We have all heard the adage “haste makes waste.” And typically, this sentiment is true. Rushing through projects is often a recipe for disaster, causing costly errors in the long run. But not for one of Wisconsin’s premier fenestration firms. Rice Lake Glass has adeptly skirted this conundrum. The company has found a way to significantly reduce waste while increasing production speed. Using fast and accurate technology solutions and cutting optimization software, Rice Lake Glass has improved yields, reduced scrap waste, and churned out product at an alarming speed.
Snowmobiles to Storefronts
You wouldn’t think that one of the Midwest’s most famous glaziers got its start manufacturing snowmobiles and skiing equipment, but every story has its unique beginning. Rice Lake’s is a bit colder than most, temperature-wise of course (it’s in Wisconsin, after all). The company opened its doors in 1948 in a tiny town you might have already guessed, named Rice Lake, located in Barron County. Today the town has a whopping 8,500 residents, and 12 of those residents proudly work at Rice Lake Glass.
Big things come in little packages, and what may seem like a small operation is actually quite sizable. Rice Lake Glass recently moved into a factory with 16,000 square feet of operating space and 4,000 square feet of office space. “We have been at our new location for a year now and we love it. We have more room to fabricate and accept materials,” explains office manager Tina Herrera.
Rice Lake Glass’s success comes from years of adaptation and reinvention. “We started business in 1948 doing a little bit of everything from selling and repairing snowmobiles, skiing equipment, to painting and repairing auto glass. In 1973 we dropped all of those miscellaneous activities and started to focus strictly on glass and aluminum, overhead doors, automatic handicap operators, and hollow metal doors, frames, and hardware,” says Tina.
The company provides killer fenestration solutions for commercial, healthcare, and residential markets. It’s in high demand for its curtain wall and storefront products, which offer natural light coupled with efficiency. Rice Lake Glass pairs functional designs with aesthetics for the ultimate win-win combination.
In addition to larger-sized projects, the company is adept at handling smaller-scale work as well, such as replacement glass and shower doors. It has also had the opportunity to take on a handful of very unique projects. For example, the restoration of the Michigan Island Lightstation, a historical landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
Quality Machinery, Quality Products
“We take a tremendous amount of pride in the quality of our work and the products that we purchase to install on our job sites,” explains Tina.
Rice Lake Glass is able to offer high-quality products in part due to top-of-the-line machinery and manufacturing equipment. Among Rice Lake Glass’s technological arsenal is an Ergo Robotic Glass Handler. This ultra-cool glass manipulator aids in the installation of large glass pieces and makes their operation safer and substantially more efficient. If you have ever partaken in the delicate yet rugged material-handling dance of moving two thousand pounds of glass, you know how nice it is to have the correct solutions in place. (OSHA is also a huge fan.)
In addition to their glass-hauling robot, Rice Lake Glass utilizes another type of, er, robot to accurately measure, optimize, and cut aluminum and non-ferrous metal, a TigerSaw 2000. The auto-feed saw
improves quality control as parts are cut accurately within extraordinarily tight tolerances over and over again.
Prior to the installation of the TigerSaw 2000, Rice Lake Glass depended on a 16-foot TigerStop, an automated length stop and material pusher. “We had a TigerStop that was at least 24 years old and it finally quit working. We really enjoyed our saw as it was 90% of our everyday use. We knew that our new saw was going to have to be equal or better to that TigerStop. We have trusted the brand name and support for all those years and we were confident that we would get that type of product and service again,” explains Tina.
The new TigerSaw 2000 has far surpassed Rice Lake Glass’s expectations.”With our former TigerStop we would have to manually feed the material and remove it once it was cut. Now, we can stack a number of lengths together and the machine pusher foot scans and feeds the material,” explains Tina.
Rice Lake Glass’ Lead Fabricator, Jeffery Schmidt, adds, “With our new TigerSaw, we are cutting mainly aluminum extrusions (storefront and curtainwall materials). I would say that our scrap waste has definitely reduced. This new system has also saved us 30%-40% of time since we no longer have to stand in front of the material and manually step on a floor pedal and cut every single piece of aluminum. Our saw is fast, quiet, and accurate. It was a great investment.”
The added speed has increased throughput at which material is processed while simultaneously reducing scrap due to TigerSaw 2000’s incredible part accuracy and reliability. The lesson here? Haste doesn’t always make waste.
Cutting Optimization Software Increases Yield
Above all, Rice Lake Glass has seen the largest benefit in terms of increased yields. “We appreciate the fact that our new saw optimizes our material to make sure that we get the most out of every stock length with little waste,” says Tina.
The TigerSaw 2000 uses a proprietary algorithm called Dynamic Optimization which looks at the material being auto-fed into the saw and cuts out the necessary parts from the cut list in such a way that results in the most minimal amount of scrap waste possible. This means that Rice Lake Glass, and other companies who use expensive materials like aluminum, actually get what they are paying for. Dynamic Optimization prevents scrap waste from accruing in the first place because at the end of the day what’s more valuable: Turning $2.00 per foot of material into end product? Or recouping $0.50 per foot of scrap material through a recycler? You clearly save the most money by using the material up that you have paid top dollar for.
TigerSaw 2000’s touch screen controller, TigerTouch, is an added benefit to the cutting optimization software.
It allows the operator to see what cut lists are being processed in real-time and the statistics associated with that job, such as yield percent and scrap waste. With rising material costs, no activity is more profitable than making the best use of your expensive material. And Rice Lake Glass is doing exactly that.
Sharing the Benefits
So what does Rice Lake Glass do with all of its savings? It passes them on to its customers to help them stay within budget. “At Rice Lake Glass & Door Co., Inc. we pride ourselves on using the best quality products and providing prompt service at fair prices. We enjoy helping customers by using our vast experience and vision to create custom, unique, efficient, and cost-effective solutions. We do what we say we will do on time and on budget.” To learn more about what Rice Lake Glass can do for you, click here.
Learn more about how TigerSaw 2000 and cutting optimization software can help your fenestration business.