Focusing on the individual

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met Tina Moorhouse, managing director of Oakland Glass, to discuss how the market for toughened glass has changed over the last 20 years.

Oakland Glass, which recently celebrated its 30th birthday, is something of a veteren when it comes to toughened glass, having bought its first furnace in 1997.

“Back then it was a niche offering,” managing director Tina Moorhouse told Glass Times. “We were buying in so much toughened glass that it made a lot of sense to do it ourselves.

“So we bought our own machine, which gave us greater quality over the finished product.”

A quick tour of Oakland Glass’s factory in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, will confirm that the company is not afraid to invest in the right machinery if the need is called for. The 45,000ft2 factory has grown over the years to accommodate new pieces of equipment.

“We replaced our first toughener in 2000 with a new machine when we wanted to expand into soft coat products,” Tina said. “A new extension at the time helped to attenuate the noise.”

And then two years ago, Unilam decommissioned and built a new Cooltemper furnace at the factory over the Christmas period. Tina explained that both the machine and the service had improved considerably since the company bought its first furnace.

“It was one of the best things we’ve ever done,” she said, “we should have done it years ago.”

Tina said that the changeover process ran very smoothly, with the engineers travelling from Taiwan to handle the project. However, the quality of the finished project is particularly noticeable.

“The process is quicker and quieter, the glass doesn’t break as easily, there is little bowing or warping, and it has saved us on the electricity bill,” Tina said.

“It is a massive part of our business, and we take great pride in the quality of our toughened glass. Nearly all of the glass goes back into making finished products, namely glass units for domestic and light commercial.”

Tina explained that the recent recession encouraged her and co-owner Richard Oakes to focus heavily on the domestic market, and “do it right”.

“We make around 12,000 units a week, yet we are working more on treating our customers more as individuals,” Tina said. “It has been easy to achieve because it is just me a Richard making the decisions, but it makes a big difference to the people we supply.”

And it is a strategy that seem to be working. “We are just putting in the equipment to take our capacity up to 15,000 units a week,” Tina said.

“Over the last three years we have put in three cutting tables, two loaders, one furnace, two unit lines…” Tina trailed off. “In fact, we were buying an arrisser from Unilam when we saw the Igis unit line, also distributed by Unilam – that is now being installed in May.”

The result is a well-oiled machine that is geared to meeting that target of treating each order as an individual request.

“If you had a need to order a unit now, it would be ready by the time you leave the building,” Tina promised. “It’s all part of our ethos to give the customer what they want – complete, good quality, and on time”