When size really matters
Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met G Pack Manufacturing’s Steve Barnes to talk about how the smallest things can make the biggest difference.
They say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and in the window industry there are many links, some of which could be unintentionally side-lined or missed altogether for cost reasons.
In the case of ancillary products – such as corner protectors, cill end caps, and bridge packers – installers and fabricators may be caught in a buying cycle with an existing supplier without realising that they could get better products and services if they shop around. This is the view of Steve Barnes, owner of G Pack Manufacturing, which offers injection-moulded ancillary products to fabricators and installers.
While the market for third-party suppliers of ancillary products isn’t crowded, Steve explained that G Pack stands apart in the industry because competing companies often operate in different sectors. G Pack only services the UK glazing industry, particularly trade PVCU window fabricators.
“Also, quality and efficiency sets us apart,” he said. “It’s off-putting for other companies to invest in this sector because of tooling investment running into £tens-of-thousands to be lean and competitive.”
However, despite running a successful operation, Steve continues to innovate and develop products that improve the operations of his customers.
“I’ve recently designed a new product that is in the prototype stage,” Steve said, and showed Glass Times a 3D-printed sample that he is in the process of demonstrating to the industry.
“The tooling will eventually cost around £30K, on top of other development costs to ensure the product is right for the market.
“However, this is all necessary because we are looking for volume, so we need to get the product right to create the demand.”
From Glass Times’s point of view, the product in question is an evolution of an existing product, and it includes clever design elements that will be welcomed by those that use it.
Details will follow in due course. However, G Pack is already a respected supplier of ancillary products such as frame corner protectors and dedicated clip in bridge packers.
“We are particularly strong on our range of profile-specific clip-fit bridge packers. Our Multi-packer fits a number of major profiles – the height of the part was specifically designed to sit 4mm above the glass line, therefore reducing the need and cost of additional flat packers.
“The internal edge has a round face, therefore greatly reducing the likelihood of lipping and cracking a glass unit either in the factory or on site. This part is very popular with installers who often ask for it when collecting frames from fabricators.”
Again, this has many small design elements that will have a big impact for those who use them.
“Fitters love them because they subsequently require fewer parts, and they result in fewer breakages,” Steve said.
Another product that G Pack has been supplying for a number of years is the cill end cap, but which is still open to further development.
“We continue to increase the colour range of cill end caps, to reflect the growing trend for colour in the window industry,” Steve said. “We also make them from ASA [Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate], which is particularly UV resistant and colour fast.”
New colours include chartwell green, black, cream and anthracite grey – which has been a particularly strong seller.
Steve had put some samples on the table in front of Glass Times, which were there for colour checking. He picked up one sample and said it wouldn’t be leaving the building because of a streak in the colour, which could not be noticed by Glass Times – remarkable for a product that typically sits against a wall and is cut down to about 40mm in length.
However, this forms part of G Pack’s philosophy, that quality is an area that he needs to excel in to compete alongside other suppliers. That, and being lean to keep any unnecessary costs out of the selling price.
“We keep a very close eye on costs,” Steve said. “We always aim to offer a lift in quality if people switch their supply to us, but we have also saved companies £thousands just because they have changed their supplier of such a small product.
“But, at the end of the day, it is down to the quality of the product. For example, generic bridge packers are cheaper than our parts but they have to be held in place with silicone and then have a 5mm flat packer sit on top of them. Buyers will often miss the fact they are buying two packers to do the job of one.
“Glazing this way will not give proper support to the full width of the unit, often leading to one sheet of glass slipping downwards and resulting in a failed unit within the installer’s guarantee period.
“If you aren’t sending out the right products with the windows, you aren’t completing the job.”