Looking forward

Window Ware’s managing director Sam Nuckey discusses why the company is looking forward to ensure that current volumes are sustainable when things get back to normal – and why it has a strong foundation to build upon.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of talking about record sales months and, judging by the continuing increased orders volumes, I won’t have to worry about changing my tune for a while yet.

Of course, unprecedented demand, alongside everything else that has happened with the supply chain over the last 18 months, has led to a huge number of challenges and, like us, every business feels like they’ve got more plates to keep spinning than usual.

But as our focus has shifted – now that we’ve come through that initial period of adjustment and we’re on a more even keel – our sights are set further on the future. We are looking ahead to how we get back to normal operationally, how we maintain our strong position in the market, and what measures we need to put in place to ensure the current volumes are sustainable for the duration.

All market indicators suggest that demand will continue into next year. Consumers are still cautious about spending out on leisure and recreation, and over the last 18 months, household savings have increased and borrowing has dropped. This build-up of consumer wealth will invariably be spent at some point, so even when foreign travel restarts, there may still be enough in the bank for home improvements like new doors and windows.

Knowing this, we understand that our customers will continue to rely on us to help them keep up with demand their end. Many of them have invested in extra capacity, second lines, added resource and machinery, overtime and night shifts, and it’s imperative we can carry on supporting customers with the dependably high levels of service and the critical product volumes they need to keep their lines full and ultimately see a return on their investment.

Many months ago – even before Brexit took full effect, or the pandemic hit – we made the decision to invest heavily in our stock. As a result, we’ve upped our order sizes and we’re ordering far earlier than usual. This ensures our customers are first in line for available shipments, and by maintaining healthy stock levels we are better placed to meet increased demand, overcome patchy supply, and maintain quick response times.

We continue to monitor our supply chain and work closely with our brand partners to explore ways of building in extra strength and resilience so we can mitigate the impact of delays and rising costs which will no doubt continue to affect the industry for the foreseeable future.

Thinking ahead, we have already placed our Chinese New Year orders to protect our supply chain and avoid possible disruption. In an average year, we would normal place these around September/October time. This year, our orders were in by the end of June.

For us, it’s about being prepared to invest in stock and having the conviction to commit to orders early to ensure we’ve got our customers’ backs come what may.

Thanks to recent investments in our warehouse, we’ve managed to maintain a consistent and timely response to customer orders.

We’ve grown and strengthened the warehouse team, introduced more packing benches and banding machines, and installed new racking to increase capacity and boost efficiency.

As a result, we have seen a steady recovery of our otif, and while we’re not quite at our +97% pre-Covid level, on average 94% of orders have arrived on time, in full for the last three months. The new measures also helped us cope with a record number of despatch lines and continue with a pick accuracy of approximately 99.3%.

There are more changes to the warehouse layout in the pipeline which will improve efficiency further, so we can continue to respond quickly and accurately and get every order processed and out the door on the same day they come in.

As a company, we’ve been ready to adapt and flex to fit a rapidly changing market. By altering the way that we work and introducing a range of new equipment and resources, we have been able to maintain resilience and consistency over the last 18 months.

For instance, we have replaced many of our paper-based processes with digital ones. Now our teams are more efficient and agile and spend less time on admin. Daily ops meetings have strengthened our operational team and resulted in better communication and teamwork across departments. As a result, we’re resolving issues and processing orders faster than ever.

2020 was a rollercoaster year and, like many businesses, we simple had to react and roll with the day-to-day. Now the firefighting is behind us, we can be much more proactive again and think strategically about how we ensure our teams can comfortably continue to keep pace with the volumes coming through the business, and still provide a first-class customer experience.

Looking back at everything we’ve accomplished, I am confident we have a strong foundation for the future and customers can count on Window Ware to be the hardware supply partner their businesses need to move forward.