Just a single item missing from one delivery in the whole of last month might be judged a success by some medium sized trade fabricators, but for Barnsley based Euroglaze it remains one item too many. The REHAU fabricator, renowned for its commitment to continuous improvement, is aiming for zero items missing this month as it completes the first phase of its new barcoded despatch system. Customers ordering from Euroglaze can now be assured that all frames, ancillaries and cut items in every order have been checked, packed, barcoded and labelled, and that every step in that process has been recorded on camera so that any queries can be resolved almost instantly.
What sets the system apart is that all the items are clearly labelled with the customer’s own reference and job number and not just the Euroglaze barcode, so that they can easily keep track of what has been received. Implemented by Euroglaze’s newly appointed despatch manager Wayne Elkin, the new loading system is designed to ensure that no van can leave Euroglaze without every order being complete and in full. Pete Weston, of trade counter outlet AAC Weston in Western Super Mare, which has been a Euroglaze customer for several years, says that his business has already benefited from the new system: "We’ve got complete reassurance now that every order is complete. Obviously, this is helping us to give an even better service to our trade customers and we’ve seen a 90% drop in call backs. Because every item in the delivery is so clearly labelled and all of the bags of ancillaries are heat sealed, things just can’t get lost or muddled up. And, now that Euroglaze are videoing the whole packing process, any queries which do arise can be sorted straightaway."
Euroglaze’s Managing Director Martin Nettleton adds: "Every member of staff at Euroglaze is trained to ensure that we get deliveries right first time, but this new system gives us a failsafe and fool proof back up which goes beyond the individuals who are working here. “It’s part of a much larger programme which will see us moving more towards barcode driven production over the coming year and a more efficient paperless order processing system designed to reduce the time we spend on admin. “Fundamentally, we are always looking to become more efficient, but only in a way which benefits the distributors and installers who buy from us. We are currently, for instance, trialling the next phase of our barcode unloading system with some of our largest resellers so that we can be certain that it works just as well for them as it does for us before we roll it out across the whole of the UK."
2017 could potentially be the most exciting year in a long while for all those medium sized fabricators like Euroglaze who have seen their business model under threat from the new breed of super fabricators. That’s not just because I firmly believe that we offer better, more consistent quality and far more personalised and responsive customer service, but because the market is finally fighting back against many of the super fabricators’ strategy of competing with their customers. If you’re a third-party trade distributor buying from one of these giant suppliers, it’s understandable that you don’t want that supplier to set up a trade counter just down the road from you. Equally, if you’re a commercial installer, you don’t want to find out that you’ve lost a contract because your supplier undercut you by tendering direct.
While the super fabricators have largely had it their own way for several years, there are some very encouraging signs that the balance is now starting to shift. The number of enquiries Euroglaze has received from distributors looking to switch supplier has increased dramatically over recent months, and part of the reason that many of them give is that they feel their current supplier is standing behind them waiting to pounce on their business, rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with them helping them to succeed.
These distributors are recognising that medium sized fabricators like us can offer the quality, responsiveness and volumes that they need whilst remaining competitive on price. It’s been a challenge to communicate that, but I definitely believe that the message is finally getting through just at a time when the super fabricators are once again flexing their muscles. Our strategy at Euroglaze is never to compete with our customers but instead to focus on giving them the breadth and quality of product which they demand. Our REHAU range includes everything from standard TOTAL70 casement windows to Heritage vertical sliders and fire rated windows and doors, and all are supplied with full sales and marketing support and on short lead times.
Our Barnsley factory manufactures to lean principles which means that we are highly efficient with outstanding productivity per man and virtually zero product rejections (currently 0.7%) We currently have capacity for 1200 frames per week and the systems and processes we have in place give us the capability to take on large scale new orders without compromising on the service we provide to our existing customer base. While established trade distributors are certainly fiercely resisting the pressure from new trade counters opening up alongside them, the challenge for many of these new outlets is surely to recruit and retain sufficient high calibre staff.
The old adage that ‘people buy from people’ has never been more true and, in an industry which is already faced with a marked skills shortage, I would question whether there are even enough efficient and effective trade counter managers available to make a success of all of these new outlets. I’m certainly not arguing against fair competition though – after all it is competition which generally drives real innovation and real service improvements but I am opposed to competition with your own customers. That is surely counterproductive. In my view, if you are a trade fabricator, the way to grow your business is to help your customers to grow theirs, and that can only come from working with them and building a relationship based on trust. With so much uncertainty in the market and in the wider economy, whether you’re an installer or a distributor, surely it’s better to feel that you and your supplier are both on the same side?