The defining seamless finish delivered by the Graf SL4-FF has been a defining influence on trade supply.
It’s subsequent incarnations, the SL4FF EVO – which offers the same ground-breaking seamless weld but with even more exacting tolerances – and the SL4-H FF, which introduces a new capability to insert welded transom and mullions into a seamlessly welded frame or sash, deliver even greater flexibility to manufacturers.
But that comes at a price point that isn’t accessible to all manufacturers. “We offer finance and can support fabricators in developing a purchase plan, says Promac Group’s John England. He continues: “The Graf SL4FF is, however, geared up to manufacture at volume and if you aren’t doing that volume, the capex costs may be more difficult to justify”.
This he argues creates a challenge for smaller fabricators where these costs may be prohibitive. According to John it gives them three options, to explore other lower cost options; to lose market share; or buy-in.
“If you’re a PVC-U fabricator not manufacturing your own product and buying in can be a difficult prospect to swallow but in my experience once you get over the psychological hurdle of placing your first order from another fabricator, you tend to wonder why you didn’t do it before.
“You’re able to offer your customers the products they want, manufactured to the standards they expect and without tying up capital in bar length.
“For my money its certainly the better option. You protect your relationship with your customers. The alternative is a lower cost machinery platform but then you have to ask yourself are you going to get the same weld quality, finish and support?”
Unveiled in 2014, the SL4FF pre-cleans to exacting tolerances then zip welds the corner joint whilst controlling 100% of the flow of sprue, delivering an ultra-strong but also seamless finish.
Eliminating any requirement for knifing, sanding or penning of joints, precision, is also combined with efficiency. This means the SL4FF can produce a frame or sash every three to four minutes.
“Graf gives you quality at volume”, continues John. “It’s also a proven platform. It was launched in 2014 with hundreds of machines now in service throughout Europe. The technology, the support infrastructure – but above all else the quality is there.
“You can spend less but still a lot of money on a platform which doesn’t come close to the finish or weld strength. The very things that are driving growth within the market.”
According to industry pundits, foils have been instrumental in propping up installed values at a time when the market as a whole has contracted. This according to the authors of The Window, Door and Conservatory Markets in Housing in Great Britain report has contributed to a 45% jump in demand for foils, including both woodgrains and solid colours since 2013.
They also make the point that the UK market for windows and doors is an increasingly mature one, with 167 million window frames in the home improvement sector already replaced at least once i.e. 92.1% of the total stock. Forecasts suggesting that this will rise so that by 2020, 95% of windows in owner occupied properties will have been replaced at least once.
“You have to be able to demonstrate the difference in quality to the homeowner between the window they had fitted 20 years ago and the new window they could have fitted tomorrow. Finish is the key battleground and there isn’t anything else which comes close to the finish delivered by Graf”, John adds.
He continues: “Installers are already using the Graf weld as a selling-point. The more that message is taken to the end-user, the greater demand and increased reach Graf-welded products have in retail.”
This, he argues, creates in turn a growing market for trade sales. “There are a growing number of smaller fabricators buying in Graf-welded product from other fabricators. Trade counters have been doing it for years.
“With demand direct from installers, combined it creates an already sizeable and growing market for anyone with capacity to manufacture a Graf weld. The market for trade supply, specifically the promotion of Graf-welded product to fabricators doing less than 800m frames per week is growing rapidly.”
This he argues makes the purchase of an SL4FF by those fabricators manufacturing at larger volumes a potentially highly profitable route and key in securing long-term growth in a significantly changed and changing market.
“The SL4FF isn’t cheap – but then why would you want it to be, it wouldn’t deliver – but it is affordable, if you’re doing sufficient volume. As a single spend the complete capex may be a little hard to swallow but break it down into bite-size pieces through the highly competitive finance deals we can offer and you can access a growing segment of the market in retail and trade sales for a comparatively low monthly cost.
“The precision of the finish, growing consumer recognition of Graf-weld and trade demand are generating significant opportunities for the entire industry. It’s simply about working out your best route to accessing them.”