Winds of change?

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell wonders if we will see significant developments in the fenestration industry this year.

Happy new year!

As Q1 gets into its stride, expectations are high that the blocks will be removed from the economy and, following the election – which promised a swift exit from Europe – investors will regain confidence in UK plc.

While news concerning the collapse of window fabricators has circulated since the start of the year (more as Glass Times gets it) others remain bullish. Andy Jones for example – the newly appointed managing director of Victorian Sliders – has said: “We’ve got some incredibly ambitious plans for the 12 months ahead. We’ve invested £10 million over the last five years to lay the foundations for the next phase in our history, and in 2019 we’ve seen that really start to bear fruit.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a significant amount investment in companies up and down the fenestration supply chain, and it will not have escaped your attention that we carry numerous stories about companies expanding their sites to incorporate this. I get to see a lot of this first hand, and increasingly companies are adopting modern manufacturing practices alongside big-ticket purchases.

On the window fabrication side, as familiar businesses go under, I doubt that new enterprises will spring up to replace them. This is reflected in the latest report from Insight Data (in the January issue of Glass Times that should have landed on your desks) which points to a continuing reduction in fabricator numbers.

Housebuilding and the drive towards more energy efficient buildings, alongside an expected increase in commercial work, are not expected to suppress volumes, so will we finally see the growth of the superfabricator? I know it is a proposition that gets wheeled out on an almost annual basis – and there are indeed a number of fabricators that are producing vast numbers of windows a week – but the conditions seem right.

However, it could also be argued that window fabricators are now shying away from high volume work, and instead incorporating high value items into their workflow, which would by its very nature reduce the number of frames being produced, while boosting profitability.

On the glass side, the trend I am seeing is towards fewer but larger businesses. Again, the cut price nature of IGU production is having an effect on the industry (Glass Times will be covering this in greater detail in the March issue) and higher value, higher margin, work is driving investment in other businesses. I expect some major developments in this sector over the next 12 months.

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