowed the operator to know what was happening during the process. During the past three or four years, new innovations suggest options to help the operator run the process better. So even in the tempering industry, we’re moving forward in steps. For example, Glaston already offers Assistant Pro and Reporting Pro to help operators make better use of information from the process.

When we go to the next step, which is already a reality, we can integrate with an ERP system to tell us what type of glass is being processed. If the glass mix is relatively stable, we can already automate the process just by selecting a recipe based on the feedback from the ERP. Still, the complexities in today’s world are greater than ever and we need to further develop the technologies before we can fully automate the process for anything other than the most basic ones.  Read more