Last week I had a fascinating meeting with a technical representative from one of the aluminium die-holders who supplies extruded aluminium to the window fabricators. In the New Zealand market there is a large number of small to medium window fabricators and none that I would really call "large". Some may have 40 staff or more, but even the largest supply an estimated 5% of the New Zealand market as a maximum. It's rare to find an industry that doesn't have at least one very large supplier with 30% or more market share. Certainly the New Zealand glass industry has this.
However this may be changing. We've seen some of the large window fabricators expanding rapidly and setting up new bigger facilities. Others are buying up smaller fabricators and becoming multi-location. Some are expanding their reach with remote sales offices or satellite processing plants. Some are getting more serious about glass supply and installation services.
It's also been my belief that as the economy picks up and window fabricators become busier the highly automated fabricators will become more viable than the manual fabricators. When volumes are low, as they have been, the automated machines can be a millstone. Not so as volumes increase. In short it will become more difficult to compete as a small fabricator. My technical representative friend advised me of many window fabricators which are buying CNC processing machines, becoming more automated, and investing in technology. This investment will require them to grow their volumes. Those which can afford technology have the opportunity to leap frog those which can't.
So what does all this mean? I believe we'll see a growth of "large fabricators" in the next few years and some of the less automated smaller fabricators will either be bought out or close. Within 5 years I think there'll be about 20% less fabricators but the overall industry output will be up by a similar percentage.
Crystal ball gazing, perhaps. We'll see.
As a supplier to the industry we will continue to work with all fabricators, helping them to save time, reduce damage and rework, and address health and safety.