The following interview with SCHOTT Flat Glass’s Cédric Marchand highlights the latest trends in home appliance glass production, the fast evolving requirements of OEMs and his company’s investment priorities to keep pace with these needs.
A leading international technology group in the areas of specialty glass and glass-ceramics, SCHOTT has more than 130 years of outstanding development, materials and technology expertise and offers a broad portfolio of high quality products and intelligent solutions. The group is an innovative enabler for many industries, including the home appliance, pharmaceutical, electronics, optics, life sciences, automotive and aviation industries and is committed to sustainable success.
Production plants and sales offices are located in 34 different countries, providing employment for 15,500 people. SCHOTT’s worldwide sales amount to almost US$2.5 billion.
Reinforcing long-term relationships
As Head of Quality and Plant QEHS Manager at the SCHOTT flat glass transformation business in France, Cédric Marchand is acutely aware of the need to maintain the highest possible quality standards to reinforce the company’s long-term relationship with home appliance OEMs. Located at Troisfontaines, Lorraine, close to Strasbourg, SCHOTT Flat Glass sits in a strategically important position at the heart of the European Union.
With nearly 170 years of experience in glass transformation, this specialist business employs approximately 340 people and offers extensive technological knowhow to develop innovative solutions for customers. This includes SCHOTT® Smart Touch, which was responsible for setting a new design trend in control panels for electrical appliances and SCHOTT® MetalLook, a stylish glass that looks like stainless steel and brings trendy surfaces into the home. Other important examples from the current portfolio include inner, outer and control panel glasses for ovens, along with glasses for extractor hoods, coffee machines and refrigerator doors, as well as products for the sanitary and heating industries.
According to Cédric Marchand, a number of key trends are influencing the customer-focused strategies adopted by specialist glass processors in 2020.
Among the biggest shifts in recent years have been a trend towards :
- The automation of visual inspection methods,
- The incorporation of specific functionalities,
- The industry’s use of glass that is more resistant to different kinds of ‘brutal’ environmental change (eg quick thermo shocks).
“Glass has become more complex in terms of shape and decoration » he confirms, « with a trend towards product individuality.”
Demand for faster manufacturing turnarounds and low prices is also apparent. To adapt to this new reality, SCHOTT is investing in digitalization, automation and precise measurement technologies, while also reducing lead times.
Increasingly, the appliance industry is demanding greater precision and optimal consistency from its glass suppliers, together with improved aesthetics and the total avoidance of defects. There is also a need for lower prices and higher productivity activities at all sites, including the reduction of waste, higher machine performance speeds and increased pieces per man hours, together with fast deviation detection and reaction times.
The OEM’s needs have also changed over the past five years, of course, typified by the demand for more standardized products to be manufactured by the maximum number of vendors possible. Future needs are expected to relate to the standardization of complex products. The top priorities for OEMs are expected to relate to price, on-time deliveries and the realization of parts per minute improvements.
Cédric Marchand confirms that SCHOTT Flat Glass is increasingly utilising Industry 4.0 developments within its production environments, by adopting lean operational excellence methods, by automating manipulation, measurement and inspection processes and creating a dedicated improvement plan for defect detection and reaction.
The leader in optical glass inspection technology, SYNERGX Technologies has worked closely with the team at SCHOTT Flat Glass to minimize production losses for more than eight years. Currently installed at the Troisfontaines site are separate SURFX glass and SURFX Paint inspection defect scanners.
The use of a paint inspection system ensures that differentiation is made on the high speed screening printing process, enabling defects to be easily visible, helping to reduce serial defects like pinholes and edge burrs, minimise scrap rates and reduce PPM. Cédric Marchand explains that SCHOTT Glass’s ultimate goal for using this equipment is to reduce PPM due to paint by 50%, down to single digit numbers.
To match the glassmaker’s requirements, the SURFX Paint inspection system has been installed after the printing and drying process. This equipment was selected in recognition of its transmission technology, processability and programmability features, as well as its ability to guarantee the detection of 0.3mm pinholes and to allow painting on the glass edges with a precision of just 0.3mm. It is unique in the market.
Delivering innovative solutions
SCHOTT is recognized globally for its flat glass production expertise, consistently delivering high standards for its technologies, processes and the quality of its products. The group is regularly expanding its capabilities and frequently works with appliance industry customers on joint development projects. Its ability to satisfy constantly evolving customer expectations continues to be driven by the latest digitalization techniques in combination with increasingly precise measurement methods to deliver enhanced product consistency and reliability.