When small makes sense

Glass Time editor Nathan Bushell examines a tale of two fabricators.

As long as I’ve been working in this industry, there has been talk of the superfabricator – a mythical manufacturer of thousands of windows a week that could signal the demise of the small to medium-sized fabricator.

But it has mostly been pie-in-the-sky thinking. And the logic is sound: why outsource window manufacture when you can have keep control over the process, make a decent margin, and receive plentiful support from your suppliers? Therefore, while some fabricators do indeed produce a lot of windows, there are still many smaller fabricators making a very good living

However, two news stories this week suggest that the superfabricator is a reality, at the expense of smaller businesses pulling out of ‘standard’ window fabrication.

The first is that Customade Group is on course to double its scale to become a £200 million business.

Following its merger with Polyframe, the company currently has revenues of more than £100 million, and fabricates more than 13,000 PVCU frames per week.
Further investment in new products is planned, and the group is certainly benefiting from economies of scale.

But what about the smaller guys?

It’s no secret that the glass and glazing industry is seeing increased interest from homeowners for high-end products, which is driving up margins for those that invest in them. Typically, you see fabricators invest in additional ranges to run alongside their standard offering, which is why it is interesting to learn about companies such as Essex-based Window Tech Trade, which has stopped production of 400 standard PVCU window and door frames each week to focus on the manufacture of The Residence Collection.

To me, 400 frames a week is not an insignificant amount, but the company will make more money from making 150 Residence Collection frames per week.

Of course, this, in turn, will free up the market for Polyframes of this world, allowing them to grow even larger.

Finally, on a different note, the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a new consultation on late payment as part of his Spring Statement, which would have an impact on the construction sector.

In response, chief executive of the FMB Brian Berry said: “We should use this opportunity to bring about a spring clean of payment practices which negatively impact on small business. Construction giant Carillion’s collapse at the start of the year brought to light once again the need to eliminate poor payment practises that plague the construction sector particularly.”