Glass Handling: Equipment vs. Manpower
The excitement level is pretty high this week. We installed glass in our first Sky-Frame Arc, and being on-site was simply awesome. There’s just no other way to put it. We can throw more words out there, but being in the presence of this system is awe-inspiring. It makes us wish every design had an arced system in it somewhere. It is just so *freaking* cool. And to think that after some finish work, the motors will get connected and calibrated, adding in a motorized arced shade system … we’re done. This is the coolest our jobs could possibly get (we’ve thought that before — we were wrong then and we’re pretty sure we’re wrong now as well). One interesting thing that happens when we post install pictures is that others in the industry recommend equipment that we could use to set the glass without so much manpower.
Equipment can definitely solve some problems for you in the field, but for efficiency and speed there is just nothing like manpower.
But as we reflect on that, we recognize how lucky we are to be at a company where we have strong laborers and a high rate of retention in labor. We don’t subcontract our install. We have 17 in-house installers and most of the faces I see on site are the same faces we’ve seen for the past 4-5 years. As of today, the average tenure of an installer at Signature Windows + Doors is 5 years, 1 month, and 2 weeks. That’s a lot of accumulated experience.
And our guys can move some lbs. But it’s not just their physical strength that’s so amazing. It’s the mental fortitude they have. The will to get the job done. The confidence to pick up a 700 lb piece of glass with 4 other guys, the trust they have in the guy on their left, on their right, holding above them, holding below them, on the other side of that glass balancing it while they move over uneven ground. The direction of the Lead Installer that everyone seamlessly follows as they move, rotate, and stand glass. And then bam, it’s not even lunchtime and they’ve set all 2800 lbs.
If we used equipment to move that glass, we would probably have been lucky to get one piece set by lunch.
Our guys work hard, but their strength is not just physical. I’ve taken part in installs, and I can tell you that it’s an intimidating feeling knowing you’re partly responsible for a piece of glass that a customer waited for 24 weeks to get here from Europe. Not to mention that it’s going to cost the company a lot of dollars if you break it. Not to mention the safety concerns if glass gets broken.
There’s a lot that can go wrong when handling glass. There are a lot of ways to mess it up. We have a 2200 lb piece of glass on an upcoming project and there will definitely be equipment involved in setting it. We’ll use a below-the-hook cup rig with a counterweighted cantilever arm for that one. But for most situations, manpower wins. On our last project, our guys set 17,000 lbs of glass in 2 days. TWO DAYS!
We’re proud to have a team that is technically savvy enough to use equipment when appropriate, but strong enough and confident enough to pick up the piece of glass and get the job done.