Coming of age
Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met Origin’s sales and marketing director Ben Brocklesby to discuss how the company has matured over the last few years.
Glass Times last met Origin almost three years ago, about a week before its new head office opened in High Wycombe.
Everything was ready for the employees to move in, and at the time Glass Times wrote: “The upstairs office layout has been designed by a specialist company that has created ergonomic work spaces that take into account employees’ health and comfort: the best office chairs; breakout rooms that resemble comfortable living rooms; clutter-free board rooms; quiet areas; and hot desks for peripatetic directors.
“In fact, the floor looks more like something out of Silicon Valley than the window and door industry.”
But we’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? The good intentions soon slip as the day-to-day pressures of running a business take precedent over the upkeep of presentable offices; window samples gathering dust in the corner, while damaged furniture goes unrepaired, and personal effects obscure the expensively smooth ergonomics.
Not here; the office looks at clean and modern as the day Origin moved in.
Three years ago, Ben Brocklesby, Origin’s sales and marketing director, said the new office was the tangible result of the company’s recent growth and success. At the most recent meeting, Glass Times asked if the fact that it still felt ultra-modern and efficient was a measure of the company’s continued good fortune.
“It’s been an exciting ride,” Ben said. “Not only have we grown over the last three years, but we have matured too; we have maintained our core values while becoming increasingly environmentally conscious.”
This isn’t an empty statement of intent since the company is now the proud owner of three prestigious international standards: ISO 9001 (quality management); ISO 5001 (environmental management); and 45001 (occupational health and safety).
“I think we are the only company in our sector to have all three,” Ben said, “and it is our ambition to be the most accredited window and door company in the world.”
Ben explained that with a growing presence in the US, having those three standards has a positive effect there.
“And we’ve all got behind it,” Ben said. “Which is essential, because ISO requires buy-in from the whole business, otherwise it doesn’t work.
“Our next goal is to become completely carbon neutral.”
Again, this is partly driven by the US market, which doesn’t recognise the Passivhaus standard like we do in the UK, “but is all over carbon neutral”, Ben said.
It is a subject that Origin’s board has discussed at length – and not just a pie-in-the-sky whimsical notion.
“There’s no reason why we can’t run a factory without external energy sources,” Ben said. “We’ve already invested in a number of woodburners to heat our factory spaces that is fed on wooden pallets that can’t otherwise be recycled.
“This is a real personal ambition because I think we have only just scratched the surface of what is possible.”
Interestingly, Origin isn’t doing this to meet the demand from its partners – its installation customers – but because it is a growing requirement from homeowners. And Origin has positioned itself in the marketplace to be sensitive to the shifting consumer demands. For example, it recently launched a TV advertising campaign for its residential door, and you can often find Origin’s directors on the national news discussing the themes of the day, such as Brexit.
That said, Origin also takes away waste from its partners at its own expense.
“I also think it is important for staff morale,” Ben said, “to feel as though they are part of something different. We are not just a run-of-the-mill window fabricator.
“For example, we completely changed the perceptions around how aluminium fabrication should operate; before we came on board it was very old fashioned and slow.”
Ben also said failures were important to the success of the business.
“The only way to manage failures and mistakes – and to design them out of the manufacturing process – is to catch them early,” Ben said. “I’m very aware that the more we grow, the more the whole system can creak.
“However, by taking this approach, I don’t get many issues landing on my desk.”
This ‘being part of something different’ is also evident in the way Origin approaches the market, and Ben explained that in order to remain relevant and successful, the company has to reinvent itself all the time. And he is aware that the bigger the company gets, decisions take longer to make – an unfortunate symptom of employing more than 300 people.
“Therefore, we are trying to recapture some of that entrepreneurial spirit,” Ben said.
Continuing the theme of Ben’s exciting ride, the company can chalk up some real tangible successes to prove this strategy is working. For example, the company has moved far beyond being a bifold company to being a multi-product supplier.
For example, Origin’s aluminium front door range received a significant boost from its recent consumer advertising campaign, which tapped into a burgeoning demand for higher value residential doors.
“We are noticing a definite trend from consumers leaning towards our Sliding Door range,” Ben said. “We have seen a steady growth in web traffic, increased interest and leads generated and, consequently, a surge in sales.”
The company now has two ranges of slider with three different sightline options among them: the Origin Patio Slider (OS-44 and OS-77) and the Origin Artisan Slider (OS-20).
The Patio Slider is available with two sightline options – 44mm or 77mm – and the Artisan Slider boasts ultra-slim sightlines of just 20mm.
“The Sliding Door range has been designed and developed in house, so every feature has been engineered to work flawlessly,” Ben said. “It can achieve a U-value as low as 1.2W/m2K, is available in a range of configurations, and is completely bespoke to a customer’s requirements.”
On top of the new US operation, its commitment to reducing its environmental impact, its international standards, and new product range, Origin has also found time to establish a commercial and new-build division, led by commercial sales manager Avtar Birdi.
The company has found significant success with the OW80 internal and external flush casement window, and OW70, with a flush outer, which was designed specifically for this sector.
“We then developed the OB49 to replicate the Crittal look, and which has received many plaudits,” Ben said.
However, despite this significant journey, Origin has still managed to stay true to its roots. The firm was originally established in 2002 to provide a product that its owners felt was missing from the window and door market – a high quality bifolding door – and Ben is proud to say that recent success haven’t detracted from that.
“We are still the biggest aluminium bifold supplier in the UK,” he said.