The Sky’s the Limit

What does a business that consistently raises the bar for aluminium systems look like? Our editor visited the multiple Installer Award-winning innovator Sheerline – and spoke to leaders including its CEO, Roger Hartshorn – to find out.

“Our product is thermally better; and it’s much warmer and stronger”

Despite the industry’s well-reported trading challenges, Sheerline has been riding high after having launched its Classic system in August 2020. Topping the business’ success, the company’s Sheerline aluminium systems have won our Best Technical Innovation trophy as part of the GGP Installer Awards for two years running.

Garnalex has not only survived but thrived since 2020, as its CEO, Roger Hartshorn, explained. He expressed confidence in a bright future for the business, explaining that sales are going well and that customers are excited about the future. 

“Ultimately, a business is only as good as its customers,” he said. “If customers like its products, then it’s a case of doing more of the same. It’s exciting.”

The latest GGP award, presented in March, was for the Sheerline S1 roof lantern, a sleek-looking, thermally efficient, versatile product with anti-tamper screws, and an innovative design for added security. But the business is not content to rest on its laurels. Instead, it has big ambitions to match its launch success. 

On site, its enormous, energy efficient aluminium extrusion press is capable of making around four tonnes of aluminium per hour, with a capacity for around 30,000 tonnes annually. To put those big figures into context, £1m worth of window sales is equal to 25 hours of production – and there are plans afoot for an additional press.

Roger described the potential of the press as incredible. He said: “If you look at the capacity, and where we could go, the sky’s the limit.”

In addition, the company is commissioning its own new paint line which was in the process of being constructed at the time of my visit. “The original plan was to use external painting companies,” Roger explained, “but the problem with that, is all the additional time it requires for logistics, taking it to be painted and fetching it back…Being able to paint profiles in-house will be streamlined and more efficient,” he added.  

Putting the company’s success into context, Roger said: “At previous companies, when we bought aluminium profiles, we always struggled to source a good local supplier. Currently, there’s something like 96 aluminium systems companies in the UK, and there are only three or four UK-based aluminium extruders, so, the industry is buying from a very limited market. They tend to work on very long lead times, and the technology for aluminium windows is all based around standard thermal breaks. My idea was to invest in a world class press, make and design our own system but, unlike the rest of the market, make the thermal breaks as well.”

Roger was quick to highlight the quality of the bespoke Thermlock® thermal breaks in Sheerline’s windows: “Rather than just being two separate little pieces of polyamide, ours is part of the actual structure, part of the design. It’s thermally much better; it’s much warmer and stronger.” 

As well as improved performance, Roger also emphasised other improvements. For example, the company is making a real and sustainable difference in scrap reduction, offering faster product delivery through more precise manufacturing techniques. The way that the company connects corners reduces scrap and makes the range quicker and more efficient to fabricate.

Dave Watts, Technical Product Director, also explained more about the technology behind its drainage innovation for the company’s aluminium windows, which they said give its products an edge over competitors: “Many aluminium products have ugly face drainage. We’ve designed ours with concealed drainage,” explaining. “It’s not rocket science but it’s a big step forward, and makes for better looking windows that are easier to clean.”

Having emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever, Garnalex, who manufacture the Sheerline range is looking to the future and planning to expand its manufacturing facilities. While the current 350,000ft2 building is to be used for assembling profiles, another facility is scheduled to be built four miles away.

And the big numbers keep on coming as Roger reflects on the past three years’ sales figures. “In year one [2020], we did £3.5m. In year two [2021], we did £13m. This year, we should do £35m.” For Garnalex, Sheerline’s parent company, it seems the only way is up.