The replacement fenestration market was for many years a straightforward choice based on the material from which the window was made. Timber was preferred as the authentic choice with its original detailing, while aluminium emerged as the contemporary alternative with novel design features and superior window life. PVCu then grew rapidly to take the lion’s share of the market as the energy efficient solution at a lower price point and with maintenance-free appeal. However, with chunky profiles in a standard white plastic finish and a few wood grains, the aesthetic appeal of PVCu was never its strong point; it was strictly price, energy efficiency and low maintenance that drove its early success.
The market has of course evolved to become far more complex in recent years, providing customers with almost unlimited choice as performance and design features have converged across all substrates and price differentials have shrunk. PVCu has significantly addressed its weaknesses in terms of design detail and appeal, while aluminium has improved its energy efficiency and price competitiveness. All window types now seem to meet the same energy efficiency standards and offer very similar performance warranties.
Overall, the basis for differentiation between base materials has substantially been reduced as the breadth of design choices, features and finishes has expanded across them all.
This explosion in product variety is the industry’s natural response to a significant shift in the nature of the replacement window market. These days the motivation for window replacement is far more likely to be a house ‘make-over’ rather than simply improving energy efficiency. This clearly places the window’s look and style as the key feature upon which the purchase decision is made. With other features being largely comparable, aesthetics has replaced material choice as the main basis for competition in the market. The final aesthetics of the finish window span from profile and window design, weld details and component choices but perhaps above all else, is most influenced by the colour and finish.
The key question for PVCu fabricators is therefore how to effectively respond to this fundamental shift in the market when their traditional operating model is based on offering a limited range of standard products and colours from stock? Clearly they require a far more flexible and responsive make-to-order manufacturing model if they are to succeed in a customer-lead market.
As you might expect, it is the larger PVCu fabricators that are leading the way in evolving their production operations to meet this challenge. By introducing a paint refinishing process into their manufacturing operation (in-house or sub-contracted) they can immediately move to a make-to-order offer to meet any colour & finish requirement specified by their customers.
In our experience, once established, paint refinishing naturally becomes the preferred process to deliver all ‘special colours’ as pricing and lead-time are significantly improved versus use of pre-foiled profile. The fabricator can also readily offer all required ancillary components as a much valued, complete parts service to the installer. The benefits in terms of stock levels and working capital are also significant. The required capital investment is modest and offers an attractive return based on these savings. We therefore expect to see the trend to adopt paint refinishing as a core process broaden further across the industry as the ability to offer a broad range of colour and finish choices becomes critical success factor within the industry.
ProKolor® is a specialty coatings company supplying market-leading, water-based coatings and related paint services and expertise to support PVCu window and door fabricators grow by offering their products in an unlimited choice of colours. We work directly with our customers to support them to adopt a true ‘colour on-demand’ operating model that will differentiate them from their competitors and add real value to their businesses; with top line growth, reduced inventory levels and improved profitability. www.ProKolor.co.uk