It seals in heat and keeps out the cold: insulating glass is playing an increasingly vital role in construction. A company in the Northern Black Forest has been tasked with building the machines which will, in turn, be used to manufacture insulating glass. They are currently home to the world’s largest insulating glass production line. We visit Bystronic glass. Where better doesn’t just mean bigger.

Hidden champion – the term could hardly be more fitting. Tucked away at the edge of the forest opposite a paddock, nobody would expect to find a company with these credentials here. The Oscar Niemeyer Tower in Rio, the O2 World arena in Berlin and the Shanghai Tower all have one thing in common: their insulating glass was made using Bystronic glass machines. “There’s even a bit of Bystronic glass in the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai,” explained Peter Nischwitz with a smile. He is responsible for corporate communications for the Bystronic glass international brand.

Architectural glass is the core competence here at the Neuhausen-Hamberg site, where they manufacture massive machines that make insulating glass. And there is a growing demand for it around the world, with increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and soundproofing. “Our machines that turn glass into insulating glass are popular in places where energy efficiency guidelines are given high priority,” said Nischwitz.

Bystronic glass at a glance

The Bystronic glass Group consists of three technology centres with a total of 465 staff in Switzerland, China and Germany. Machines and systems for manufacturing insulating glass have been made here in Neuhausen-Hamberg and shipped worldwide for more than 50 years.

BYSTRONIC LENHARDT GMBH

Everybody does what they do best

This success is no accident – it is the result of constant improvement. For example, through the use of ready-made ÖLFLEX® CONNECT energy chain assemblies by Lapp. “Stripping cables, removing the insulation from single cores, assembling connectors and installing them in drag chains – we used to do all of this ourselves in-house,” recounted Thorsten Meier, process planner at Bystronic glass. “As Lapp supplies ready-made assemblies, we can reduce our lead times from eight hours to one.” After all, this is what optimisation is all about: everybody doing what they do best. As an expert in cabling solutions, Lapp takes care of the energy chains. And the electricians at Bystronic glass spend the time they have saved focusing on other value-adding tasks. “We were able to reduce the assembly times and the logistical complexity as Lapp supplies the chains to us just in time.”

The world’s largest production line

A typical insulating glass production line is between 50 and 70 metres long. But here in Neuhausen-Hamberg, they are building on a new maximum: the world’s largest insulating glass production line with a record length of 160 metres for 18 by 3 metre panels.

Two engineers sit with a laptop in the assembly hall. It looks like a scene from space travel rather than mechanical engineering in an SME. The entire system is a customised construction. Thorsten Meier proudly explained: “We needed to split it into three sections. The first two are located on the customer's premises.”

At Bystronic glass they go big, but they also get things done quickly. “If the customer manufactures many similar glass panels, the number of cycles is key,” said Meier. They also have the right equipment for this here – a machine capable of manufacturing between 800 and 1200 insulating glass units per shift.


A triumph for insulating glass


Logic dictates that you can manufacture the largest insulating glass panels in the world on the world’s largest production line at Bystronic glass. They are 18 metres in length. That is roughly the height of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

A partner for progress

Bystronic glass and Lapp have been working together for a long time, but they stepped up their collaboration in 2011. “That’s when we started using Lapp’s energy chain assemblies,” recalled Thorsten Meier. More than 100 energy chains by Lapp have been built in to the machines and have generated a vast potential for savings ever since. As such, there are plans to use more ÖLFLEX® CONNECT energy chains.


Thorsten Meier has also been working on another improvement with Lapp sales engineer Bianca Feistel: a cable warehouse with 50 cable drums instead of the current 88. The warehouse could be downsized through Lapp’s kanban system for the drums – once a cable drum is almost empty, an employee scans a code using a scanner provided by Lapp to trigger the replenishment. “We were so impressed by Lapp’s overall performance and know-how,” said Thorsten Meier. No wonder: helping customers to optimise their processes is what Lapp does best.

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Thorsten Meier and Lapp sales engineer Bianca Feistel are happy: thanks to Lapp’s ready-made energy chain assemblies, Bystronic glass was able to reduce its assembly times and logistical complexity as the chains are delivered just in time.