Communication is key

James Trotter, managing director of Select Window Systems, explains how the support he has received from Sternfenster has helped the company navigate a period of unprecedented demand.

When the first lockdown ended, nobody really knew what was going to happen, and there was no way we could have predicted the surge in demand that followed.

The general consensus was that it would slow down by the end of 2020, but it’s been unrelenting.

It’s come from people who have decided to upgrade their properties instead of going on a holiday overseas, and from those who have been sitting on quotes for a couple of years or more, and suddenly have the cash to go ahead with them.

We have worked with Sternfenster since my dad ran the business in the 1990s, and I have a longstanding working relationship with Mike Parczuk that goes back 15 years.

Mike has been there to support us since the start of the pandemic, his leadership has been invaluable. Combined with innovations such as Sternfenster Plus (SFPlus), the level of communication we’ve received has been the key to managing an exceptionally challenging situation.

SFPlus is an online portal that allows customers to check on the status of quotes, contracts and deliveries as well as access a wealth of training and marketing materials. It also features a regularly updated news feed and a real-time production capacity planning system – developed from scratch under Covid – that provides live information on the production capacity of individual products across Sternfenster’s PVC and aluminium offer.

I use SFPlus on a daily basis. The capacity feed is extremely useful, especially while demand is so strong. I can tell from the minute I place an order if the factory is running at high capacity and if the lead time might be affected, and the news feed keeps me up to date if there are any other issues, such as delays on material supply.

That level of transparency helps me with the day-to-day running of the business, but I can also pass that information on to my customers, to help manage their expectations.

Sternfenster’s investment in manufacturing capacity has also enabled us to capitalise on the steep increase in demand for high value products, including flush sash but also aluminium.

Flush PVC casements have gone from zero to around 50% of orders. With that, we are getting a corresponding interest in colours, including anthracite and agate, but we’ve also noticed a significant surge in demand for aluminium.

Aluminium composite front doors are booming – we recently sold six for a barn conversion project – and bifolds, which were already increasing in popularity, have also gone up a notch. We can order bifolds through Sternfenster, and we get them on highly competitive lead times. It’s allowed us to really push them – we are doing three or four a week.

Sternfenster’s ability to service demand for aluminium stems from a £multi-million investment in manufacturing capacity. This includes state-of-the-art machinery, increasing output volume while maintaining consistent high quality, as well as an in-house powder coating line.

It has allowed Sternfenster to offer its Smart Visofold aluminium bifold, in standard RAL grey, black and white, and dual grey on white – plus its Smart Alitherm 300 casement window in RAL white and grey – on market leading order to delivery times.

We currently have three fitting teams, and we are flat out. We’re booking jobs now [mid-summer], for autumn and into the new year.

Looking ahead, we know it’s not going to be a walk in the park – there’s no indication that demand is going to slow anytime soon. But with the level of ongoing support that we have from Sternfenster, we know that we are well placed to make the most of it.