Yorkshire-based window and door fabricator Quickslide has successfully installed and commissioned a fully bespoke, state-of-the-art machining centre that it says will not only set new standards for performance and manufactured quality within its business, but within the vertical sliding window sector itself.
With a total investment of £1.71 million, the machining centre, manufactured to Quickslide’s precise specifications by Schirmer, based in Verl, Germany, is twice as big as Quickslide’s existing Schirmer machining centres with a footprint of 4,120 feet2. Installation required the clearance and reorganisation of the company’s sash window manufacturing area, within Quickslide’s 150,000 feet2 factory space.
Having taken three days to be delivered from Germany and two months to install, including assembly, commissioning, software installation, and training, Quickslide – and its customers – are now enjoying the benefits of precision, quality and efficiency that the firm required from the Schirmer. Ben Weber, Quickslide Managing Director and the driving force behind the investment and specification of the Schirmer, says the results from the first few weeks in operation, are impressive: “A vertical sliding window is complex, perhaps more so than any other type of window frame. It has always required precision manufacturing, and this equipment now allows us to bring a lot of the preparatory processes online enabling us to produce consistent quality and output all the time,” explained Ben, setting the background for the development of the Schirmer.
Ben continued: “Quickslide was certainly pioneering in the development of the affordable replacement vertical sliding sash window and as such we have continually developed and improved the authenticity of our frames over the last 20 years. This is vitally important for an audience that places a great deal of emphasis on historical accuracy, whilst the windows must also comply with the latest Building Regulations and performance standards. The Schirmer allows us to deal with all these factors, improving quality whilst boosting throughput and therefore lowering lead times.
“I once calculated – or attempted to calculate – the number of VS design configurations that we offer and without including bespoke colour-bonding we’re looking at more than a trillion. Our designs and options are ever more complex and the Schirmer means we can do all of these configurations without adding to the lead time with the confidence that we have mastered the art of getting it right, fast and every time. I believe that we already offer the fastest VS lead time in the industry but can do so whilst also offering the greatest choice of design and specification options.”
By comparison with conventional casement windows, some processes in the manufacture of VS frames are considerably more intense, such as fully mechanical joints and the inclusion of the new slim mid-rail, which Quickslide will offer from the end of 2023. These complex and labour-intensive options have previously required capacity limitation due to how difficult and labour intensive they are to mass manufacture, but this has now been lifted with the new machining centre, says Ben cautiously: “It is still early days, but we have achieved a capacity increase in true heritage frames which we expect to see increase further as we get better acquainted with the machine and it’s operation.”
Ben is hesitant to announce statistics at this stage, with the sheer complexity of the Schirmer requiring ongoing assimilation: “Whilst I will not make them public at this stage, we do have stats and the machine is easily outputting significantly improved volumes, even with sporadic downtime throughout the 24-hour working cycle.
“Labour reduction has been achieved by removing our reinforcing station. Critically,” insists Ben, “this is not the primary reason that we introduced the saw, but less reliance upon recruiting and training high quality staff is a key consideration these days.
“Better material utilisation on steel reinforcement has already been achieved with the switch to 6-metre lengths rather than cut sizes with steel optimisation directly matching profile optimisation of profiles, which is better than 96% plus. We have also trialled the use of RCM [recycled composite material] reinforcement and it works very well. The RCM is around 35% of the cost of steel, is sustainable, is as effective and runs through the saw as usual and suitable for windows on the smaller size without compromising on performance or quality. The flexibility of the Schirmer allows us to trial and experiment freely.”
Ben has been at the heart of production and product development for this type of frame: “The length of time that it takes to produce a VS window now compared to 15 years ago has reduced significantly, and with our new Schirmer we are setting new standards for quality and complexity whilst further improving lead times, and doing much to at least stabilise costs, despite the pressures everyone is experiencing.”
Quickslide has invested more than £2.7 million since February 2022 and intends to continue with further upgrades to the company’s production infrastructure early in 2024. “We’re here for the long term and by re-investing we’re automatically strengthening our trade partners and our future growth as supply partners. We were voted Fabricator of the Year in the 2022 G-Awards which was recognition of our commitment to excellence and to improve our status as one of the market-leading fabricators for heritage-style PVCu vertical sliding frames. This is further proof of our long-term commitment to doing things how we believe they should be done,” concluded Ben.