Factory Assembled Performance Doorsets

Five years on and there is still no discipline in the market! What an opportunity!

Roy Wakeman, Chairman, Performance Timber Products Group Ltd

Factory Assembled Performance Doorsets

In 2005 Roy Wakeman witnessed the culmination of 10 years of development in the UK’s largest manufacturer of commercial performance doorsets come to fruition when the business was acquired in a £50m transaction and merged into a large PLC Group. In that time the company had grown the business and profits from loss making on sales of £12m into a very profitable and large business with sales revenues of £40m and double-digit returns.

What, he states, is more important and satisfying was the development of the people in the business and also their adoption of our vision to offer the construction market fully tested, factory finished, performance doorsets complete with all flush fitting ironmongery. These doorsets offered a range of different performance levels in fire resistance, sound attenuation, thermal insulation and some specific end-user utility values. The products were developed in line with the market expectations but also against the traditional views and practises of the construction process.

Adversarial conflict was a feature of most transactions in the early days and it took some time to develop trusting relationships with major contractors and end clients. The principle behind the product offer was to deliver a complete and fully finished door set assembly, including all the relevant parts that would previously have been installed on-site at different stages of the build process, and all backed by third party certificated accreditation schemes run by the BWF.

Contractors and designers were consulted and a major cost comparison project was commissioned with the country’s leading firm of quantity surveyors to show that the final installed cost of a factory-finished doorset would save upwards of 25% over the traditional method of procurement, despite initial prime cost drivers.

Roy Wakeman reports that there was an evolution on the demand side as well where the efficiency of the construction process was under severe scrutiny and where profitability was non-existent. Cash driven projects with armies of quantity surveyors bringing up the rear, was the order of the day. There was also a change in the political scene: the New Labour party was swept into power and with it came a switch of investment from heavy commercial and private investment to public procurement and a major commitment to education and health facilities. These were to be funded by a partnership between the public purse in the future lease of the facility and the immediate private investment to provide the capital asset.

This triggered a major explosion in construction demand and the growth of the off-site fabrication for some of the build process in order to satisfy the need. This was heaven sent to help promote the fully factory finished building components where all the integrated parts of door openings could come together at the procurement stage. By the time of the late 90’s and the early new century, there had been a shift in the balance of demand with nearly 60% of the output in construction being driven by government expenditure. These large investments in the publicly owned built environment were providing stimulus to the supply chain and the response was very productive.

Modular buildings, Modern Methods of Construction, (MMC), and other off-site production techniques were now meeting the needs of the client - with delivery on time and to budget. The then construction workload was stretching the skilled construction work force and being replaced by off-site production, where the traditional procurement of individual components was replaced by the application of whole kits.

So where are we now just five years on when in 2010, as part of the expansion of the new venture: The Performance Timber Products Group, the company re-entered the market for commercial doorsets with the acquisition of John Porter Doors Ltd, (JPD).

It would appear that, on the back of the last two years of lower growth, albeit the market is still in the tale end of the actual public investment and there is still a lot in the pipeline to finish, this sector has gone backwards and has forgotten to embrace well established factory finished components in place of site assembly. The return of the fierce open book tendering has promoted a heavy focus on the prime cost comparisons and the break up of the complete assembly in favour of a loose assortment of individual components. Some of the supply chain appears to have crossed over, desperately chasing sales of their components like door blanks and the separate ironmongery package. New businesses have emerged on the back of this and, it is believed, are known as the ‘slice and dice’ brigade, i.e. attacking the call for the assembled product by looking to supply the individual piece-parts for site assembly.

Of course a prime example of this is the doorset. Well known benefits of factory-assembled doorsets include consistent quality, timesaving and simplified procurement, not to mention predictable and fully accredited fire resistance, smoke control and sound reduction qualities.

The one thing that is still true today is that installed costs of factory made products beat traditional methods. The QS-lead market research carried out in the late 1990’s proved beyond doubt that savings from 35% to 50% could be had over the traditional methods.

It isn’t surprising that a typical storey-height doorset with fanlight has over 60 component parts that all have to be purchased and accounted for separately on the construction site.  This calls for CE marking which will become mandatory by July 2013 and is the preferred method of proving compliance with the Construction Products Directive (CPD).  “The logic of supplying a safety-critical assembly, such as a complete doorset, upon which all components are inter-dependent and correctly specified, is self-evident.  CE marking will ensure this security and performance doors suppliers such as JPD are leading this change,” states Ian McSally, Sales and Marketing Director, John Porter Doors.  Specifying factory-made doorsets reduces this risk to the purchase of just a single unit and installation of the factory built doorset takes only quarter of the time needed for the traditional on site assembly.

“After all this time I have discover that doorset sales penetration in the UK market still only hovers at around 15% so there is a long way to go before we will match activity in North America, or indeed the rest of Northern Europe, where complete , factory hung doorsets are the norm.

What a super opportunity for us all!”

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