I spent last week with glass and window customers and also attending a Fletcher Aluminium window conference with 150 delegates, most of whom were owners of window fabrication businesses. It was a great week of customer contact, sales and getting up to date with key people in our glass and window customer base.
Like most manufacturing industries, when the economy picks up so does the investment in capital items. It's been my belief for some time that when the volume of windows demanded by the customer base increases that those with highly automated plants will become more competitive – ie. When their machines are running at half speed (as many have been for several years) the automation offers little advantage, but when running flat out they create significant advantages over the not-so automated factories. With the advent of CNC processing in window manufacture I expect to see those which have made this investment go ahead in leaps and bounds, and at the expense of those which haven't. Likewise those which have efficient factory solutions and transportation solutions (to reduce rework and save time) will step ahead of their competition.
Technology investments are often at their best when factories are busy as their overheads and labour costs per houselot are low. Businesses with minimal investment (less capital outlay) are often at their best when volumes are low as their overheads are also low.