When the going gets tough, spend money…

Sean Mackey
Sean Mackey

Sean Mackey, co-owner of Britain’s biggest machine tool supplier, Jade Engineering, says that fabricators should invest, even when the market is slow.

“The window and door sector, especially home improvements, has had a poor start to the year, and yet at Jade Engineering, we are busy,” reflects Sean Mackey, who owns the business with partner and engineer, Adam Jones. “Although it seems paradoxical, we always see something of an increase in business when the market is slow.”

And as an accountant, Sean understands the pragmatism that drives this: “Sales are slow which means of course, factories are working well within themselves. And even to the most abstemious accountants it makes sense to carry out budgeted, planned maintenance and especially investments in new machinery and even full production lines, during such periods.

“Whilst it is unlikely that we will return to the quite freakish sales boom that followed Covid, memory of the chaos that ensued is still fresh; whilst most fabricators made good profits during this time it also created a lot of problems. Many have learned from that.”

Each of Jade Engineering’s divisions – Jade Tools and Jade Machinery – are receiving a healthy number of orders. But Jade Consult, which provides services ranging from the solution of individual production issues right through to the supply of turnkey production lines, is exceptionally busy, with the company’s engineers working on commissions for a number of fabricators.

Sean believes that this is symptomatic of what is now a highly professional industry: “Where once many frame makers might replace their lines when they were near or past breaking point, now they understand the benefit of planning replacements and upgrades and of course, to carry these out when there is less stress on the factory; when production is busy even in normal periods, you don’t want downtime.

“And whilst there have been a number of high-profile failures in our industry during the past 18 months, the reasons for each are generally quite discrete and should not be seen as a reflection of the state of the window and door industry as a whole; most companies, and especially fabricators, are well run, and financially healthy,” believes Sean.

Investment in CNC aided production machinery is currently strong, says Sean: “The value of CNC machinery in particular is now well-established and many firms are gearing up so they may fulfil ambitious growth plans for beyond the current lull in sales. But the technology behind these machines is moving at a rapid pace and requires specialist knowledge and experience to fully understand what equipment is best for a business.

“Invariably we save money for companies, because we find a more effective solution than what they may have been considering. Effective production is seldom achieved just by throwing money at it. We continuously work with every machinery manufacturer out there and most of the companies making windows and doors and we are unique in that respect.

“The upshot,” Sean continues, “is that whilst the first half of the year has had a cloud over it with confidence amongst homeowners remaining cautious with the cost of living and political turmoil continuing to have a negative effect, anecdotally many companies are saying they are not far off track.

“Cutting through this, investment in essential maintenance, refurbishment and new machinery is strong. Yes, the market may be difficult, but the smart operators are spending money on getting their businesses ready to make the most of what they are currently doing, and for when the upturn comes.”