Taking advantage of the boom

Stuga’s Steve Haines reflects on a busy time for the industry.

“I don’t know what is going on. Our world has gone crazy.”

These were the words of a major fabricator and Stuga customer who has several PVCU factories, all of which are flat out and have been since the end of lockdown.

This fabricator is struggling to get hardware, profile and even glass on time. This is the story in very many areas throughout the UK and Ireland, and although some fabricators are not so busy they do not tend to be Stuga customers that have our automatic sawing and machining centres.

If a fabricator has an automated sawing and machining centre from any manufacturer they tend to be more likely to be serious about their business and a significant investor, as these machines are not cheap by any means.

Investment is even more important during the pandemic in order to create flexibility in production as machines can be used more or used less depending on the market demands at any point in time. The fabricators that currently have plenty of capacity are now able to take advantage of this boom while it lasts.

How long this upturn will last is the golden question but Stuga customers are using the opportunity increasingly to invest in even more automation to reduce the reliance on people. I asked a customer recently if they were of the opinion that the dramatic increase in unemployment we are seeing would create a great pool of window factory workers but the answer was “it is all the wrong type of labour so far”.

Where is all the window business coming from? Obviously there have been a lot of holes to fill following seven weeks or more of lockdown but we are surely beyond catching up now? New-build construction companies are piling much resource into producing houses wherever they have the land, permissions and resources, but it seems the small builders that are the backbone of the trade sector are building many extensions and conversions as well as orangeries and conservatories.

The level of investment Stuga is seeing from PVCU fabricators is impressive given the negativity in the general media outside of the window industry, and the company’s top selling product is the flagship ZX5 automatic sawing and machining centre. Launched three years ago the ZX5 was the result of several years of costly development and time investment by Stuga itself but this has resulted in the fastest, most accurate, most reliable and most exciting machine Stuga has ever produced. Currently, the company cannot manufacture enough of them.

A concern for many fabricators is the backup when they are making a significant investment like a sawing and machining centre and not only does Stuga have this at a significantly high level but all of it is right here in the UK where the company buys and stocks all the components used in the manufacture and backup of its machines. With a full order book extending to the middle of 2021 Stuga is enjoying the confidence for investment by new and returning customers.

A surprise for Stuga has been the fast take up and success of video conferencing. While there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, with virus safety a serious matter there is no health risk from a meeting of several people many miles apart in video conference, and currently this medium is a great strength and a protector.

Stuga staff and technicians are similarly finding great advantage in Zoom, even within our own factories, as it works well and saves concerns about distancing. Person-to-person meetings are still used safely when beneficial.