Securing the future

By Andy Holland, technical and marketing manager at Rapierstar.

The recent news that some fire doors are being replaced because of uncertainties about their performance capabilities should be a wake-up call for the industry to pay far greater attention to the testing, standards and quality of finished products and the components that go into them.

It is a topic that has already been raised in Glass Times in recent months, and it will no doubt gain further traction as the Grenfell enquiry uncovers more alarming facts about how the window, door and facade design, supply and installation contributed to the tragedy. There were numerous dimensions to this disaster, but there is undoubtedly a story emerging around products failing to live up to expectations due to their performance in-use shortfall and poor installation methods.

Even down to the smallest parts – the fasteners – we must think harder about what performance assurances we are receiving from supply chain partners, and whether we are using the right product for the job.

Twenty-five years ago, when Rapierstar started to supply the window and door industry, wholesale fastener distribution was mostly about providing goods to other businesses in larger quantities than supplied to final consumers – but in smaller amounts than purchased from manufacturers. Fasteners used in the UK were generally manufactured in Britain and Europe. Distributors purchased in manufacturing quantities, held inventory and supplied in smaller numbers to local resellers or users.

Not so today. Rapierstar has had to refine and extend its capabilities to become a multifunctional and multidisciplinary force that provides cohesion between a now global supply chain and the strategic fenestration industries of the UK and Europe. This involves sourcing tightly specified parts from the most cost-effective locations in the world, managing complex and extended supply chains, committing to local inventory – meeting often difficult to predict and demanding requirements from all kinds of industry customers.

It is no longer just about the cost of the individual component though. In a highly competitive, global context, the price has to be right but so too does the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all the other elements that ensure the right fastener is where it should be when it should be. Of the top risks for construction business interruption, 37% of companies surveyed cited the impact of supply chain interruption has resulted in substantial losses and reputational damage. So, even before we think about quality and assurances, businesses will need to consider how to mitigate these risks as more of these events occur in the future.

Unfortunately, fasteners are seldom thought about until they are needed, but they are vital everywhere. Did you know there are over 50 processes involved in getting from a steel billet to the final fixing product despatched to you? The supply chain requires careful coordination and management expertise to deliver on the fastener’s promise.

Selecting reliable and cost-effective manufacturing facilities is essential to achieve successful products, but so too is ensuring consistent and reliable performance, batch on batch. That starts with a thorough assessment and regular audit of manufacturers’ capabilities, wherever in the world they are located – continued quality assurance coming through systematic and stringent inspection of every fastener batch.

Rapierstar undertakes this at its comprehensive in-house test centre, an industry-leading quality assurance facility which enables Rapierstar to comply with all appropriate British and European Standards. Indeed, the sheer range and diversity of fasteners often mean Rapierstar needs a more extensive range of capabilities to assure material specification, strength, performance, dimensions, corrosion resistance and correct installation.

Without this level of testing, fabricators cannot have peace of mind in the quality of the components they are using the build their windows and doors. That’s why it is so important to check that all your supply chain partners have a rigorous testing and standards ethos to avoid serious problems further down the line.

The cost of the individual fastener represents a small proportion of the value provided by modern fastener distribution. It is no longer a simple, low skill process that keeps a few boxes on the shelf, splits them and puts them on a truck to the customer. It is an increasingly sophisticated and systemised industry, and Rapierstar is investing strategically in technology and skills, meeting the ever more stringent demands of fenestration manufacturing and installation – securing the future.