July 9th, 2024 - Beth

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The widely reported sales slump especially in home improvements offers an opportunity to get your factory in order ready for the uptick, says Jade Engineering’s Sean Mackey

The first half of the window and door industry’s sales year experienced a dip of anywhere between 10% and 25% depending on which pundit you listen to, with the high-profile company failures suggesting that there is further trouble ahead. More reasoned industry observers, including some respected names in the front line, suggest that the slow sales are nothing to get hysterical about, with the signs pointing towards recovery, with the failure of the Big Brands having little to do with the market en masse.

Jade Engineering’s Sean Mackey says that his experience is that the industry is broadly in good health, with many of Jade’s fabricator customers carrying out important housekeeping in anticipation of a return to reasonable and predictable trading conditions: “At Jade we always enjoy something of a surge in business when market conditions are a little more relaxed, as fabricators take advantage of being able to manage their factories and production lines. They take advantage of being able to manage output to carry out essential repairs and maintenance by servicing machinery and especially their CNC kit, replacing tooling and where needed, installing new machinery. It makes good sense.”

The inference is – and anecdotal evidence confirms this – that far from being in the doldrums, many if not most framemakers are in rude health: “Through our toolmaking operation we have supplied every PVC-U fabricator in the UK at one time or another and continue to serve the vast majority. And the feedback is that most are cautiously optimistic that better times are ahead,” reflects Sean. “Many did well during the post Covid surge and bolstered their cash reserves, but that period also took its toll on people and machinery, with factories so busy that essential maintenance was often carried out on the fly and only then, when it became unavoidable. That is not good for any factory, or business and owners and managers are using the current ‘capacity’ to make sure their factories are in great shape, not in anticipation of another surge, just because it’s good for business.”

However, Sean admits that others are simply reducing or cutting expenditure as a knee-jerk response to a difficult market. Whilst he understands that many companies will be affected negatively by the downturn and are cutting costs as a result, it will cost the company more in the longer run: “It makes sense to reduce overheads when business is tight. But whilst many might feel that I would have such a view, it is logical what then corners are cut even for short term benefit, neglecting essential maintenance of machinery and systems is bound to incur penalties. But when that affects the quality of the products being manufactured because tools are becoming blunt and machinery settings are out, then you lose customers,” he insists.

“Even amongst owners and managers that have planned maintenance schedules there may be a temptation to stretch or skip the cycles because machine tools are one of the highest overheads of the frame making process. An operation producing around 400 frames a week should repair or change tools every six months or so and other numbers, pro rata. Any deviation from this is a false economy: even using a tool past its recommended cycle for a further 100 frames, will eventually cost big bucks in terms of machinery reliability, product quality and output. Damaged customer relationships and a ruined reputation will not be repaired as easily as a failed bearing on a CNC. Making hay whilst the sun is shining, is simply common sense,” concludes Sean.



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