Team Member Ingenuity Leads to Increased Patio Door Production Thanks to “Butterfly” Effect

Posted Sep 2, 2022

Team Member Ingenuity

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, in the case of the butterfly table at MI Windows and Doors’ Gratz, Pa., manufacturing facility, that invention has been paying dividends for over a decade.

In the spring of 2009, an ad-hoc design team at MI came together to solve a problem. Namely, how could they flip the 910 sliding glass door during production without jeopardizing the safety of the men and women on the line?

MI Windows and Doors Butterfly Table shown with two team members

The committee, spearheaded by now-retired team member David Bixler, created the “butterfly table”, which is a machine that actually flips the door! This amazing invention resulted in not only a safer work environment, but also a much quicker operation that produces far more 910 doors per shift.

“When we first started the line, some 20-odd years ago, we did about 60 doors a day,” says Bruce Trauger, a team lead on the 910 line. “Everything was by hand. Now, in eight hours we’re doing 230, 240. We’ve streamlined the whole line.”

MI Windows Butterfly Table shown, built by MI Windows and Doors team members to flip patio doors on the production line

Process Improvement

Part of that improved process is thanks to a newer version of the butterfly table that was unveiled in 2015. Designed once again by the Gratz maintenance team with help from the team members on the 910 line, it was basically the 2.0 edition of the butterfly table.

“The original butterfly table was built so the operating panel could be flipped in order to be installed in the mainframe after the glass was installed,” says Russ Long, the supervisor on the 910 line. “On the mainframe side, the frame would come down the line, the glass got installed, and it would take two team members to flip the frame so the operating panel could be installed.”

That’s where the new model comes in. Long and other team members gave their input in the hopes that the design team could fabricate a variation of the table that required little to no manpower.

“We looked at the smaller version of the table that was made to flip the operating panels and the idea of making a larger version for the mainframe side,” Long recalls. “The Gratz maintenance team drew up a plan for the table and worked with the team members on the patio line to make any changes before the table was built. Shortly thereafter, the mainframe butterfly table was put on the production line and has helped to reduce the possibility of injuries.”

“This handles the door so much easier than the older version,” Trauger adds. “With this one, the pins come up right behind and take it right over. There are rubber pins that come out on the other side that catch it and then lower it down easy. Now the operator can drop the glass, and when the person is done beading, the operator just hits the button and the door flips itself.”

A Remarkable Invention

As noted above, this remarkable invention has worked on two levels: a quicker process for manufacturing patio doors and fewer chances for injury. What’s more, the butterfly table has become a very popular stop on tours of the plant.

“People are always amazed by this machinery,” Long says. “It’s quite a sight to see!” 

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