In this article, Forvet speaks to one of its historical clients – Koen Vermeulen, Production Manager of HG-Glas – about how the company is continuing to invest in Forvet technologies – since 1996. Focussing on non-standard production, HG-Glas is now looking forward to see what Forvet is planning for 2021 regarding full plant automation and production control.
COULD YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY OF YOUR COMPANY, HG-GLAS?
HG-Glas was founded around 1900 by Mr. Heylen and his wife, Mrs. Geerts, and initially specialized in glass products and painting tools. After the world wars, the company evolved into a renowned insulating glass installer, and later focussed on glass production for lighting and furniture industries. Since 1981, the company has been located on the current premises of approximately 17.500 square metres in Herentals, a town 50 kilometres south-west of Brussels, Belgium. The focus then shifted from producing large quantities into made-to-order products for the interior market, with high-quality standards as the main target.
FROM THE FIRST FORVET MACHINE TILL TODAY
What are the main reasons that lead you to invest in Forvet technologies?
Our first Forvet was a FC1250 in 1996. It was the first ‘automated’ drilling machine for HG-Glas back in the days and it was a stepping-stone to start investing in automation in general.
After the successful history of the FC1250, we acquired a FC2500 in 2000 and afterwards two Francesca FC32M’s in 2004/2005 to be connected to double-edger lines.
These two lines appeared to be the ultimate test for the relationship between HG-Glas and Forvet. Some issues occurred early on, and lead to frustration on both sides. But in the end, there was always room for cooperation and discussion. Forvet persisted in finding a solution for the challenges and in the end it all worked out. Both machines are still in a good condition and well producing.
One may say this was a challenging experience, but we see this as a proof of trust between both companies. It has made clear to both of us that in the end, we will both fight to make things work one way or the other and we got to know the values and policies of one another.
In 2013 we were actively working on the layouts of our new plant and were looking for a solution for our grinding/drilling division. The Chiara + Francesca in line were on the table as an option, but the Chiara technology was unknown to us. Being a double-edger customer for so long, made us wary of this new technology used by Forvet.
Forvet decided to pull out their trump card and gave us the opportunity to test a Chiara for three months to convince us that it was a suitable solution.
Which brings us to our new plant of which machinery construction was started in 2015 and completed in 2019, boasting a grinding/drilling division with three fully automated Chiara + Francesca lines for float glass production and a Multiflex line covering a large part of the laminated glass production.
Which are the advantages of the Forvet machines?
The Chiara Modular + Francesca in line offers us cutting-edge technology and high flexibility on a relatively small surface.
Our main production in float glass consists of high-end and custom made glass for interior usage.
Almost every glass is unique so ‘standard’ is not a key-word at HG-Glas. This implies that we needed a grinding/drilling combination which could deliver high polish quality (cup wheels, no peripheral), high flexibility in product size, shapes (25 per cent of production is shaped) and can work in a highly automated environment (manual labour has to be avoided as much as possible).
Due to our limited available space in our newest production facility, we also faced another hurdle when designing the lay-out.
The answer was delivered in 2015 with our first two Chiara + Francesca processing lines and eventually a third line as well.
With the positive experience of the Chiara Francesca lines, we decided to invest in the latest edging Forvet technology: the Chiara Multiflex which arrived in 2019 and was somewhat a ‘leap into the unknown’ for us. Grinding laminated glass poses extra problems that should be reckoned with and that could potentially plummet production numbers if you’re not well prepared. The Multiflex has proven to easily beat the output of a double-edger (step by step production) on a daily basis and delivering the same or higher quality.
Please describe Forvet added values for your productivity and quality
We think it’s safe to say that our grinding/drilling division has one of the highest efficiencies per square meters (taking into account the complexity of the products). This is due to the implementation of the Forvet lines. The high flexibility and automation of the Chiara’s has reduced manual labour and transportation of glass to different machines. The Francesca’s with water jet technology have not only made processing glass faster, but also improved the quality a lot (compared to milling).
How would you rate the after sales service and ongoing technical support?
Working with Forvet for so many years has given us the advantage that we got to know some of their technicians and technical staff very well. They share the same philosophy as we do and won’t stop until they see a happy customer. This is extremely important for us as no customer, big or small, should be treated as a number and this is what Forvet offers. They listen to your problems and try to find a solution as fast as possible. Knowing some people personally, we know their commitment not only to Forvet but also to delivering the Forvet quality everywhere at anytime.
Given your production results, do you confirm that the investment made with Forvet has met your business plan?
The demands of our project and the solutions offered by Forvet had a 90 per cent match. Looking back at it now, we wouldn’t make any different choice whatsoever…
Can you express your view on Forvet’s total plant automation approach
Forvet is known to us for successfully implementing cutting-edge technology. They go the other mile and take risks were others will stop or fail. What we have experienced from Forvet automation is promising. There’s always a solution for any question you ask Forvet. Custom machinery and automation are daily business for Forvet. We’re eager to see what Forvet has in store for us in 2021 regarding full plant automation and production control.
What are the future plans for HG-Glas?
We’re planning a big make-over of our older plant. The current machinery will have to go and make space for new highly automated machinery. An increase of the grinding capacity is necessary and our automated packing division also needs an upgrade in capacity. New processes are also on the table. Recently we have acquired another 10,000 square metre facility neighbouring our current premises, so we’re set for the next years regarding space.
Of course the COVID situation has put the world economy in a strange situation. But we will continue our planned investments as we believe in a positive future. To do this, we’ll need reliable suppliers which we hope Forvet will be part of.