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Who's Checking the Credentials-web

Who’s Checking the Credentials?

Leon Day, managing director of Universal Arches, believes as an industry we don’t always assess the true credentials of our supply chain. But whose responsibility is it, how do we put a value on it and what of employee welfare?

Our glazing industry has by and large improved immeasurably over the last decade with the likes of the Window Energy Ratings and more recently CE Marking, helping to present our products and the companies in which supply them in a far better light. But there still remains considerable room for improvement.

We still see evidence of ‘pre-packed’ companies in our industry cease trading one day, only to start the next, along with others that simply haven’t invested in certain certifications, employee welfare and quality management systems. The companies that do invest and I fully include Universal Arches in this, inevitably have to carry additional costs within the business, while others look to short-cut the system and believe that price is the only means in which to compete.

We’ve had zero non-conformities in our last 14 ISO 9001:2008 certifications and remain the only company in our relatively niche segment that can boast such a recognition of overall business quality and this is not only a reflection on us as an overall business, but in our trusted and valued members of staff. For those individuals and companies who have been lucky enough for a tour around our facility, they can see first hand what makes Universal Arches so exceptional and I would suggest the same premise would apply to other world class manufacturers in our industry.

Everything from our customer service department right through to manufacturing and delivery is a slick operation and the adoption of 3D computer modelling back in 2007, was quite a revelation in the industry at the time. Almost overnight we made the individual drawing out of templates redundant for 85% of all orders, offering an accuracy to within 1-2mm in what is in effect a hand-made, bespoke PVCu frame.

But do we treat all companies in the supply chain with equality, I would suggest typically yes and that can often mean such companies that have been ‘pre-packed’ even given extended payment terms. Companies do get into financial difficulty and that’s a fact of a free market economy, but in a closely knit industry we surely should be more mindful of those companies and individuals that can’t be trusted.

While the industry has carried out a good degree of housekeeping thanks to new standards, there are still those companies that don’t have an up to date health and safety policy, public liability insurance and even an ability to place employee welfare high on the corporate agenda. Consider if we all adopted an industry wide trusted supplier initiative, when all companies subscribing to the scheme could be easily evaluated, it would make for a far more level playing field.

The welfare of the employees at Universal Arches is of utmost importance and while we do carry out our legal obligations for pension contributions and annual reviews, we have also added private healthcare for all of our workforce. Shopfloor workers are also encouraged to broaden their skillset, with departments rated by pay grade and individuals encourage to broaden their skillset, in return for a better grade. We’ve got incredible employee retention with many people having served over 10 and even 22 years, again testament to us as a business and I’m sure many others can boast similar statistics.

Taking some inspiration from other business sectors, the automotive industry has a far more measured and robust supply chain and perhaps there are lessons there that could be adopted in our industry. While there’s not the might of the global automotive giants in our footprint, there are in fact a number of players that operate in the international arena and we could still implement a number of similar basic principles of business.

It’s a difficult job to asses the supply chain in any market and perhaps more so in the general glazing industry which is so fragmented, with many segments and sub segments. But I would suggest we need to be a little more diligent when we look at our supply chain in terms of accreditations, financial stability and in their respective abilities to consider employee welfare. Surely that has to be more to this industry than just price?

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