FAB RICATO R VI EW
Covid-: the best excuse for years….
Danny Williams, MD of Pioneer Trading, says that while delays are currently
inevitable for installers, they shouldn't become the norm. He also adds, that the
industry should take a moment to realise just how good it has become...
I think we need a new spin on the old joke
about the world’s three best lies: ‘The
cheque’s in the post’; ‘of course I love you
darling’; replacing the classic punchline with
‘Everything is delayed due to the pandemic’.
Of course, there are delays and interruptions
caused by the disease and many are justifiable.
But we are now honing our BS detectors to
sense when we are being fobbed off ‘due to
Covid’. With this in mind, I have read the widely
published letter from Martin Nettleton, MD of
fabricator Euroglaze, in which he asks: “Should
the market learn to accept longer lead times?”
Although I pride myself on being nothing if not
direct, in this case my answer is: “Well, yes and
no.” Martin accepts that there are supply issues,
in all of the product groups that I myself have
experienced delays in. And just one of these
elements holding up an order means that the
delivery will be either delayed or incomplete, or
both. There is nothing that can be done about it,
no matter how good the fabricator is. Euroglaze
“When fabricators can be relied upon to
remake a frame in 24 hours due to a mismeasure,
where is the incentive for installers
to improve their systems and procedures to
ensure such things don’t happen? ”
may be ultra-efficient but, as Martin accepts,
a three-and-a-half-day lead time is stuffed if
the handles haven’t turned up, or the coloured
profiles are out of stock for another week.
However, even if all the products are available
all the time, Martin is operating at 100% or below
in order to offer this turnaround as normal.
Because a large proportion of the industry is
operating at 130-150% of capacity and at those
volumes, all ‘normal’ lead times are knackered.
It’s simple maths…
The calls for understanding that I have read
and which Martin interprets as being acceptance
of a general reduction in service levels, are
understandable and wholly justifiable; installers
have to accept – and plan for – such incidences
which, whilst improving, remain an issue in
today’s market. Any amount of chest-beating
ain’t going to make the missing glass appear any
quicker or volumes reduce overnight.
On the other hand, I totally agree with Martin
that neither should such delays become the
norm even after component supplies have
returned to normal. I return to my point about
Covid being used as the arch excuse for simply
not trying hard enough. Having said that, I do
believe that the efficiencies Martin’s company
offers – and they are not alone in this – do paint
over the cracks of many installers’ weaknesses.
When fabricators can be relied upon to remake
a frame in 24 hours due to a mis-measure,
where is the incentive for installers to improve
their systems and procedures? And whilst the
vast majority are pretty good, it is the same old
suspects that repeatedly offend, because they
know we will help them out of it.
But perhaps it is time to consider this
from another perspective: just how good our
industry has actually become. The British home
improvement window and door industry offers
bespoke products for every single installation;
there is no such thing as a standard window
in home improvements. When we consider
other industries that compete for the home
improvement dollar, kitchens, bathrooms,
bedrooms for example, they all use standard
components such as carcasses and doors, that
are adapted for each job. Obviously, there are
exceptions with upmarket installers: but I am
talking about the mass market.
Our window and door retail installers
measure up every job for the homeowner,
have the windows made specifically and they
are usually delivered, ready for installation, in
around a week. Every window and door is then
installed, sealed up and signed off, with minimal
disruption to the customers…and at prices that
are lower pro rata than they were 30 years ago.
A few hundred quid installed for an average
window and a couple of grand for a decent
entrance door, which will dramatically change the
appearance and performance of the property.
And if the average Joe doesn’t really appreciate
the finer points of how our industry works and
the slick operations by which their new shiny
windows and bi-folds get to them, they are
aware that replacing their windows and doors is
amazing value for money. We are bloody good
at what we do and we should bear that in mind:
most homeowners won’t mind waiting a couple
of days longer for their installation.
IN THE RED? NO PROBLEM SIR...
Another bit of ‘news’ has appeared in the press
warning us that ‘…the coronavirus is continuing
to disrupt the glazing industry.’ The information,
issued by industry data collectors Insight
Data, says that their analysis of the financial
information of 9,075 fabricators and installers
found that 1,038 companies had poor or very
poor credit ratings. 12% of fabricators were
deemed as ‘high risk’ and a similar portion of
installers had ‘poor’ credit ratings.
My initial reaction was: “Is that all?!” To be
honest, despite the post-lockdown boom that we
have enjoyed, I would have thought the numbers
of companies in the financial brown-stuff would
have been far higher; and I wonder if these
figures are significantly worse than a year ago?
Of greater concern are the venture capital
owned businesses that have royally screwed
hundreds of suppliers and employees this year
alone. Initially, I scoffed at the advice given
by Insight Data that “Doing business with
companies that seem keen but have been hit
hard by coronavirus may be a risky strategy.” But
if anyone was that concerned, the big-name firms
that Phoenixed in the past few months would
never have got away with it.