Three decades of raising the bar
With next year marking the 30-year landmark for Rapierstar, founder and managing director David Furness talks about the company’s journey so far.
Rapierstar originally formed as Architectural Supplies in 1992 when there was an opportunity to challenge the convention that fasteners were either low grade, cheap, poor quality products, or over-engineered and phenomenally expensive.
We knew we could bring to the market a technologically advanced and keenly priced branded range of fastener solutions, and by doing so we quickly developed a large customer base.
We traded for the first 13 years as Architectural Supplies but had always recognised the need for a strong brand, as well as our customer support ethos to be so much more than just a fastener supplier.
In 2005, our company’s Rapierstar brand was launched, along with our family of registered trademarked product ranges, including StarPVCU window screws, StarTurn universal timber screws, StarFix masonry fixings, and StarPin polymer headed pins and nails – fasteners suitable for all PVCU and aluminium systems, timber frames as well as window/door and soffit/fascia installation.
Today we operate from a 100,000ft2 HQ and bonded distribution and technical centre near Macclesfield in Cheshire, where we stock more than one billion items at any time. By holding many months of stock, Rapierstar is able to absorb the impacts of disrupted global trade to serve our customers across the UK and Ireland. Our greatest asset is our technically skilled, customer-focused team who provide a specialist advice service like no other.
Over three decades Rapierstar has established long term partnerships with outstanding manufacturers across the globe, which ensures we are in full control of product design, manufacture and supply, delivering consistently high-quality fasteners to our customers. One way we guarantee this is by rigorously testing every batch of fasteners arriving at our UK HQ in our own technical centre, a process that makes sure the Rapierstar brand can be trusted every time.
We’re lucky to have a skilled and knowledgeable team who have unique fastener expertise to offer fabricators, installers, systems companies and hardware manufacturers. By working right across the industry, we are in an excellent position to help customers achieve more, whether that’s improving the quality of their products, getting new products through tough testing regimes, overcoming technical issues, or boosting productivity efficiency and health and safety in their factories.
Fasteners play such a crucial role in the assembly and construction of every building element, including doors and windows, but all too often we take them for granted because they are small and – per unit – by far the lowest cost component in the finished product. One failure, however, such as a friction stay screw breaking and causing the casement to fall loose, can have costly consequences in terms of call-backs and reputation.
First generation plastic windows and doors left a lot of room for improvement and there were many fly-by-night cowboys involved. Nowadays PVCU and aluminium windows are highly engineered and built by respected companies intending to stand behind their guarantees. Their reputation depends upon the weakest link in the chain. This is why the vast majority of the UK’s fenestration industry rely on Rapierstar for the correct advice in selecting the best screw for each application and then consistently delivering it on time, every time.
The screws we design and distribute today are vastly superior in every way. Plating and passivation performance provides increased corrosion resistance to exceed extended guarantees. Our screws are far stronger but also more forgiving.
Point technology has increased speed of insertion and, therefore, fabricator efficiency. Our specialist ranges are now so comprehensive to meet the high demands of modern production, compared with the limited solutions available 30 years ago.
The leading hardware manufacturers have now recommended Rapierstar screws for many years and we constantly work with all the major profile manufacturers to produce our Recommended Fixing Manuals (RFMs), available on our website to all fabricators.
The business is in excellent shape for the next 30 years thanks to our long-term strategy of re-investing profits. This means we continuously improve the way we operate and innovate with new products.
The past 12 months has seen us implement many major upgrades behind the scenes, which most of our customers possibly haven’t noticed. We migrated onto the cloud in January, upgrading to a world-class ERP and fully integrated business management systems on a par with, if not ahead of, many multi-national businesses. We’ve put the latest digital technology at the core of everything Rapierstar does, whether that’s our transition to the latest version of Microsoft Business Central as our business management platform, increased use of Solidworks computer aided design to develop our new products, enhanced cybersecurity protection, and we are currently working on our new website/e-commerce solution.
Running parallel to all this has been on-going investment in our exciting R&D programme. We have patented new product developments in the pipeline for numerous different applications across the construction industry. We have established a fantastic R&D team, including a renowned lead researcher and an international procurement expert, ably supported by our technical and marketing manager Andy Holland, and technical director Mark Furness.
The Rapierstar team has developed several new product ranges that we anticipate being available to bring to market later this year. We have more than a dozen patent applications pending to protect our intellectual property on new product ranges that all deliver faster, more efficient, and greener solutions for specific global construction markets.
All these innovative new products are available for customers to see at our new Innovation Centre showroom. We have just completed a £500,000 extension at our HQ which incorporates state-of-the-art video conference facilities, a new technical laboratory, and a training and development centre for up to 80 delegates. Although our new educational centre will be accessible to all online, we are especially looking forward to meeting customers in person again, as we put the pandemic behind us and enjoy the once-in-a-generation boom that our industry is experiencing.