Niche manufacturing pays dividends

Demand for PVCU and aluminium windows and doors destined for residential properties is still extremely strong, and customers of niche manufacturer KAT go into quarter two with 8-12-week order books, the company has reported.

“This is incredible given that so many business sectors in the UK are still in shutdown and face a bleak 2021,” the company said in a release. “But, with the sensible and pragmatic approach taken by the chancellor in the March budget, confidence across the KAT customer base – and in our industry in general – is very high.”

KAT has invested in its Macclesfield aluminium manufacturing facility, and MD Phil Warren is keen to further develop the aluminium business.

Therefore, the company has invested in an Emmegi CNC Router and an Emmegi double mitre saw, while appointing two people to manage aluminium production: Harry Goltman (production manager) and Dave Matuska (team leader).

KAT manufactures the Aluk system but through sister company Stag Aluminium, and can also offer products from Reynaers, Senior Architectural Systems and Exlabesa.

Over the last 12 months, the KAT management team has restricted sales to the north west of England and Scotland in a bid to focus effort on selling more items to fewer customers and to maximise the transport fleet, plus reduce lead times, delivery time and costs.

The company said the results of this approach have been positive, and while around 25% of the previous customer base had to find a new supplier, sales have almost doubled at KAT and profit is greatly improved.

Another key benefit of dealing with fewer customers is that the KAT team have got to know their customers better and can tailor their approach for every customer, the company said.

Therefore, KAT has found room to operate in the space between the two supply chain extremes of trade counters and super fabricators; a typical KAT customer now buys a basket of PVCU and aluminium products from KAT and sister company Spitfire Doors.

The results of a recent survey found that customers are attracted to KAT because they want a local service, they want to be able to speak to someone knowledgeable that they know personally, they want to be able to access the business leader easily, and they expect a high-quality product.

Price, window system and lead times are of secondary importance.

Another message that was well received is that KAT customers don’t want KAT to get too big. Learning lessons of the past, the directors at KAT have a long-term plan for the business that caps annual turnover at around £5 million.

“Chasing turnover is often a vanity project and the character of a business totally changes with high growth,” the company said. “The focus at KAT is to recruit and retain high quality employees, pick the right customers and suppliers to work with, and drive the bottom line through efficiency and hard work.”

In line with this local sales approach, KAT is opening a trade sales counter in Macclesfield. KAT is the only fabricator of PVCU and aluminium windows and doors between Stoke-on-Trent and Stockport, so with over 200,000 very local people there is huge potential, it said.

“Like in any town today, there are other trade counters around but none can offer that immediate service for a quick frame, or offer so many bespoke manufactured products from stock,” the company said.

KAT also said it enjoys an excellent relationship with many customers in Scotland, mainly buyers of KAT PVCU patio doors, which “is renowned for excellent weather resistance and ‘fit and forget’ guarantee”.

Economies in distribution are made by working with Spitfire Doors, Universal Arches and Stag Aluminium, all Kaliber Group companies. A significant volume of group sales are made north of the border and this increases year on year. Scottish customers look to work with companies that provide a very personal service, where they feel they can pick up the phone and things will happen quickly.

“2021 has started very well and optimism at KAT and across the Kaliber Group is high,” the company said.

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