We report on how the hidden costs associated with buying in frames and glass separately, is costing installers thousands each year.
CE Marking was meant to have delivered a step-change in glass supply. Its impact, however, has been muted, most installers continuing to buy glass and frames separately, regardless of the ‘robustness’ – or perhaps otherwise – of their own factory production control systems (FPCs).
FPCs were meant to be where CE Marketing showed its teeth. A requirement placed on anyone seen to be ‘manufacturing’ product by bringing two elements together, in this case frames and IGUs.
Yet the threatened prosecutions – the regulatory ‘stick’ which was meant to have driven installers to buy-in frames and IGUs together, transforming IGU supply – hasn’t materialised.
“It may be because the industry has lined up its ducks in a row and is providing the end user – and Trading Standard Officers – with a full audit trail for the product they supply”, says John Leary, Sales and Marketing Director, Emplas.
“I would hazard a guess, however, that things probably aren’t that clear cut. The point is CE Marking hasn’t delivered a massive shift in the way that installers buy glass. We see that coming now. Driven less by regulation, and instead by market forces.”
He points to continuing uncertainty in glass and IGU supply, which last summer included float glass shortages and ensuing failure within the IGU supply chain. He argues continuing pressure on prices, have also eroded margins, leaving IGU manufacturers – and those who buy from them, vulnerable.
“If you’re buying in glass separately you have to be certain that your glass supplier is going to deliver the reliability and quality that as an installer you need and which you ultimately trade off”, John continues.
“The current climate makes that a challenge. There’s pressure on availability of glass but also in a highly competitive market, also on margin, and that places a question mark over the financial sustainability of many IGU suppliers.”
This analysis underpinned Emplas acquisition of Padiham Glass in May last year. The trade IGU specialist has capacity to supply more than 15,000 IGU units per week from its 45,000 sq ft Lancashire manufacturing facility, including Saint Gobain’s highly popular Planitherm range.
Run as an independent business, it nonetheless gives Emplas increased security within its own supply chain – and by association – those who buy glazed frames, an Padiham Glass’ trade customer base as a whole.
This is manifest in the six-figure commitment Padiham Glass is making in the first half of this year in new software, machinery and handling equipment. “The purchase of Padiham was to a large extent about shoring-up our supply chain – and by default – that of our customers in a very uncertain market and one increasingly dominated by just a handful of manufacturers.
“We also saw benefits through further integration of process in IGU supply and ultimately in the service offer we were able to bring to Emplas’ installer customer base. This includes access to Saint Gobain’s Planitherm range, which is taking growing market share.
“A third strand to our strategy was the opportunity to support our customers in accessing significant but often unaccounted for efficiency savings that buying in frames and glass together, which could support them in maximising margin and ultimately profit.”
Saint Gobain launched its newly invigorated Planitherm Network in April last year , addressing what it sees as a deficit in communication of the benefits of high performance energy efficient, solar control, security and acoustic glass to the end-user, underpinning its message with new point of sale material and associated retail campaign.
“We believe the switch to Planitherm product offers additional opportunities, with growing commercial and retail recognition. This is the product of the significant investment Saint Gobain has made in the Planitherm brand, which we believe will offer future opportunities to our customers going forward”, says John.
It is, however, Emplas integration of process with its IGU supply chain that he argues delivers the largest potential benefit.
This includes automatic ordering of glass where customers are supplied with both together. Processed through EVA and the Emplas customer portal, this automatically aligns products to glass specification or regulatory requirements.
Emplas has, for example, introduced a wholesale simplification of SBD creating dedicated tick box specifications as part of its online ordering process. This means that rather than having to remember and select requirements under Secured by Design, Emplas customers can simply input window dimensions and then tick an SBD option.
This automatically pulls in all required data for an SBD upgrade of that window or door including everything from maximum heights and widths to locking mechanisms and cylinder combinations to reinforcement – and any requirement for laminated glass.
“The system takes care of everything automatically. The minute you select an SBD specification the spec for the glass is automatically pulled through as well as any adjustments of hinges and hardware to accommodate increased weight in the frame.
“You place a single order, get a single delivery and the specification is going to be correct because the process is automated. It gives you far greater visibility of what you’re going to get and when it’s going to arrive”, says John.
“Ordering in glass separately may save you a small amount per unit but that is negated by the cost of doubling up on the process – or those times that you have to order a remake because the specification is wrong. Time is, here, in the truest sense, money”, he concludes.