Choosing a fabricator – an installer’s view
The Window Company (Contracts) sources frames in a range of different systems from a network of fabricators and, unsurprisingly, gets lots of approaches from companies chasing its business. Chairman David Thornton gives an installer’s perspective on what he and the team are actually looking for when they choose a new supplier.
We believe in long term relationships, so once we find a supplier that meets our high standards then we tend to stick with them. There are times though when we want to dual source on a project to guarantee continuity of supply, or when we need to source frames in system that we haven’t used before; and that’s when we spend time choosing a new supply partner to add to our list.
Our starting point is always reputation or recommendation, and then we do have a fairly fixed set of criteria that every new fabricator has to meet.
Capacity. We buy hundreds of frames per week so we have to know that a new supplier can cope easily with these volumes without overstretching themselves, and obviously that they can give us the corresponding credit limits.
Quality. Our reputation means everything to us so we have to be absolutely assured of the quality of the product we are installing. That’s where recommendation comes in, and we look for the added reassurance of ISO9001 and Kitemarks.
Deliveries. Guaranteed delivery schedules matter almost as much as product quality – we can’t have one without the other. We always ask to see evidence of a fabricator’s delivery performance.
Facilities. As a matter of policy, whenever we appoint a new supplier, we always visit their factory. We want to see exactly how they are making the frames or sealed units and we want to meet the production team, talk to them about the products and get a feel for the business culture.
Online ordering. This is non-negotiable. A supplier has to be able to offer us an online ordering facility to fit in with our systems.
Price. Obviously, price is important because we’re operating in a highly price sensitive commercial market and we are buying in very large volumes. It’s not our overriding criteria though. Almost as important is the agreement of a long-term pricing structure which means we won’t get any nasty surprises half way through a contract.
Compliance. We need to see evidence that all the products we are buying comply with the relevant standards and regulations. In the social housing sector, where we do most of our work, we need to see formal accreditations.
Proactive. We like to work with suppliers who bring something extra to the table. That could be anything from a new way of packing and transporting frames to an experienced technical team who are willing to offer us regular briefings on relevant upcoming legislation.
Honesty. We willingly present our last three years of balance sheets to any supplier who we are asking to offer us a credit facility. In return, we expect suppliers to be open and honest in all their dealings with us.
Chemistry. The old adage that people buy from people remains as true as ever and, fundamentally, we want to feel that there’s a good fit between us and our suppliers. We like to see evidence that they are as interested in our business as we are in theirs. As part of that, we certainly aim to meet as many of their team as possible before we place an order. That includes the finance department and the internal sales people because, on a day-to-day basis, our relationships with them matter as much as our relationships with the MD.