Looking to the future
aluplast’s Managing Director, Keith White, looks ahead to some of the key challenges and opportunities for 2022:
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the last 18 months?
Keith White (KW): It’s been complete bedlam! I’ve been in the industry a long time, but the pandemic has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There have been positives, sustained high demand being one, although that has of course been tempered by other factors, not least of which is the strain that has been put on the supply chain.
In a way, the pandemic has also helped to put Brexit into perspective. We were well prepared for Brexit, but we did go through a little bit of pain prior to the deadline, losing a handful of customers to competitors who were promoting the notion that any European based organisations were doomed.
The reality is that all system houses, whether they extrude in the UK or not, are reliant on imported material. It’s also worth pointing out that all those customers have since returned to aluplast! That’s thanks to the strength our product range but also the quality of our service.
Q: When do you think the supply chain start to stabilise?
KW: It has been very hard to accurately forecast during the pandemic, even in the short term. If you’d asked me in June or July 2020, then I would have said that by Q4 we would have seen prices starting to come back down.
Six months later and the goal posts have moved again! There is some speculation that we may see supply chains begin to normalise by the middle to end of 2022, but at the moment that seems like a long way off.
Increased energy prices are also now starting to take their toll, and that could have a further negative impact on materials going forward.
Q: Can you see high demand continuing into 2022?
KW: Demand from 2021 means that our customers are already in a very strong position for Q1 2022, and while it has to normalise at some point, it’s not going to drop off a cliff anytime soon. I don’t think we will ever see a full return to the office, so for me, the adoption of home or hybrid working will be a key driver of demand in the long term as people continue to invest in their properties.
Q: Do you think the industry will have to become ‘greener’ in 2022?
KW: As we emerge from Covid, and in the wake of the COP26 summit, we are going to see a much greater emphasis on sustainability. Business that can demonstrate a genuine commitment to green products and services will, therefore, be well placed to take advantage of that.
At aluplast, we have invested heavily in ecotech, our ultra-green profile that is available as standard across our Ideal70 and Ideal4000 range. In the past, there was a perception that windows made with recycled material were an inferior, cheaper product – the reality is quite the opposite.
The investment in technology to produce ecotech, which is the result of an advanced co-extrusion process that combines recycled and virgin polymer, is huge.
We are also seeing changes to Building Regulations, specifically to Part L, as part of the UK’s drive to Net Zero and that is going to create a requirement for high performance products that can meet stricter rules on thermal performance.
Some systems, aluminium and PVC, are going to struggle to meet those requirements but at aluplast the quality of our products, including our Smart Slide patio door, means that we can already meet the proposed changes that are due to come into effect in just a few months’ time.
In the long term, we will probably see the introduction of new products that are designed to meet even stricter rules on energy efficiency. At aluplast we have the resources to invest in continual R&D, but we have already developed some highly innovative technology, yet to be deployed in the UK market, so we are very well placed to respond to any future regulatory changes.
Q: What does the future hold for aluplast UK?
KW: We are in a great place right now, having grown our market share significantly over the last two years and more than doubling our turnover in the process.
That’s certainly not the case for all the system companies operating in the UK. The bottom line is that some are vulnerable, are highly sensitive to volume and have been historically under resourced. It’s highly likely that some will not survive another 12 months.
In contrast, aluplast continues to invest – and at a massive scale. Our new plant, located in Nagradowice, is vast. Due to come online by the summer of 2022, it has the potential to house up to 100 twin extrusion lines – effectively doubling our manufacturing capacity and further enhancing our ability to service our growing UK and Ireland customer base.
We are still growing, but I see the future of aluplast in the UK as a top tier supplier.