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ADDING CHOICE There has never been a better time to improve the way you operate and to look at expanding your product offering, says Leon Day, managing director of Universal Arches.He looks at how the glazing industry has developed in terms of raising standards and by adding a considerable element of choice, in what people have labelled a ‘mature market’.

Several years ago, as sales of replacement windows began to slow down somewhat, some people were suggesting that it was the end of the industry and that the apparent demise of the conservatory market would compound the problem.

However, first generation PVCu windows are being torn out and replaced with highly energy efficient new ones and even the PVCu conservatory sector is beginning to follow suit. Markets seem to have an uncanny way of reinventing themselves.

In recent years, the industry has experienced a considerable shake up through the introduction of the FENSA scheme, new Building Regulations, Window and Door Energy Ratings and the experience of a protracted recession. During this period, standards have, by and large, been raised and product choice has been expanded at both trade and consumer level. Is it demand driven, forced legislation or an effort by companies to innovate and differentiate themselves in a tight market? I would suggest an element of all three variables.

Product differentiation has come about

through the new Building Regulations, a thirst for energy efficiency and improved security in the home. The WER scheme has had a major impact, though I’m not sure that the Door Energy Ratings scheme will have the same value. Thanks to the highly recognisable energy rated stickers, even the layman can now differentiate the performance between an ‘A’ or ‘C’ rated window, for example.


Systems companies have also introduced new designs with additional chambers and we’re now seeing the introduction of pan- European systems which take triple glazing as standard with frame depths around 85-90mm. It must also be noted that as a specialist bending company, we are able to

shape even these deeper new sections with consistency and outstanding product quality.

Colours are now a big thing in the industry with some of the leading systems companies offering over 40 foiled finishes and this can also be seen in the conservatory sector where sales of coloured conservatories have remained relatively strong, while white PVCu sales have seen a dramatic fall. Such has been the demand, that not only are we shaping and bending foiled profiles but we also offer a bespoke painting facility that we can incorporate into our 5-7 day lead time. This also includes the sector’s first fully glazed offering too.


Deliveries, systems and procedures have also improved immeasurably in the glazing industry in recent years. Since Speedframe set the benchmark of a 5-day delivery more than 10 years ago, companies have been quick to implement operational efficiencies. You can now get windows, doors, conservatory roofs, specialist glass and even our own shaped frames within a 5-7 day lead time.

The use of independent carriers has also been diluted for the purposes of nationwide deliveries, as regional companies have expanded their network of customers. While it’s OK for Amazon to have their books and goods sent out by carrier, it’s not always proven to be ideal for conservatories and shaped frames. We’ve already implemented a new delivery procedure where the key areas in the UK are serviced by our own vehicles and the remainder serviced by a local, independent and specialist haulier.

While fabricators may have benefitted from increased automation through cutting and machining centres, the nature of the products in the bending sector have meant that products manufactured, still require a good degree of labour and the use of single

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and double headed welders. However, there has been the increased adoption of quality control standards across the glazing industry as our ISO 9001:2008 accreditation shows. There are also a number of larger fabricators and indeed systems companies that carry the same standards and that also operate to world class manufacturing principles. It’s often what’s beyond the physical order that can make the real difference in terms of the quality of product received on the company’s ability to deliver on time and in full.

The industry has always been particularly sales and marketing savvy. While traditional forms of marketing in terms of PR and advertising continue to be highly successfully harnessed by leading companies, the industry has been quick to embrace the newer social media tools. As this article is penned, at Universal Arches we are heading towards 900 followers on Twitter and this has enabled us to give a greater insight on a day to day basis as to the variables and issues affecting our business. It’s about getting closer to your target audience.

In a final note, it’s great that we have finally

got an industry exhibition back that we can be proud of. Fit Show will happen in 2013 and we’re proud to be one of the first companies to sign up. We’re in a people- driven industry and what better way to get in front of people than at an exhibition and thankfully, it is now a show for the industry, and run by the industry.

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