Together we stand

Liniar’s managing director Martin Thurley recently spoke to Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell about the challenges facing the industry, and what companies and organisations need to do to profit from them.

Martin Thurley joined Liniar as managing director in 2017, during a period of significant change for the company: Quanex bought the company in 2015, and founder Roger Hartshorn left in 2018. Meanwhile, Martin was tasked with keeping an even keel while facing the challenges posed by Brexit.

When Glass Times met Martin at Liniar’s head office in Derbyshire, it was shortly after the Glazing Summit in Birmingham, notable for the number of leaders gathering together to talk about the major issues facing the industry.

It quickly transpired that Martin believed collaboration was an important tool in not only developing products but also tackling market forces and shaping public opinion.

For example, he explained that Resurgence, Liniar’s double-rebated flush sash window, was developed by engaging many different parties during the design phase.

The company worked with fabricators and machinery suppliers, including Avantek, Urban and Timberweld, which resulted in design alterations and a superior product.

“Resurgence passed all tests with all jointing options so that we can confidently give fabricators a choice during manufacture,” Martin said, explaining that this approach also had an unexpected but welcome consequence.

“We’ve found that Resurgence was far more popular than we had anticipated because our rigorous design process resulted in a lot of enthusiasm from fabricators. There’s something to be said for keeping things under wraps but you get a lot of engagement by keeping fabricators in the loop and creating a buzz.”

While Martin is keen to strengthen those bonds between Liniar and its supply chain, the conversation kept returning to the industry’s wider issues, particularly sustainability.

“Glazing Summit showed that people want to stand together and collaborate,” he said.

“On the issue of sustainability, we need to promote the same messages. I would certainly collaborate with other businesses in the PVCU supply chain to do that.

“Also, if there was ever a time for our governing bodies to be getting out and helping to influence decisions at the highest level, it is now.”

Martin said the industry was at a stage where it needed to change perception and emotion when it came to PVCU, which is inherently difficult to do.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the challenges ahead,” he said. “There is a tendency in our industry to lag behind the mindset among consumers.”

What Martin doesn’t want to see is having change forced upon the industry through taxation and legislation.

“That undermines the commercial reality,” he said. “We can be more creative and forward thinking without it, otherwise it becomes a box-ticking exercise.”

Using Liniar as an example, he said that messages involving sustainability and a focus on the environment were strong points of differentiation.

“Twenty-five years ago, Liniar designed a decking range that used manufacturing waste from window production,” he said. “That made this site waste neutral many years ago

“We weren’t forced into it and it wasn’t jumping on the bandwagon. It was about doing the right thing as well as making commercial sense; legislation alone doesn’t drive creativity.”

This approach has the full support of parent company Quanex which, Martin pointed out, bought a world-class facility, not a distressed business that needed bringing up to date. Therefore, the focus is about driving ambitions, and not about catching up.

“Quanex continues to invest in us,” he said. “Over £30 million has been invested since mid 2015, with more planned for 2020 onwards.

“We want to take our waste neutral model to the rest of the industry, so any new acquisitions would possibly involve a post-consumer recycling firm. We are also getting a lot of interest from customers in a potential recycled window, which would close that loop nicely.”

Martin is confident that the company can reach that position quite quickly, pointing to Liniar’s internal structure.

“We’ve still got a small business feel where all the departments feed into each other,” he said. “That effects swift decision making, which still makes us stand apart from other systems companies.

“We’re a big business, and we’re certainly here for the very long term, but we’re not big business people trying to complicate matters. Customer service is everything to us and we like to keep it simple.”