“Our business is supplying insulating glass to high-end window and door manufacturers who make wood, aluminum and steel windows and doors throughout Southern California. They pay us more because we deliver higher quality.
Our units go into windows and doors shipped all over the country. Our customers’ end users don’t care about ASTM standards or that glass is for looking through and not at. They think they’re buying diamonds. They’ve paid a high price and if they think they see a problem, they’re not living with it.”
Started from nothing
“I started this business from nothing in 1988. I had helped one company start their IG operation with a washer, a sealant pump and a handcutting table. After that I went to work for a window company, where I got an understanding of all the issues and how pre-installed quality is so important. It became my mission.
Back then, IG was still new in California. We went to wood window companies and offered to do all their specialty shapes. That’s how we dug out our niche in the world, with quality and doing the hard stuff: triangles, even sightlines.”
Growing in the highly competitive Southern California IG market
“Today, we have 55 employees in a 65,000 square foot facility.”
We do tempering, fabrication, polishing, drilling and v-grooving and are adding our own lamination line. We offer every kind of coated glass from the major manufacturers and are one of the only independent Cardinal fabricators in the west.
Our market is really competitive. The first thing new guys do, and there are lots of them, is drop their price. We have to keep earning and justifying ours.
We do that with quality.”
Larger IG, more delicate glass
“What has happened in our business is that we are seeing the size of insulating glass grow tremendously.
Ten years ago, IG averaged eight square feet. Now it is closer to 15 and we are making some units that are 50, 60 and 70 square feet.
At the same time, glass, as our plant manager constantly points out, has gotten delicate. The low-e coatings are increasingly sophisticated and expensive.
Anybody can do clear glass. Coated glass is much more demanding. And any problem found after fabrication cost three to four times the money to reject.”
Seen everything that can go wrong
“I’ve made millions of units of insulating glass and seen everything that can be done to, happen to or get inside a unit. I’ve seen paper inside—I don’t know how that happened!
Our quality has always been better than good. But we knew that it could be even better. The worse thing in the world is to see even one piece of glass come back on the truck with a now-obvious defect.
Everyone buys glass from same places. The main differences in our operation are that we start with high quality equipment and the training our people have.”
“For our automated quality inspection system, we installed a FeneVision LineScanner at the beginning of our IG line after the washer.
The LineScanner goes beyond what a human could detect by looking at a piece of glass, especially a tired pair of eyes looking at glass going by all day. And in a factory, all the lighting you can put in does not duplicate natural light.
The LineScanner picks up every little defect. We’ve definitely seen a difference and are rejecting a lot more glass. We even called in a manufacturer to show them coating defects the LineScanner found.”
Not replacing the inspector
“It doesn’t replace the inspector, it helps him. Ours were skeptical at first, but by the third day, one said this thing’s awesome. They can make decisions in a lot less time: locate, fix, wipe, reject.
We’re archiving defects and seeing patterns. We go back and compare locations to find where defects are coming from. Most of our defects were in the smallest category for which LineScanner is checking.”
Speed and savings
“Speed matters. It was taking five minutes to manually inspect large lites, some of which were over the inspectors heads. Now it takes only a minute to inspect and the monitor tells you right where to inspect instantly.
We are seeing savings on big pieces of glass, catching defects before we put any more time and money into that piece of glass.”
Giving customers confidence
“It helps us give our customers confidence, too. People can misrepresent the source of a scratch. With all the scans in the database, we can help our customers defend themselves against claims they couldn’t defend in the past.
We’re considering another one at the end of the tempering furnace and one for the new laminating line. We’re using it as a marketing tool, because our competitors don’t have it.
Our customers need to know that they can ship our units without even looking at them. And they can. The LineScanner helps us produce the best quality glass that we can. It makes us a better supplier.”
Rusty Neubauer, owner
West Coast Insulated Glass Products