Staying ahead of the game

As TuffX celebrates 20 years in business, Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met managing director Graham Price at the company’s base in Knowsley to find out how the company keeps ahead of the curve.

Glass Times has been to see TuffX several times over the years, and the atmosphere within the company has always been the same: that there is something new being developed, or that I should really come back in a month’s time when the current project would be finished.

During the last visit, there was much discussion about the company’s new toughening plant, which was being commissioned, alongside a new cutting table and automatic loader.

All of that, of course, is now up and running, but rather than being taken straight through to the factory floor, I was whisked off to a new showroom that was displaying TuffX’s latest product: Glow – heated glass for bifold doors.

Launched at this year’s Grand Design show, the glass is designed for bifold doors in new extensions, and replaces the need for radiators or underfloor heating.

Only the inside pane is electrically heated, and the thermostatically controlled units maintain an ambient temperature regardless of the outside temperature (they turn off automatically if the doors are opened). They can even be included as part of a ‘smart home’ set up.

“The response was overwhelming,” TuffX’s managing director Graham Price said. “Not only did we get visitors coming to our stand, but word of mouth also enticed the other exhibitors over to have a look as well.”

Graham said that while the technology behind the product wasn’t new – passing an electric current through the coating on the glass – TuffX had created a new market for itself because Glow gives homeowners greater flexibility with the extension’s design.

TuffX plans to build a relationship with the retail market, and supply its own doors (via a manufacturing partner) to homeowners. The company will also supply units to door companies that want to stand apart in a market that is arguably becoming quite crowded.

“Going forward with this product, we want to choose our strategic partners carefully, because it is aimed at the high-end of the market, and there is a technical element that needs to factored in, including calculations to get the coverage right,” Graham said.

Glow can also be retrofitted into existing doors, which opens up other sales opportunities.

Glow is the next step for a company that has demonstrably been one step ahead of the market in terms of trends and products. When TuffX started operating in 1997 in a 15,000ft2 in Aintree, it targeted a market sector it knew would expand rapidly thanks to legislation – safety glass.

“We had one toughener, one washing machine, one arisser, one cutting table, and a couple of vehicles,” Graham said. “We supplied all the IGU manufacturers with toughened glass – before everyone and his brother bought tougheners.”

Today the company operates out of a 55,000ft unit, and is eyeing up the toughened laminate market, which is being fuelled by Document Q, and has recently increased its capacity by opening two laminate lines.

“Half of our sales are now toughened laminate,” Graham said, “in both the commercial and domestic markets.”

This is alongside continued investment in its oversized conservatory roof units. For example, the company recently bought an automatic Bystronic gas press for its Ambience range of units.

“We are the only company that can make an automatically gas-filled unit up to 4m long,” Graham said.

“Research and development is vital for the success of our company. We have proved time and time again – with toughened glass, self-cleaning conservatory roof glass, oversized roof units, toughened laminate, and now Glow – that investment in new ideas and new technology will always provide new markets to target.”