Adapting to the new normal

By Rapierstar.

We’re constantly being told to get used to the ‘new normal’ as we emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown, and in many ways as an industry we have so much to gain from the new ways of working that we have quickly had to adopt.

The value of online services, resources and support really came to the fore during the peak of lockdown as we were confined to our homes or limited to who we could engage with in our socially distanced workplaces. As a result, many of us will have decided not to go back to the old ways and instead look online for help as the default. But we have to be able to find what we need, when we need it, otherwise disillusionment sets in pretty quickly.

For many years, Rapierstar has been investing in producing Recommended Fixings Manuals (RFMs) which are available to download free of charge, without having to register. The idea behind these was to give any fabricator or installer of a specific PVCU profile system a way to find the answers to all the most common questions around which fasteners to use during window or door assembly.

As visits to window factories by Rapierstar’s technical consultants were suspended, these RFM pdfs really came into their own; as habits and routines abruptly changed, the value of these documents became immediately obvious to many fabricators, a large proportion of whom may not have considered downloading them previously.

It is an illustration of how things have changed, and why it is so important that technical guidance for window and door manufacturers and installers is easily accessible online 24/7. Accuracy is vital too, which is why we are updating our RFMs all the time as profile systems change.

But online isn’t everything. The window industry has long been characterised by strong personal relationships, and there is often no quicker way to solve a problem than picking up the phone to your supplier. As a result, good customer support needs to be about both providing freely available online resources and being able to speak with a real person which, from the feedback Rapierstar has received, proved invaluable during the lockdown.

The disruption of the pandemic resulted in product supply problems in all aspects of our lives, from toilet rolls and flour to paracetamol and Marmite. While many of the shortages that consumers experienced were as a result of excessive sudden demand, the experience has highlighted how difficult life can be when you can’t depend on your suppliers to provide what you need, when you need it.

We know that under normal circumstances our door and window manufacturing customers face a constant challenge to maintain supplies of all the raw materials they use. Now, however, supply chains are being affected by numerous additional factors. For example: local pandemic lockdowns across the world, transport and shipping disruption, suppliers ceasing trading as a result of administration or redundancy of your usual contact, which suddenly makes ordering a nightmare. Any of these could affect production.

With a carefully managed approach to fastener usage and procurement, however, fabricators can at least maintain production without the risk of incorrect screws being used as a substitute when specific stocks run out (a move that can compromise the quality of finished windows and doors) or production having to be halted.

It starts with an audit of which fasteners are needed in the factory and their volumes, as the Rapierstar Health Check does. After this, stocks can be planned well in advance and supplied from Rapierstar’s UK warehouse in Cheshire, where more than one billion items are held in stock. This allows for the shortest possible lead times on fasteners because the lengthier processes of manufacturing and shipping across the globe have already been handled months in advance.

At a time when many of us are rethinking how we do things, whether that is being more active, changing our routine or how we run our businesses, a fresh look at all aspects of the supply chain is no bad thing. Now is also the perfect opportunity to identify how products and processes can be improved for increased productivity, quality and profitability.

Fastener choices and usage should be part of this review for anyone looking to improve their competitiveness in the ‘new normal’.