Should I fabricate?

Pioneer’s Danny Williams answers your questions. This month: “I probably know your answer to this but I am interested in what you have to say. We are based in the East Midlands, install around 250 frames and associated doors etc per month and I am seriously considering manufacturing my own casements and growing it from there. What do you think?” Anon East Midlands.

There are so many variables. However, the first question is ‘why?’ At 250 ish you will, if you are smart enough, be getting a bloody good deal from your trade fabricator(s) and you must be competitive on price to be completing that number of installations.

If it’s more money you are after by making the manufacturer’s margin too then assuming 200 of your monthly totals are casements you will indeed make around £8,000 per month more, or around £100k per year. Offset this against staff (around half a dozen more people) say £120k pa, premises (rent/power/etc/etc = £20k pa), capital equipment… Assuming some second hand kit is acquired on decent terms plus some cash down, probably £3k per month/£36k pa…
So, even on these back-of-the-fag-packet calculations you’ve not a cat in hell’s chance of making money. In fact, you’d be bust inside six months.

You must have done your own calculations and there is much that I don’t know about your circumstances but I have been making windows and doors for more than 25 years and I reckon I know the ins and outs of the business. We don’t use the cheapest profiles because we like to turn out a good frame but even shaving it on the plastic it’s not possible to make money on manufacturing a couple of hundred frames a month.

In fact, you highlight the often-held myth that the money in windows is in making them. It can be but only when volumes are high and way beyond the sort of numbers you are talking about.

The real money for you will be in developing your marketing and sales and focusing on delivering the right products with added value and features that your competitors don’t offer: superb service levels and actually, with trained people that are a cut above the rest, from sales to surveying and the crucial make-it-or-break-it issue of fitting. Get these right and watch your business – and profits – soar.