Looking for reinforcements
Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell recently took part in a round table debate hosted by Anglo European, which aimed to defend the role its steel reinforcement plays in the fabrication of PVCU windows.
Anglo European hit the headlines recently after claims it made about its PVCU window steel reinforcement were questioned by a number of systems companies.
The details can be found on pages 36-40 in the February issue of Glass Times, and summarised on p5 of the same issue.
In a nutshell, Anglo European reported: “Conducted by Build Check, testing found that reinforcement options from Anglo European matched requirements set by Rehau, Veka and Liniar, for reinforcement; weathertightness tests were fully compliant with BS6375-1:2015.
“Completed at the end of November, the series of independent assessments also found that both of the coating grades offered by Anglo, which include GZ275UK and GZ140EU, met reinforcement performance criteria set out by the three leading systems companies.”
In response, Martin Thurley, group managing director of Liniar, said: “When we see a company claiming that ‘the reinforcement we supply is equal to that supplied by systems companies, meeting and exceeding, all of the criteria performance that they’ve laid down’, we feel it’s time to lift the lid on the inaccuracy of this bold statement – which we regard as fake news.”
Veka UK’s MD Dave Jones said: “If a product uses a component not recommended by Veka, we cannot apply our kitemarks and honour product warranties and guarantees. To put it quite simply, it’s not a Veka window unless it’s got our steel in it.”
Defending the company’s claims, Paul Sullivan, Anglo European’s managing director, said: “This is not about value-engineering but engineering-in value. We do this through the products we supply and the cut-to-size reinforcement service that underpins them; something that is saving our customers up to £200,000 a year in reduced labour and wastage.”
Anglo European, not wanting to get into a tit for tat with its critics in the press, decided that the best way forward was to get some of the trade press editors to talk to fabricators using its steel reinforcement.
Therefore, Glass Times got to hear the views from Jim Moody (Tradelink MD), Mike Parczuk (Sternfenster MD), and Jim Whittles (Keyframe MD).
But first, Richard Bate from Buildcheck discussed the role that he played in testing and certifying Anglo European’s steel reinforcement.
Richard confirmed that Buildcheck – a fully independent Ukas-accredited testing and certification company – carried out weather testing for Anglo European on products from three different systems houses. In all, there were 15 separate tests, and a representative from one of the systems companies was present.
Since the purpose of the round table debate was to discuss the role of steel reinforcement in windows’ fabrication, the question on everyone’s lips was: “How often does steel reinforcement lead to test failures?”
“The biggest failures are usually not down to the component, but how the windows are put together,” Richard said. “That could be not using the right screws, or using glass that’s not been toughened.
“In my opinion, the focus for fabricators should be on the correct manufacture of their products, not the component parts.”
Richard also confirmed that he had never seen the reinforcement fail in a window that he had tested.
The point was made during discussions that some fabricators are known not to use any steel reinforcement in their windows.
Addressing the points made by some of the systems companies that using third-party steel reinforcement would render their warranties invalid, Tradelink’s Jim Moody said: “Never in my 28 years have I gone back to the systems house to claim on the warranty.”
Instead, using reinforcement from Anglo European brings far more benefits, especially thanks to its cut-to-size service.
“The fact that Ango chops up the steel has helped Tradelink become a lean manufacturer,” Jim said.
Anglo European’s cut-to-size reinforcement supply offer has been refined so that 10-day delivery has now been reduced to just three-days, with many of its customers receiving twice weekly drops.
This means customers don’t have to tie-up capital in stock holding or pay out on labour.
Anglo said that by the time you add in the costs of national insurance, employer’s tax, and pension contributions on top of salary, you’re immediately eliminating costs from your business. That’s before adding in other reduced overheads including wastage and skipping of off-cuts.
Newly released financial and operational modelling from Anglo European suggests that by using this service, fabricators can achieve savings of more than £240,000 a year.
Even smaller fabricators, with those manufacturing only 100 units a week, can achieve average savings of £235 a week or £12,220 a year. The potential savings for those manufacturers producing around 1,000 frames per week run as high as £2,354 a week or £122,408 a year. Fabricators making 2,000 frames per week can expect to make savings of £240,000 a year.
Cutting down on labour is more than just reducing a cost, according to the fabricators around the table, it is about addressing the current skills crisis. Tradelink, for example, employs many people originally from Poland, who had arrived in the UK to fill agricultural vacancies; a source of labour likely to dry up following Brexit.
Fabricators also find themselves part of the squeezed middle, and working with your suppliers is one way of looking to create areas of growth.
Mike Parczuk, Sternfenster’s MD, said that since growth at installer level was currently small, you either had to find more installers to sell to, or to sell higher value items.
“Every year you have to reinvent yourself.” He said.
Advice that Anglo has taken on board, and which has paid dividends since the debate surrounding the steel reinforcement has already won the firm business; more customers are expected to come on board as they look to source more of their products from the UK to avoid costly fluctuations in the exchange rate following Brexit.
Furthermore, as firms buy their steel from Anglo European, they are then encouraged to buy ancillaries from sister company Aluminium Shapes.
“Everyone is trying to hit targets,” Keyframe’s Jim Whittle said. “We all have to be careful about the margins being made on products.”
Operating from a two-acre site in Newton Heath, Manchester, Anglo European was founded in 1989 as a specialist supplier of rolled steel reinforcements.
Since then it has supplied more than 250 million metres of steel reinforcement (enough to stretch around the equator more than six times) and grown rapidly through a combination of innovation and acquisition.
Managing director Paul Sullivan joined the then family-owned business in 1995 leading an MBO, starting in 2005 and completing in 2006.
Its cut-to-size service was launched in 2006, which contributed to significantly accelerated growth, so that by 2011 the company’s annual turnover was topping £10 million.
Anglo European turned to private equity funding to support the next stage of its development in 2015, this time through acquisition, putting a deal in place with venture capitalists Octopus.
This partnership provided the financial backing for Anglo European’s acquisition of Marybern Steel in 2015 and with it the formation of the Anglo Group.
Anglo’s acquisition of aluminium component specialist Aluminium Shapes at the end of July 2017, alongside the company’s existing steel manufacturing facilities, gives the Anglo European Group the capability in the UK to cold-roll steel and extrude aluminium, expand its offer across sectors to include not only reinforcements, bay posts and couplers but also to develop an ancillary product offer.
Its supply chain is UK based, with all products manufactured in the British Isles.