Eurocell’s window of opportunity
Eurocell Profiles Ltd is one of the UK’s largest, and most dynamic PVC-u extruders, manufacturing a wide range of window and conservatory products for builders, fabricators, installers and homeowners.
The business, part of Fairbrook plc, uses the latest CAD systems and the most modern high-speed extrusion equipment available to manufacture a broad catalogue of extruded plastic products.
“Eurocell is the fastest growing PVC-u extruding company in the UK, extruding around 50 million metres of PVC, and making between 20,000 and 30,000 conservatories per year for a range of customers,” David Leng, managing director at Eurocell explains. “Our main market is the window fabrication sector, for which we manufacture profiles for the likes of B&Q and Wickes, and a number of builders merchants. In addition to window fabricators we extrude profiles for many of the UK’s largest house builders, including David Wilson and Persimmon, and have around 70 cash and carry depots that sell our products.
“One of our key strengths is that we have the best breadth of product range in the market,” he continues. “We are one of very few companies that are capable of manufacturing a full product range in terms of colour and style. Another factor that is key to our success is that through our parent company, we have an integrated supply chain. It means that we control the entire process, from raw material manufacture, through the extrusion and fabrication processes, to the delivery to our depots. It gives us fantastic control and customer service capabilities, and allows us to be extremely efficient.”
David elaborates on the considerable growth that the business has experienced in recent years: “It started when the market was expanding, but it has continued at a similar pace even now that the sector has started to decline. When the UK market was improving it was relatively easy to grow, but in a declining market you can only expand by taking market share, which is what we have continued to do. In 1998 we had a turnover of around £30 million, but by the end of 2005 it was over £100 million, which is a considerable growth rate.
“We aim to continue this expansion, with a target of double digit growth per year. Our ambition is to be among the top three in all of the markets that we operate in. To continue to be among the leaders it is vital that we maintain our present rate of growth. The challenge that we now face is that the market has changed dramatically in recent years. Five or six years ago, the industry was focused on replacing timber windows, whereas today around 70 per cent of all timber windows in the UK have been replaced by PVC models.”
David elaborates further on the shift in market trends: “Remaining successful in the market today is based around replacing the windows installed around five or six years ago. In response to this we have completed a great deal of product development to enable us to offer a significant upgrade to existing products. For example, many people understand that replacing a single glazed PVC window with a double glazed model offers an energy saving. However, it is less well-known that if you replace a standard double glazed window with a best in class double glazed model it offers the same level of energy saving.
“Additionally, the design of PVC-u windows has improved immeasurably over the last ten years,” says David. “Customers who installed a PVC-u window originally, now have the opportunity to gain the significant benefits of a newer model, for a comparatively small price. Modern PVC-u designs are thermally superior, have at least a ten-year guarantee, and are available in a myriad of colour and design options. We need to continue to demonstrate that people have the opportunity to upgrade their property in a modern, elegant way.”
Eurocell places considerable emphasis on continuous R&D: “We spend around £3 million on R&D and tooling for new products each year, and half of our annual sales are of products that are less than five years old,” David explains. “Saving energy is a key issue in window design, and we have invested in thermal modelling software, a programme for assessing the energy rating of a product. We have two employees in-house that are qualified to use this equipment, meaning that we can grade our windows before sale.”
In recent years, the company has invested heavily in improving and updating its manufacturing facilities: “We have invested around £60 million in our facilities over the last six years to enable us to have the most efficient extrusion process possible,” David comments. “We have built three new extrusion halls, the latest being a £12 million investment, that has integrated granulating facilities so that we can handle our own recycling.”
These developments have enabled the company to significantly improve the efficiency of its processes: “We now recycle all of our own scrap material, we bale all of our own packaging waste and cardboard, and all of our PVC-u scrap is reused,” David comments. “Additionally, we are working on bringing post-consumer windows back into the process, recycling them and using them again. On site we keep vehicle movements to a minimum to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. Our achievements in this area have just been recognised by the awarding of ISO 14001.”
David admits that although the company faces a number of challenges, there are opportunities for further success: “Our main challenge will be the availability of raw materials, such as PVC resins and electricity. However, we have the opportunity to make increasingly sustainable and energy efficient products, whilst continually improving our design and manufacturing processes. We are very lucky that the industry is now coming out of a period that was very focused on white PVC window products, meaning that we have a wide developmental scope in terms of aesthetics.
“We will continue to grow our top line effectively by offering our customers better value, combined with more efficient products, whilst improving our bottom line by investing in the best possible processes and technology available. If we do this successfully, and continue to grow, I am confident that we will become one of the largest, and most profitable companies in the UK sector,” David concludes.
Products: PVC windows and conservatories