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Manufacturing
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 2 years ago

Window World

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Windows and doors manufactured by PGT are used in buildings worldwide.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Every day, PGT Custom Windows and Doors produces some 4,000 custom products.

And these aren't simple items with just a few steps.

On the contrary, the products made at the Venice-based company daily involve a process that can take teams of 12 to 15 people up to several hours to manufacture.

Dean Ruark, director of product management for PGT Innovations, parent company of PGT Custom Windows and Doors, says it takes 500,000 parts to make those 4,000 products. He also says employees cut three football fields' worth of glass each day.

How does the company, founded in 1980, do it?

For one, PGT leadership and employees maintain a constant focus on maximizing efficiency.

At the start of every shift, manufacturing plant workers attend a team meeting. The meetings aren't run like corporate assemblies that drag on for an hour. These meetings are brief, to the point. The team leader discusses goals for the day, including safety goals and how many products they're aiming to make during the shift.

The meetings started about a year ago. Dave McCutcheon, PGT's vice president of manufacturing, says the meetings are for “really driving actions.” McCutcheon says the key question raised in meetings is: “What are the actions that are going to make us better?”

PGT's goals aren't like New Year's Resolutions that end up abandoned a short time later.

These goals, instead, have no chance of being forgotten. Above each line in the plant a large hanging sign displays — in red — the number of products made up to that point in the shift. It's a constant visual reminder of how far or close the team is to meeting the mark. In the future, PGT plans to expand the displays to include company news, safety metrics and other statistics.

If the number displayed is a scoreboard of sorts, then plant employees are the players on the field. Instead of hopping around to different manufacturing lines, employees work on the same line, with the same people, regularly. “The manufacturing arena is kind of like sports,” says PGT University Team Leader and Code Specialist Jim Heise. “By having people work together every day it builds a team.”

This goes outside the plant, too. PGT regularly hosts competitions where the teams are pitted against each other in bowling, softball and basketball tournaments.

Building camaraderie can be crucial when a company maintains an employee roster that rivals the student body of a large high school. More than 2,200 employees work at PGT Custom Windows and Doors on staggered shifts that operate 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Their office? Assembly and glass plants that total about 660,000 square feet. The assembly plant is so large — a little more than a third of a mile long — that during breaks, some employees head upstairs to the mezzanine above the plant floor and walk laps to get extra exercise.

Managing the sheer number of employees and training new employees is a massive undertaking. PGT is now working on creating roadmaps for plant jobs — guides that will tell people exactly how to do a specific job. The project requires 1,000 to 1,500 documents to support the positions at the company.

To maintain relationships with employees, PGT, with $458.5 million in revenue in 2016, holds roundtable discussions, engagement meetings and quarterly town halls where workers can ask questions, voice opinions and speak with company leadership. The company also hosts a Christmas party, company picnics and other functions throughout the year. Regular recognition programs give the company a chance to acknowledge employees who have gone above and beyond in their jobs.

The goal is for employees to be connected with leadership, says Bob Keller, vice president and general manager of PGT Custom Windows and Doors. “You can't win by just having good engineers,” Keller says. “You have to have an engaged workforce at all levels.”

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