Putting the door front and centre

Rocal recently reported year-on-year sales increases of between 25% and 30% for its Endurance Doors brand. Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met managing director Stephen Nadin to discuss what measures had been put in place to achieve this success.

As the interview came to a close, Rocal’s managing director Stephen Nadin said: “Internal processes must be followed properly. I have learned from bitter experience that if you race new products to market you can lose a lot of money because of internal rejects alone.”

He then said: “Also, you can’t have your name associated with failure.”

This convenient soundbite summarised what turned out to be a masterclass in gearing up a company for its next period of growth, after enjoying early success.

That’s not to say Rocal is complacent, far from it. Stephen recognised that supply issues it faced a year ago was proof that investing in your production capability and the right people were key to success.

So, how has Rocal done that?

Primarily, the company had to decide what it was going to supply to which market. Up until 2012, Rocal supplied many customers with many products, but chose to focus on the Endurance brand in 2012 after seeing the success that other timber doors were enjoying.

The Endurance door is supplied to the retro-fit market as a full door set, and is the only door of its kind with a 48mm LVL (laminated veneer lumber) core, which is resistant to bowing and warping, and is more flexible on door size than other types.

“Installers want a timber core door,” Stephen said, “especially for those homeowners who want to invest in quality.”

Since that decision was taken, Rocal has streamlined the factory processes and introduced design upgrades to put the Endurance door front and centre of operations.

This includes introducing the 3D Coolskin in 2013, which is more resistant to heat than the skin the company originally used.

“Since its introduction, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of doors cracking due to heat build-up on the outside,” Stephen said.

This was followed in 2014 with the Moisture Barrier System, which has eliminated all delamination problems that occur when water enters the bottom of the slab.

However, it is on the processes behind the product that Rocal has made the biggest changes creating, in the process, a well-oiled machine that should now cope with a dramatic increase in demand without really breaking a sweat.

“We’ve got £1 million earmarked for the next 12 months to invest in new machinery, software, and employees,” Stephen said. “This is on top of the quadwelder, CNC, edgebander, and corner cleaner, which have been introduced to support the existing facilities.”

Furthermore, Rocal has recruited heavily at a senior level to ensure those are effectively implemented and managed, including continuous improvement manager Ian Murgett.

“As the company grows, the processes have to be in place to manage that growth,” Ian said.

“At Rocal we have seen our otif go up to 95+% and complaints drop considerably, all because of an ongoing effort to make the factory as efficient as possible.”

These improvements include: re-laying out the factory floor to improve the flow of materials; removing redundant processes that would take up valuable space and manpower; a new transformer to cope with an increase in power demand; a new bright glass shop; better identification of the work in progress so that products are finished on time and not left waiting for associated ancillaries; and ‘kanban’ racks that facilitate efficient assembly.

“We’ve taken a lot of ideas from 5S, Kaizen and World Class Manufacturing to help us achieve our goals,” Ian said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but we are already seeing the benefits.

“We are also talking to our machinery suppliers about introducing predictive maintenance as part of a move towards Industry 4.0 so that minimise the chances of having our machines go offline unexpectedly.”

There have been other significant senior appointments in quality, technical, IT and purchasing over the last year, all of which has generated a constant dialogue within the company that resolves any issues before they have a negative impact on product quality and service.

In fact, while Rocal’s customers may not be aware of the all the changes behind the scenes, they will have appreciated the efforts to improve customer service.

“Improving the system to communicate with customers is a key focus for the business,” Stephen said.

Rocal has introduced a ‘trade dashboard’ that provides installers with marketing support and gives them access to Rocal out of hours. Also, the company’s systems are being made more visible to customers so that an order can be followed through the factory to dispatch.

This is being supported by a significant investment in an Academy of Excellence that will occupy part of Rocal’s site in Brigg, north Lincolnshire. This will offer customers training days, and a chance to understand more about the company and the Endurance brand.

Scott Foster has been employed as group marketing manager to help facilitate many of these strategies, as well as helping to drive thousands of homeowner leads a week to installers. This has required modern and traditional marketing techniques to increase the visibility of Endurance online and in local neighbourhoods.

It’s not until you walk around the site at Brigg that you see the massive impact that these changes have had on the business. Counter-intuitively the factory doesn’t look busy, which, Stephen explains, is testament to those internal processes that you trust and follow.

“Having the right people in the company has had a big impact on all areas of the business,” he said. “We can now face at least five years of significant growth without having to make any major changes to the company.”