Non-exclusive advantages

Mark Haley, managing director of HWL Trade Frames, discusses how the company’s unglazed R9 trade offer has won over installers, and how it is now turning its attention to other fabricators.

It’s a journey that has taken HWL Trade Frames the best part of two years – but we now appear to be firmly across the line; the supply of R9 in its non-glass bonded from, cleared its final hurdle earlier this summer.

The HWL Timberweldmethod of manufacture has now been included in the R9 technical manual, which has transformed installation of R9 for HWL’s growing customer base.

We don’t have a single pre-existing customer who has continued to buy glass-bonded options where they haven’t needed to. The advantages of fitting R9 unglazed are too big to ignore: simpler handling, rapid installation, and easier remedials give our customers time and margin.

We now want to share the benefits of that with other fabricators.

The application of Timberweld sash-welding technologies gives HWL an almost unique capability in the UK to butt-weld window sashes inside and out, replicating the aesthetic delivered in a 90° mechanical joint.

This increases sash corner strength, which, in most configurations, eliminates the requirement to glass-bond IGUs. These have historically been used in R9 fabrication to give the system structural strength.

It’s about giving installers the flexibility to buy glass from their regular IGU supplier and to install the window in exactly the same way as they would any other, and you’d never do that with the glass in it because of the weight.

Glass-bonded product artificially inflates the cost of R9 installation because it becomes by default a two-team fit not a one-team fit; you take out the glass, and you take out that extra fitting team and the cost that goes with it.

Our cost modelling suggests that this could lead savings of as much as £120 per day, or £360 on an average three-day install.

Independent testing delivered in partnership with the Residence Collection resulted in HWL’s window returninga series of top-rated passes under BS EN 6375-1 weather testing, and PAS24/Part Q for side and top hung options

These laid the foundation for the inclusion of the use of the Timberweld manufacturing process as an approved method in the R9 technical manual in May.

Were there moments when we thought things were stacking up against us and we weren’t going to get there? The answer is probably yes, but we did and we have, through hard-work, and that determination has paid off, for us and our customers.

Would I recommend that process to other fabricators? Only if you’re prepared to invest. This includes not only machinery but the time in getting manufacture right. There’s science behind getting Timberweld R9 right but it requires real commitment and investment.

This is something that fabricators manufacturing R9 in smaller volumes may find difficult to justify.We see three key areas of opportunity to work with other fabricators.

Number one, there are smaller fabricators who may not be doing enough volume to justify investment in new machinery but who maybe want to sell an unglazed R9 window, in which case we’re happy to work with them to support their own trade supply.

The second are those larger fabricators who may have an over-spill requirement. As a specialist we can be very responsive and pick up that additional capacity where it’s needed.

Third, there may be other fabricators out there who aren’t currently manufacturing R9 but who may want to add it to their offer to tap into the growth currently being seen in the high-end market, but without impacting on core production.

The investment made by HWL means we can supply R9 unglazed at a price-point that continues to deliver margin for fabricators. And by supplying unglazed gives fabricators potential to grow market share.

The demand for R9 from the end-user continues to grow. Its reach in the heritage sector is massive. Its customer demographic is also a little more insulated from volatility in the wider economy, so it’s a very useful product to be able to offer.

This potential and growing importance of the high-end window market is tracked by Palmer, which reports that at the last count a 1.2% increase in the market overall to 6.82million frames was outstripped by the increase in installed value of 5.5% to £2.38billion.

This was driven by the demand for foils (up 45% since 2013) and timber-type jointing, which reached 131,000 frames – about 2% of the total in 2017.

If you’re not tying up capital in stock or having to deal with the headaches of production of a non-core product, but you can still supply product at good margin, then why wouldn’t you?

We’ve now supplied more than 7,000 unglazed frames and not one of our customers has gone back to buying glass-bonded product because of the efficiencies it offers fitters in installation.