How to manufacture aluminium windows efficiently

Greg Beachim
Greg Beachim

Fabricators need to manage their costs on aluminium products carefully, or they run the risk of losing money, according to Greg Beachim, sales manager at First Degree Systems.

As the market shifted during 2022 and into 2023 from high demand and volume products, to lower demand but higher margin products, the popularity of aluminium windows and doors continued to rise.

For many fabricators, the decision to move into aluminium window and door fabrication was an easy one to make. While they could continue with the bread-and-butter work of standard PVC-U product manufacture, an additional aluminium line could help to improve profitability.

This approach came with a warning, though: inefficient manufacture can result in low to zero profit margins, according to First Degree Systems’ sales manager, Greg Beachim.

“We’ve seen a definite shift towards aluminium, and the driver within that shift is making a product that has greater value, has got greater return, and greater profitability,” Greg says. “But aluminium itself is a much more expensive product than PVC-U, and inefficient manufacture – including poor stock control, slow design processing times, and sub-optimal use of profile – can eat directly into your profits.”

Window Designer from First Degree Systems is designed to work across all profile types. So, if a fabricator is already using Window Designer on their PVC-U window production line, they can extend it easily to incorporate their aluminium production too, saving money on additional software programmes.

“Window Designer is built to be a volume configurator, designed to work with multiple profile products,” Greg says. “This means that fabricators can process aluminium window designs up to five times quicker than some architecturally focused software alternatives. Many fabricators like to move their model of working with PVC-U over to aluminium – namely, speed, accuracy and efficiency – and Window Designer allows them to do that.”

Since aluminium is expensive, too much product tied up in stock means less cash in the business. Fabricators who use optimal batching along with the Stock Assistant and Barcode Tracking modules within Window Designer can benefit from real-time stock management within the businesses.

“For aluminium fabricators, this could result in some significant cost savings within the business,” Greg says. “Through efficient stock management, and providing the tools to reduce stock levels right down, we’ve seen fabricators make savings of around £150,000.

“Through the use of products such as Optimiser Enterprise, we can allow the cost of full-bar lengths of aluminium to be taken into account during the quotation phase to assist with building-in the correct waste values. Therefore, fabricators are costing their products properly, and not losing money on expensive off-cuts.”

Optimiser Enterprise also allows fabricators to manage costs when it comes to specific requirements. For example, if a customer has a colour request that is never going to be used again, Window Designer allows the manufacturer to build those wastage costs back into the selling price for the customer, protecting margin in the process.

“So, when a fabricator buys their bar-lengths of banana yellow, for example, which will likely remain on the shelf after a particular job is complete, all profile costs have been fully recovered,” Greg says.

“But this also works in reverse, as you can switch these features off for more popular colours such as whites, greys, and grey on whites. The software can ensure the optimal use of bar length, minimising waste and maximising profit, and this feature also ensures that fabricators are pricing their products competitively, allowing them to win more projects without worrying about margins being lost to the recycling bin.”

PVC-U fabricators revitalised the aluminium window and door industry when they brought new manufacturing efficiencies to the sector, but those efficiencies can only be truly realised with the right software.

“Significantly, the kind of efficiencies your software can offer you are probably just a phone call away,” Greg says. “You will have to change to a pay monthly tariff, but the savings you make will almost certainly cover that cost.”