Big isn’t always beautiful

Bob Wallis of Window Tech Trade explains how he has turned his back on the manufacture of a standard product, and is instead winning business on a highly focused offer.

People were saying a few years ago that super-fabricators were going to take over the industry and it didn’t happen – but I think we’re now at that point; I can’t see how you’re going to compete unless you are prepared to invest in machinery and your product range and, even then, if you don’t have the scale, it’s going to be very difficult.

Therefore, we decided to step out of fabrication of standard product in 2017 for R9 and a far more specialised approach; we partnered with Residence 9 and set up a dedicated factory to specialise in the manufacture of the Residence Collection.

Window Tech is the only fabricator currently in the UK with the capability to butt-weld windows and doors inside and out. We have always manufactured R9 mechanically – it’s what everyone does but it’s labour intensive and it means that you have to supply it glass bonded, which comes with its own set of challenges and limitations.

Welding it means that we get ta higher degree of structural integrity on the sashes and that means that we don’t have to glass bond sashes and can supply R9 unglazed with no visual difference to mechanical joints.

We are currently fabricating about 100 R9 doors and windows a week, and we expect this to hit around 150 frames per week by the summer, moving almost exclusively towards the 90° welding of sashes.

Supplied by Promac, we invested in Urban AKFU 250 and 330 millers and an AKS4310 welder at the end of last year, giving us the capacity to weld corner joints at 90°.

You wouldn’t want to weld R9 any other way. It’s a premium product – you get the timber-type joint inside and out. You can’t tell the difference from a traditional mechanical joint but you get the extra strength so you don’t need to glass bond it and you don’t have to buy corner moulds.

According to modelling by Promac, a line with two-millers, a welder and two operatives trim manufacturing time per sash back from 15-20 minutes to just eight. This, it said, can be shortened to 3.5 minutes with six millers, two welders and two operatives.

Although not suitable for manufacture of all sashes, Timberweld in R9 delivered a weld strength that had been indicatively tested to the equivalent of a standard 45° joint.

There are a couple of caveats – Timberweld won’t necessarily allow you to eliminate the requirement for glass bonding in every sash you make but it will in the majority. It also won’t work for every system as R9 has 10mm greater depth than comparable systems.

If, however, you’re doing sensible numbers and you want an absolutely premium finish inside and out, it’s an exceptional solution.

It’s also a scalable solution so you don’t need to go all out and can build from just two millers and a welder or, if you need greater volume, you can switch from manual milling to CNC milling.

The benefits of this single change to manufacture of sashes, is delivering us multiple benefits.

It cuts the time it takes us to make a sash, but the biggest advantage is that we don’t have to glass bond, which takes time and creates problems for customers downstream.

It means our customers can source glass in exactly the same way as they would for any other window – if it breaks down, if there’s an imperfection on the sash or the glass, you don’t have to replace it all.

It also makes our product far easier to handle on site which is something else which benefits our customers and it’s something which we believe will win us business.