Under pressure to innovate but with limits on capacity, PVC-U systems houses face some tough choices about product offer and future investment.
Systems investment doesn’t come cheap. New extrusion lines cost and making that investment now, at a time of significant economic uncertainty and market volatility can be difficult to square. At the same time, systems and product innovation continues to march forward, leaving those UK extruders with limited capacity facing tough choices about product range.
“As a systems company or extruder, you’re faced with a couple of fairly difficult decisions. You can lose older systems or product to release existing capacity for new products, or invest in additional capacity. The problem is right now, there are some pretty big fluctuations in the market and your return on that investment isn’t necessarily guaranteed”, says Chris Duff, Business Development Manager, Euroseal.
“What is certain is that product innovation and reliability in supply are key foundations of growth. Lose either and you lose business.”
UK economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2017 to just 0.2% – the weakest in 12 months. The Office for National Statistics attributing this slowing to a weakening of consumer confidence because of the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, something not helped in Q2 by the general election.
The housing market has also slowed, partly because of increases in stamp duty and changes in tax on second homes and investment properties and partly because of the availability of property. This has taken it from strong double digit growth in 2013 and 2014 housing transactions to barely moving in 2015 and 2016 and possible decline this year.
“The net effect of this wider economic uncertainty is that markets are not conducive to large scale economic investment but the demand for capacity and for product development is still”, continues Duff.
“Outsourcing existing profile extrusion to a trade extruder can support systems companies in managing capacity effectively, flattening out those peaks and troughs. It can also give them the capacity for new product development, without the overheads associated with large scale capital investment. This can often be on a sub-contract basis over an agreed period of time – it helps alleviate the pressure.”
This is where he argues, Euroseal can offer systems companies and extruders a ‘get out jail card’, supporting product development and meeting fluctuations in demand without the major capital investment.
With one of the UK’s most technically advanced extrusion facilities, Euroseal has extensive experience in the manufacture of a diverse range of thermoplastic extrusions, including rigid profile and co-extrusions in PVC, wood composite, HDPE, Polystyrene, Polypropylene and ABS.
This includes construction products including curtain walling pressure plates, conservatory and window profiles, and cladding; and electrical extrusions; automotive profiles; hygienic wall and ceiling profiles and garden decking – an area where it reports major growth.
“We offer a wide product range and extensive expertise across sectors. The critical thing is that with nine extrusion lines including five high capacity twin screw machines and four single screw machines, including co-extrusion, we have the capacity but also the right machinery to take on almost any extrusion”, says Duff.
This gives Euroseal the capacity to extrude profile from 40g to 6kg per metre and 0.7mm to 10mm thick, to exacting tolerances, with twin screws running to more than 200kg per hour.
Although working across sectors Euroseal has specialism in window profile and associated extrusions. “We work to BSi Kitemark standards, providing a complete audit trail for every profile we extrude. This includes printing bar length every 0.5m with the date, time, the machine it was extruded on and by which operative – everything is auditable and transparent.
“It’s about partnership, we aren’t so much a supplier but a manufacturing cell within our customers wider manufacturing capability. It means they have full visibility of everything that we do, so much so, that we supply daily and weekly production data using the customers’ own documentation.”
Euroseal offers a complete extrusion service, from initial concept to delivery. This includes, design and CAD creation and manufacture of tooling, to extrusion, quality control, personalization and packaging through to delivery.
This includes established partnerships with the world’s leading tooling and extrusion machinery manufacturers, this means that Euroseal can offer rapid turnaround on bespoke tooling. Euroseal also offers financial support to its customers to invest in tooling on larger volume runs.
“We have capability to design our own tooling in-house and will then work with external manufacturing partners who will make the component parts, which we then assemble, tune and commission”, says Duff.
He continues: “We’ve also invested in quality control – we have an LAB metre, which measures the exact colour of the extrusion against an agreed standard.
“We also reversion test profiles, for example on window beads to a tolerance of 2%. We also have a freeze testing facility and shadowgraph overlay facility, which automatically checks dimensions of extruded profile against CAD drawings, guaranteeing accuracy of extrusion to minimum and maximum tolerances.
“The point is we take care of it. We do everything that they would do as part of their own extrusion and quality control process.”
Having added a new mezzanine floor capable of storing an additional 70 tonnes to its manufacturing capability, Euroseal added its fifth twin screw line, earlier this year, representing a six-figure investment, increasing its own capacity and flexibility to offer a rapid turnaround service to its customers.
“We can spread the load. We have capacity built into our operational model. We have recently had a customer order five different profiles at once, which we ran simultaneously across all twin-screwlines, to deliver a rapid turnaround of product.
“That flexibility can be very difficult to achieve in a traditional systems house model, which is where we can add real value, either by releasing capacity in-house or supporting the extrusion of new and often highly specialized products, without disrupting the extrusion of core product lines.”