Bigger is better
“Looking ahead, the outlook is extremely encouraging for the industry,” says Ian Cocken, Director of Sales and Marketing, aluplast.
“Demand from both retail and commercial remains high and looks set to remain so until at least Q3 this year. The government’s ‘roadmap to recovery’ has helped to boost consumer confidence and the measures unveiled in the Spring Budget to extend the Stamp Duty holiday, and to introduce a 95% loan-to-value mortgage scheme for first time buyers, will also help to prolong activity in the home improvement sector.
“There are, however, a number of mitigating factors that are threatening to take the shine off that forecast,” he continues. “These centre around ongoing delays on imported product because of disruption to shipping and containers, and price hikes on raw materials, including PVC resin.
“It is an issue that is being experienced across Europe – and it’s one that is being amplified by PVC-U system’s houses that do not have the infrastructure in place to properly manage the problem.”
Concerns regarding resin supply have been underlined by a report from the British Plastics Federation (BPF) that confirms a severe shortage of plastics raw material in the industry. Fuelled by high global demand and exacerbated in some cases by production plant outages and maintenance issues, the problem has been made worse for the UK to due border issues caused by Brexit.
According to the BPF, the issue is so severe that it threatens to prevent the UK from taking full advantage of any potential recovery period from the pandemic.
“To be clear, the current situation with raw materials and specifically with PVC resin, means that no-one is going to be immune from prices rises further down the line,” said Cocken. “The challenge for systems houses, is how to manage those increases down the supply chain, and to put measures in place to protect service and supply levels as best as possible for their customers.
As a global player in PVC-U system supply, the scale of aluplast’s resources is reflected by the fact that, in Europe alone, it processes more than 150,000 tonnes of PVC-U each year, an amount that is the equivalent to 75 per cent of the UK and Irish markets put together.
Its latest facility, which extends to 13-hectares, houses state of the art foiling lines and the latest in CNC foiling technology. aluplast’s investment in manufacturing capability is also demonstrated in the quality of its ‘green’ offering, ecotech, which is offered as standard across its Ideal70 and Ideal4000 ranges.
Manufactured using two compound screw feeds that push recycled and virgin material through the profile dye at the same time, ecotech features recycled material that is isolated within the profile, away from its surface walls, for a better finish and to improve through life performance.
It’s a high tech, co-extrusion process that’s available only to a select number of system companies. Similarly, in order to guarantee the quality of ecotech, aluplast only pelletises recyclate material from known sources. Again, not all systems companies have the capability to do the same.
“aluplast has been very well placed to support customers in making the most of the market conditions throughout 2020 and into 2021,” continues Cocken. “This includes our ability to deliver fast lead times on our range of 40 foils and to maintain supply of stock foiled product that’s available on the ground in the UK.
“Foils are now accounting for as much as 50% of orders for the UK market. It is a key driver for growth and it’s helped to put us on course to double our turnover in the first quarter of 2021, year-on-year.
“But again, aluplast’s strength as a global company has played a significant part in this success, not just in terms of production capacity but also in supply. We export to 28 countries globally, we had measures in place well in advance of the UK leaving the EU and that means we’ve managed to avoid the worst of the delays and disruption at UK ports.
“Price increases due to resin supply will, unfortunately, be hard to avoid going forward,” he concludes. “But thanks to the depth and breadth of our resources and manufacturing capacity, aluplast is better placed to meet that challenge than most.
“That presents clear advantages for our customers to capitalise on continuing high demand that’s anticipated for the next six months and beyond.”