Fit for a King

Bradley Gaunt
Bradley Gaunt

Made for Trade has been awarded a King’s Award for Innovation 2024. Glass Times editor, Luke Wood, talks to MFT’s managing director, Bradley Gaunt, to find out more about the inspiration behind Korniche and what the award means for the company.

Luke Wood (LW): You must be incredibly proud to have won a King’s Award for Innovation for the Korniche Roof Lantern. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind Korniche, why you decided to introduce it to the marketplace and the amount of time it took to develop?

Bradley Gaunt (BG): I am incredibly proud and humbled to have won this fantastic award. It’s a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff at MFT to have made this possible.

The inspiration to develop the lantern came from our place in the market as a budding aluminium bi-folding door manufacturer coupled with the fact that back in 2016 when we first conceived the product, we were also fabricating and installing conservatories locally to our then, HQ. This gave us direct experience from not only a manufacturing point of view, but also the requirements of our fitters and of course, our customers, the consumer.

It was clear that we had the necessary experience within the business to understand what was needed. And so, having an available resource in my brother who was designing chassis and car suspension at that time, and who clearly had the technical ability to realise such a thing, aligned with my background in engineering too, it seemed logical to start developing something that was not only cost effective and beautiful but also easy and fast to install.

The journey from concept to prototype was around 12 months which was when it was first revealed to the world at FIT 2017. We took some cues from the show feedback and so took a further six months to hone and tune it. In hindsight, for just the two of us to develop that within that time whilst having our respective jobs and responsibilities was certainly no mean feat.

LW: The fact that there is such an abundance of ‘in-house’ engineering (plus sales & marketing talent) at Made For Trade, which is highly regarded in the industry as a tight knit, family run business, must have been an advantage when it came to developing the concept of Korniche?

BG: Definitely! I think having the technical ability, the skills to innovate and the insight into what a product should be and have, at the top level in a business, is the first key to creating successful products. However, being able to come up with ideas and conceive novel ways to solve a problem can only go so far; having the right people across an organisation, in the right positions is equally as important. It’s a team effort and without those competencies and sheer hard work, no product, regardless of how innovative or spectacular it is, would ever get off the sketch pad!

LW: Can you tell us a bit more about the initial reaction from visitors to the MFT stand at the 2017 FIT Show?

BG: After its debut, in 2016, the FIT show was a breath of fresh air for the industry. We’d had previous shows come and go, shows decline so much that they even attempted to merge to try and pull back foot fall figures that fell year on year. Even then, those shows, still went to the wall. Why? In my opinion, because there was nothing new to see. Nothing novel! People didn’t see it as a good use of their time to take a day out to go to an exhibition to see the same things they’d seen the year before. And so, they didn’t go.

The FIT show was different though. Especially the first ones. When FIT 16 appeared, there hadn’t been a proper industry show for years and so people got behind the reboot. The thing that was different though was that because there hadn’t been a showcase platform for years, the event was teaming with new, novel things and ideas. This set the bar high for the next show.

Enter, FIT Show 2017. Everyone was there. After the success of the pilot show, this one was bigger and better and turned out to be the perfect platform for us to launch our new roof lantern.

As a first-time exhibitor, we weren’t sure what to expect and so we went with the basic 6m x 3m shell stand. We dressed it up with a centre piece, complete lantern and also an array of part assemblies to demonstrate not only their function but also the engineering prowess that we felt differentiated us and ultimately defined what Korniche would come to stand for.

The new lantern went down incredibly well, and I think ruffled a few feathers with the companies that were already in that market. We had tried to raise the bar and I think we did a good job in achieving that. If anything, it got the industry talking about us and in hindsight, I think it made people sit up and realise that we were a forward-thinking company which ultimately put us on the map.

LW: Korniche features a number of unique design features – is there any one element that you’re particularly proud of, or that stands out for customers?

BG: The Korniche roof lantern does have a number of unique design features and because it was and continues to be so successful, it has had several companies taking design cues from it. In some instances, the entire product has been attempted to be copied, albeit, badly. The amount of design cycles we went through to tweak and tune our product to ensure it was as good as possible, was vast. And so, when others attempt to copy it, they miss certain features that they don’t appreciate their purpose or they alter something just so its slightly different and in doing so, cause a problem that we have overcome in the past. This is why I am a firm believer that our product remains the number one lantern in the market and will continue to be for some time yet.

It’s hard to discern one particular element that perhaps defines our lantern or is possibly the standout feature to our customers. I think its just the way all of the novel features, whether it’s the super-fast assembly, the simplicity or the aesthetics, combine together in a way that people appreciate.

LW: Korniche is recognised for the quality of its engineering, but one of its main selling points is that it has designed to be extremely user friendly. Can you expand on the advantages it brings to installers?

BG: Some of the points on the initial specification were surrounding the speed and ease of installation. From my experience, things should go together well and that means they need the highest quality and repeatable manufacturing, but it’s also vital that the build should be intuitive; the product should only be able to go together one way.

If interpretation and assembly variance can be removed or even just reduced compared to similar products, then that means it’s usually easier and simpler to put together. This is what defines the Korniche roof lantern. It is so easy and simple to assemble, it actually removes the requirement for experienced installers, it deskilled the entire assembly which opened it up to everyone including DIY. In terms of what had come before and largely even still to this day, that was a paradigm shift for this kind of product.

LW: Thanks to the huge success of the Korniche roof lantern, the Korniche brand now extends to a bi-fold and a flat rooflight. Can you highlight some of the innovations that have been engineered into these products?

BG: We have kept to our core values when it comes to the Korniche bi-fold and Flatglass. We designed them to be simple to install and as fast as possible too. The bi-fold features our patented bead design; Speedbead.

This glazing bead clips into place incredibly fast and easily and has removed the requirement for wedge gasket to be fitted. This can take an age and to do it well, actually takes a fair amount of knowledge and experience. Again, like the lantern, others have attempted to copy this feature but what differentiates ours is that apart from it still clipping in the best, it’s the ability for it to be removed with a special tool that we supply with each kit.

Removal takes seconds and without any risk of damage. Clearly this is an advantage to the installer because sometimes these products need to be adjusted or the glass gets damaged within its lifetime and needs replacing. With the Speedbead, doing either of these tasks remains simple, fast and easy.

On the Korniche Flatglass, the standout feature is the use of a standard DGU and the development of being able to refit the glass unit if required, without damaging the interior decoration of the room its installed on.

Other systems once installed, and the decorating is complete cant be removed without causing damage and this sometimes puts some consumers off these kinds of products.

LW: The Korniche lantern and family of products have been instrumental in the growth of Made For Trade, with the company now occupying state of the art premises and R&D facilities – can we expect more innovation from MFT in the near future? Perhaps another launch at the 2025 FIT Show?

BG: I think we are a company that doesn’t like to sit still. Why wait for FIT 2025??