Smoothies are good for business

Apeer’s Asa McGillian confesses that the success of the firm’s Silka door range was not entirely down to his genius.

I have a confession to make: our best-selling range of composite doors ever, Silka, was a bit of an accident. Or, rather, its success took me by surprise.

Silka outsells every other door we make, and this popularity shows no sign of tailing off any time soon.

To recap, around three years ago the aluminium resurgence was really taking off, and we realised that while aluminium window and sliding door systems were available in abundance, most residential doors manufactured in the material were largely high-end offerings, with little choice at the more affordable end, where most window sales would be.

We set out to develop a composite door that offered the usual features and benefits of our regular products: tough, GRP skins; high density, energy efficient PU foam core that resists moisture and distortion; itself strengthened with steel to further improve cut-through; but with a smooth skin and finish that complemented aluminium.

Silka not only looks like aluminium, it also has all the benefits of a double rebate, and comes triple glazed. It is inherently more robust than aluminium skinned doors, and it’s very competitively priced compared to much of the offer from aluminium door makers.

There was quite a learning curve when we set out to lay down the moulds for the GRP skins, and our R&D team spent more than a year working on the development of the fibreglass skin. It was a complex process to get the finish just right and involved several trips to the mould manufacturer and experimentation with paints.

As a result, we introduced a new, unique paint finish that means that Silka doors are air dried, rather than processed in our usual infrared lines. Which led to the investment in a brand-new paint shop. And, in due course, a new dedicated factory for Silka.

In fact, such has been the demand for Silka since its launch at the 2019 FIT Show, that the style grew into a range of design options. The initial feedback we received at the FIT Show contributed enormously to the final Silka products that we now sell. And while we had anticipated sales would come from homeowners that had installed aluminium windows and were looking for a matching door at reasonable cost, there has also been wide interest from homeowners that wanted something other than a traditional door.

A further boost to sales has come from buyers of our Lumi window system, for which we are able to perfectly match colours as well as the finish.

Silka now has its own dedicated 20,000ft2 production area on our 7.5-acre Ballymena site, with the facility capable of manufacturing 500 units per month. We make our own Silka slabs, the CNC machines are programmed for the 16 Silka variants and, perhaps the most important part of the process, the new paint line remains distinct from the production of any other product.

And while we have also been affected by global supply issues, we have more control over our own destiny because most of our processes are in house, and deliveries of all of our products are currently quite robust.

There are no issues with shipping our products to England, Scotland and Wales, whatever the politics of the Irish Sea border might do to stuff coming into Northern Ireland. But we are optimistic that incoming will also be sorted soon.

I am not one to make the same mistake twice, however. Which is why, in 2022, we have some huge additions coming to make Silka even more exciting. Check in with us again at FIT Show.