Are you as versatile as you should be?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

By Gareth Jones, managing director of Solar Fabrications Holdings

Standing out in the marketplace is critical at any time, but particularly given the challenging environment in which we all find ourselves, so it pays to be versatile with product range, type of customer and adapting to industry standards. 

GRP doors can be all things to all people and can offer terrific scope if you have a wide range of products, not just the ‘standard’ GRP offering.

Anyone visiting a manufacturer’s web portal will see that most doors are very similar – size, style, glass/no glass etc – so differentiation is key to success. It will open the door for selling into a wide variety of customers.

Solar Calibre Doors has that all-important standard product, which definitely has its place but we also produce fire doors and timber doors, with more options on those timber doors for customers who want the really high end Portium or Passivhaus products.

Our Craftsman door has been a top seller for years, but the same customers also appreciate being able to get a standard GRP through us. They have access to the whole spectrum through one supplier, which saves time and offers great value and flexibility.

The fact is, we are able to sell into a wide cross section of customers. We have the window and door fabricators, who don’t make their own products, but sell on to the installer. We sell direct to installers and on really specialist doors we will sell direct to the consumer.

Then there is the newbuild business where timber is used for premium house types, with some GRP too; and finally the Local Authority work, which accounts for a good proportion of our sales. We definitely don’t have all our eggs in one vulnerable basket.

Within our own factory, versatility is key too and our production is set up to allow us to tailor to the different customer needs.

The Local Authority work tends to require a more limited door style so we can standardise production, swiftly and efficiently. For those customers who need a more specific or intricate style, we can produce those at a competitive rate, right down to our spray booth, meaning we can quickly adapt to different colour choices, setting Solar Calibre apart in a crowded marketplace.

A great example of this is the ‘statement’ door we made for a customer who found us at FIT Show last year.

She asked us to create a special design for her new home, which was bespoke from our Craftsman range but we ordered in specific mouldings to produce the effect the customer was looking for.   Thanks to some additional craftsmanship from our skilled team in Huthwaite we were able to recreate her own intricate design.

If you are a GRP customer, think of your own sales versatility. Have a conversation with your customer to see if they’d be interested in upgrading to the Craftsman door.

The retail price can be significantly higher but it’s a best seller for a reason and look at the benefit to your business, through increased profit margins. Sometimes Craftsman will be out of budget for the customer but if you don’t ask, you won’t ever realise the opportunity. And because Solar Calibre isn’t a one solution manufacturer, we still have products that fit the smaller budget available.

Anyone working in this industry will know how quickly legislation and Building Regulations can change.

Retesting and recertification mean that manufacturers must always be one step ahead, effectively future-proofing themselves for what might come up in the next 12 months or so. The Solar Calibre Warden fire door has been rigorously tested to ensure full Certifire third party accreditation.

Not only do they comply with EN:1634-1 and BS476: Part 22 standards, the FD30S fire doors exceed the required 30-minute fire rating for timber doors, with furnace testing on both sides and smoke testing to European standards.

Clearly this is critical for fire doors but impacts all production so, if you’re not set up to handle these situations or don’t have the product scope to meet the demands placed upon us through legislation changes, your business will suffer.

As members of the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers (ACDM) we are kept informed and involved in the formation of standards and legislations to ensure we are not left behind with our product offering.