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Forming Lasting Industry Relationships

The bending sector involves nearly every possible PVCu window and door system in the UK, explains Leon Day, managing director of Universal Arches. So it is for good reason that lasting business relationships need to be nurtured industry wide.

The bending sector is niche to a degree, but when you consider that collectively we deal with all the systems companies, along with the vast majority of fabricators and installers, then we’ve got a role to play that’s arguably larger than our collective turnover.

At Universal Arches we’ve built lasting partnerships that go back over 20 years and our recent alliances with Eclectic Systems with their Residence 9 system, Thomas Sanderson for arched shutters and Rehau for curved cable management systems support this proposition. Similarly for window and door profiles we have to work closely with systems companies, as even the addition of a chamber to a profile will change the way in which we shape our products to the most exacting of tolerances.

Our products go into an incredibly diverse range of projects from the large commercial mill refurbishment project we carried out last year with Dempsey Dyer, to conservatory gable ends and even heritage applications in conservation areas. The UK housing stock and indeed the wider commercial market has provided the bending sector with considerable opportunities over the years and the market is growing strongly without any hint of talk about 2nd time replacements, as we’re far further back in the product life cycle than the general glazing industry.

With over £100,000 of formers at Universal Arches, we’ve shaped nearly every conceivable profile system in the UK and continue to carry out jobs for some of the older and obsolete systems on occasion. Take for example a Residence 9 frame, this would require formers to the front and rear face of the profile, along with 9 formers for the chambers, making 11 in total. We have formers at both 2m and 4m lengths so that makes it 22 formers in total, just for a single profile!

When systems companies come to us in the development stages of a new system, we can make the formers from just a small selection of off-cuts and have them ready right from the first day of launch, which is both important for them and arguably more fundamentally, for their customers. If fabricators start on a new system then they will need to be in a position to order shaped frames right from day 1.

Typically it takes us 4-6 weeks to make our formers and to ensure that are correct in terms of tolerances for manufacturing accuracy. I would estimate that we have formers for around 100 different systems, a considerable investment for us over the years. Fabricators can’t just send us new system profiles to be shaped within our 7-10 day lead time, we must and do work closely with all the major systems companies so we can in turn support their customers.

The importance of getting hardware businesses, machinery companies and the bending sector all involved at the latter stages of a new product launch is fundamental. Fabricators need to be assured that we can shape the very latest profiles and systems and we’ve signed many NDA’s over the years in terms of confidentiality, as new systems are launched.

Just consider for a moment that a large commercial contract in a new system requires shaped frames and then if we don’t have the formers then we can’t manufacture the windows and doors to fulfil the complete project. The premise could also apply to a large conservatory project where a large gable end sunburst window is required, in this instance we would need to have the formers ready in order to fulfil the order within the bending sector standard of 7-10 days.

The bending sector has moved on at a pace in recent years, with considerable growth prevalent and technical capabilities better than ever before. We are all investing heavily by our own standards to make products accurate to within a few millimetres, while we’ve done much to revolutionise the way in which products are delivered without the need of the national carriers.

Building lasting business relationships is important for us as a sector and at Universal Arches we’ve been working closely with both systems companies and fabricators to satisfy the demand for shaped frames for over 20 years. But as new systems are launched, we must ensure that the bending sector is ready to shape these new profiles right from day 1, because our customers will demand it.

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