Sustainable business model

Tina Moorhouse, managing director of Oakland Glass, talks about the changing market for insulated glass units.

So far this year our industry has witnessed a mixed bag of results. Some of the companies we’ve been speaking to are finding it tough while others seem to be flying. People will always want white PVCU windows, but the companies that are doing well are the forward-thinking fabricators and installers that are offering something different in terms of material, colour or design.

When done well, this means better products for better prices and increased profit margins.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for the glass sector. Despite the technology that goes into a sealed unit improving year on year the biggest challenge glass companies still face is price. A problem being impacted by a few sealed unit suppliers offering IGUs for less than it costs to make them. Unfortunately, attractive prices are hard to resist in a competitive market, but the companies offering them have to be able to fulfil the orders and, from what we hear from fabricators, this doesn’t always happen. This isn’t a sustainable business model.

We don’t believe in charging above the odds but when you think about how far sealed units have come, we’re selling a completely different product today than we were 10 or 15 years ago. It seems almost old hat now, but the energy efficiency of a sealed unit has come on massively in the last decade with Window Energy Ratings and, more recently, Door Energy Ratings driving the industry forward.

The same goes for automation in the sector. The companies that are dedicated to making high quality units in volume have invested in the machinery to do it properly. Fully and semi-automated sealed unit lines are necessary to drive the industry forward in terms of consistent quality and efficiency to make sure customers get what they need, when they need it, every time.

Some of our customers have referred to us a sleeping giant because of our size and the fact we keep our heads down, doing what we do. But the industry needs quality sealed units backed up with good service to make the most of the new market opportunities and we’re pleased to be perfectly positioned to help. In fact, over the last few years, we’ve invested £3 million to make sure we are.

We were established in 1986 in a 9,500ft2 factory to supply sealed units mainly to local trade fabricator customers. Over 30 years later we have grown organically to a £10 million turnover, often manufacturing 14,000 sealed units a week for new build and ‘light’ commercial as well as our continued core trade fabricator and installer customer base. We now operate from a 45,000ft2 facility on the same site in Dewsbury, having recently extended our operation into the 9,500ft2 unit next door.

We’ve also added new vehicles including a 7.5 tonne lorry and long wheel-based van. We’ve reduced waste in the factory, upgraded and added machinery including a new cutting line, and invested in people.

We have four fully automated lines and one semi-automated line in our factory, with a team to work alongside the machines and perform quality checks throughout the entire manufacturing process.

We make between 50 and 100 triple glazed units a day, 600 Georgian units a day on a dedicated Georgian line, and have a comprehensive decorative department.

We rely on our outstanding customer service to convert business and as importantly, build long lasting relationships with loyal customers. It’s the forward-thinking fabricators and installers that are generating the pockets of growth and these are the companies that can see past a short term ‘too good to be true’ price offer.

I think working with companies like this is the main reason we haven’t seen a slowdown at Oakland and is the main reason we want to continue to raise standards in the sector through continuous improvement.