Building strong relations

John Park-Davies, managing director of Ikon Aluminium Systems explains why customer service is more important than ever, and what steps the manufacturer is taking to support its customers.

There’s no doubt that 2019 will be unpredictable but we will be starting the year in a strong position, with a very healthy order book; 2018 has been a tremendous year for Ikon as we celebrate 10 years in business with double-digit percentage growth year-on-year.

Our continued growth is in-line with trends highlighted in the latest Council for Aluminium in Building (CAB) State of the Market Survey (Q1, 2018); 43% of CAB members reported significant rises in sales (rises of over 5%) compared to a year earlier, and 29% reported that sales had increased by up to 5% over the same period.

Yet, with continued political and economic uncertainty, it’s crucial that businesses work collaboratively, to strengthen partnerships and support one another through Brexit and beyond. That’s why, earlier this summer, we appointed Kim Ellis as operations manager for Ikon. Kim has been with the company for two and half years, leading our estimating team. She had already developed strong relationships with many customers and has forged a good rapport with many key contacts; this was something we were keen to build on.

As part of our business improvement programme, we consulted our customers on where they felt we needed to enhance our offer. It transpired that the business was historically reactive (Ikon was acquired by an investment group in March 2017), and to develop the business further, we needed to adopt a more customer-centric, holistic approach. The operations role was developed to be the hub between sales, production, customer care and logistics.

As well as being the main point of contact for customer enquiries, Kim is also responsible for delivery liaison. Ikon is delivering products on a daily basis, so organisation is crucial. Through production scheduling, managing stock levels, understanding and arranging complex coating and finishing requirements, and liaison with logistics suppliers, Kim ensures the right product is in the right place at the right time.

One of Kim’s key tasks is stock management. The weekly stock meeting – initiated by Kim – identifies fast-running products and highlights those, often specialist items, which need to be ordered in. It’s vital that stock levels are maintained, and special items are ordered, as and when, to prevent unnecessary delays.

Kim is also responsible for the day-to-day running of the Ikon office and is supported by a team of estimators, accounting professionals and technical resource. She works closely with the shop-floor to advise customers regarding delivery dates, production fluctuations etc.

Daily production meetings ensure that all team leaders have the ability to contribute to the smooth running of the business; they are informed of progress and the production pipeline for the coming weeks.

One thing is for sure: exiting the European Union will have an impact on all of us; what happens for one, happens for all, and as a consequence we have to support one another through the challenging times.

Our customers will be looking for a stable and reliable supplier and that’s something that we are more than capable of providing. Being a member of a group enables financial stability, the capacity to invest in products, machinery and people, and enables us to seize potential opportunities.

The development of Kim’s role gives an insight into how we are strengthening our proposition, for the benefit of our customers, suppliers and employees.