Hidden costs

John Leary, sales and marketing director at Emplas, discusses how the hidden costs associated with buying in frames and glass separately is costing installers £thousands each year.

CE Marking was meant to have delivered a step-change in glass supply. Its impact, however, has been muted; most installers continue to buy glass and frames separately, regardless of the ‘robustness’ of their own factory production control systems (FPCs).

FPCs were meant to be where CE Marking showed its teeth; a requirement placed on anyone seen to be ‘manufacturing’ a product by bringing two elements together. In this case frames and IGUs.

However, the regulatory ‘stick’ that was meant to have driven installers to buy-in frames and IGUs together, and the threatened prosecutions, haven’t materialised.

It may be because the industry has lined up its ducks in a row and is providing the end user – and Trading Standard Officers – with a full audit trail for the product they supply. I would hazard a guess, though, that things probably aren’t that clear cut. The point is CE Marking hasn’t delivered a massive shift in the way that installers buy glass. We see that coming now; driven less by regulation, and instead by market forces.

There is continuing uncertainty in glass and IGU supply, which last summer included float glass shortages and failure within the IGU supply chain. Continuing pressure on prices have also eroded margins, leaving IGU manufacturers – and those who buy from them – vulnerable.

If you’re buying in glass separately you have to be certain that your glass supplier is going to deliver the reliability and quality that as an installer you need and which you ultimately trade off.

The current climate makes that a challenge. There’s pressure on availability of glass and also on margin, and that places a question mark over the financial sustainability of many IGU suppliers.

This underpinned Emplas’s acquisition of Padiham Glass last year. The IGU manufacturer has capacity to supply more than 15,000 IGU units per week from its 45,000ft2 Lancashire manufacturing facility, including Saint Gobain’s Planitherm range.

While it is run as an independent business, the purchase of Padiham was to a large extent about shoring-up our supply chain and, by default, that of our customers in a very uncertain market, and one increasingly dominated by just a handful of manufacturers.

We also saw benefits through further integration of process in IGU supply and in the service offer we were able to bring to Emplas’s installer customer base. This includes access to Saint Gobain’s Planitherm range, which is taking growing market share.

A third strand to our strategy was the opportunity to support our customers in accessing significant, but often unaccounted for, efficiency savings that buying in frames and glass together offer, which could support them in maximising profit.

Saint Gobain launched its invigorated Planitherm Network last April, addressing what it sees as a deficit in communication of the benefits of high performance energy efficient, solar control, security and acoustic glass to the end-user, underpinning its message with new point of sale material and associated retail campaign.

However, Emplas’s integration of process with our IGU supply chain delivers the largest potential benefit. This includes automatic glass ordering where customers are supplied with both together. Processed through EVA and the Emplas customer portal, this automatically aligns products to glass specification or regulatory requirements.

We have, for example, introduced a wholesale simplification of SBD, creating dedicated tick box specifications as part of our online ordering process. This means that rather than having to remember and select requirements under Secured by Design, Emplas customers can simply input window dimensions and then tick an SBD option.

This automatically pulls in all required data for an SBD upgrade of that window or door including everything from maximum heights and widths to locking mechanisms and cylinder combinations to reinforcement – and any requirement for laminated glass.

You place a single order, get a single delivery and the specification is going to be correct because the process is automated. It gives you far greater visibility of what you’re going to get and when it’s going to arrive.

Ordering in glass separately may save you a small amount per unit but that is negated by the cost of doubling up on the process – or those times that you have to order a remake because the specification is wrong. Time is, here, in the truest sense, money.