Quality at the heart

Amid the wider market discussions about pricing, Tina Moorhouse, managing director of sealed unit manufacturer Oakland Glass, explains why her company is maintaining its focus elsewhere.

It’s easy to get distracted when your entire sector is talking about other things. For the sealed unit sector, the focus has been on pricing and, of course, this is an important part of the mix. However, I believe the most important topic of conversation should always be quality.

It’s the quality of products and service that win customers and most importantly, earn loyalty. Oakland Glass is celebrating it’s 32nd birthday this year and our strapline has always been ‘Quality at the heart of our glass’. It’s not just lip service though – we invest a lot of time and money into making sure our customers receive quality across the board.

Against a backdrop of a flat window market and a sector becoming increasingly focused on price, we have been busy investing in all areas of the business to ensure we continue to deliver the best product and service to our customers.

We have four fully automated lines and one semi-automated line in our factory, but we also have a fantastic quality focused team to work alongside the machines and perform a stringent programme of quality checks throughout the entire manufacturing process.

Manufacturing between 50 and 100 triple glazed units a day, 600 Georgian units a day on a dedicated Georgian line, and 14,000 sealed units a week, it takes skill and commitment to keep a close eye on quality across these volumes.

Some of the quality measures we employ at Oakland Glass include: a quality check taking place at the end of each station throughout the manufacturing process; we film the glass as it comes off the furnace for internal transport around the factory to prevent any marks or scratches; regular product audits are conducted on different areas of production by managers to check working procedures are always being adhered to; and if any units do have to be remade for any reason, a manager will perform a QC check on every unit to make sure the remake is in perfect condition.

We also take our responsibility to employees seriously – quality can only be achieved if every single employee is committed to delivering it. For example, we aim to recruit employed staff rather than agency staff, who are more likely to come and go; we currently have no agency staff on our books and we’re in the process of recruiting more factory operatives – all of which will be employed.

We have also recently recruited a new HR manager for closer control of HR and health and safety requirements across the business, and we are already 12 months into a three-year structured plan to further improve health and safety measures company wide. The comprehensive plan includes training on safe working practices and occupational health tests such as blood testing for employees working with lead.

Training is an ongoing priority too, to ensure not only safe working practices throughout the business, but that each shift that works throughout the 24-hour period at Oakland Glass communicates with each other to ensure consistency and seamless handovers. We already have one engineer apprentice in place and we’re hoping to take on more this year. As of this month (September 2018), we will also be employing a dedicated in-house trainer to ensure the ongoing training and development of factory operatives on the shop floor.

It’s an interesting time to be a sealed unit manufacturer but with a 32-year history there’s not much we haven’t experienced and survived. We’re proud that through the tough times and the good, we have kept our focus where it matters: quality. Quality products, quality people, quality service. It has served us well for the last 32 years and will remain at the heart of everything we do for the next 32.