Q&A with Roger Hartshorn, CEO of Garnalex for Total Fabricator
- Roger, you’re widely known for founding the two leading PVC-U systems companies Eurocell and Liniar one after another. What prompted the move to aluminium?
I’m immensely proud of these two companies and their contribution to the market, and the growth of employment and success in my local community, the Amber Valley in Derbyshire. Eurocell and Liniar are testaments to the level of innovation and progress in the PVC-U sector.
Like many in the industry, I’m a convert to aluminium, the material and its possibilities. I first noticed an opportunity in aluminium when talking to friends and former customers about the shortfalls in service from their current aluminium suppliers. They said if I were to offer the same service and customer focus as PVC-U systems companies, and improve the design, it would be a game-changer for the aluminium sector. And the more I looked and thought about that and the limitations of current product designs, the more convinced I was that they were right.
- You have designed and built the most modern aluminium extrusions factory in the UK, it is described as state of the art, highly efficient and highly energy efficient. What does that mean, and what is different about Garnalex?
There are getting on for a hundred aluminium systems companies in the UK, but only three or four extrude here, and no one makes their own thermal breaks and PVC-U trims. My philosophy is to invest in the best machinery, tools and people to deliver the best quality and service. We’ve totally integrated ordering, manufacturing, stock management and logistics using SAP and our in-house GarnerSys software to achieve world class efficiency.
This integrated approach gives us full control of the supply chain. We didn’t want to be just an aluminium ‘stockist’ relying on bought-in components from other suppliers, and imposing their service and quality on our customers.
- How will customers benefit from this investment in world class manufacturing and synchronisation?
Put simply, it means better quality products, more meaningful guarantees, and a more reliable service. Designing the window and door systems and the factory and manufacturing process from the ground up means everything can be optimised, and we don’t have any legacy problems and restrictions to hold us back. GarnerSys integrates everything from ordering, production and quality control to storage and deliveries so we know exactly where a customer’s order is in the manufacturing process. For customers, this means you get what you want, when you wanted it, on time and in full, on spec and on much shorter lead times. The PVC-style friendly, approachable service comes free!
- Tell us about Sheerline and Classic, the revolutionary new aluminium window and door system.
Sheerline Classic, our first window and door system, is the culmination of 18 months’ research and product development by some of the brightest most experienced window designers in the industry.
When I first looked at aluminium window systems and compared them with their PVC-U counterparts, I was surprised by the relative lack of real innovation. So, with Sheerline we went back to the drawing board to design a system from scratch. We’ve looked at every aspect of aluminium windows to develop a system that’s easier and quicker to fabricate, easier to install and a dream to sell.
Classic is ready to launch as soon as the market reopens. Product testing has been completed with spectacular results. Last month the window passed PAS24:2016 security testing by a massive margin, exceeding the required load by more than three times!
- What are the next steps for fabricators who want to learn more?
Fabricators who want to be among the first to make and sell Sheerline can visit www.sheerline.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest videos and updates. Our custom-built training suite is ready to welcome customers, and we hope you’ll be able to see it later this year. In the meantime, fabricators can register their interest by visiting https://sheerline.com/contact/ to get our latest news and updates.
- It would be impossible to finish without mentioning Covid-19. What is Garnalex doing to deal with the crisis and safeguard staff?
When I started this journey in 2018 I could have guessed a hundred reasons why the project might slip. But I’d never have imagined a pandemic. Most life-changing events start with something no one foresaw. We launched the first Eurocell Ultimate 70mm system in 1993, just before the worst financial crash since the 70’s. Today Eurocell is an industry flagship.
Then, in September 2008, just after we’d ordered the tools and machinery for the Liniar window system, Lehman Brothers bank collapsed, signalling the deepest recession since the 1920s. Despite the disruption, Liniar survived and thrived to become another industry flagship. It’s still perhaps the most integrated, modern window system in the UK.
Delaying the launch of the Sheerline System was frustrating but the health and security of our staff and customers comes first. Everything is ready, and we’ll launch Sheerline Classic as soon as the Government gives the go ahead for normal business. When the market reopens, ambitious fabricators will be looking for a competitive edge, particularly new products that save time, labour, and hassles in fabricating and installing, and new products that look beautiful and win business.
I’m confident people will want to buy British, to help rebuild a thriving economy with better security of supply and lower carbon miles. In the midst of a crisis it might sound strange to say it, but I’m optimistic about the future for Sheerline and British manufacturing.