With decades of experience in operations Phil Gray joined HWL in 2020 to deliver a step change in its manufacturing capability in line with an equally massive shift in its product offer.
“We’ve been concentrating on efficiency. It wasn’t that HWL wasn’t hitting target before, it was. It was sending out a very high-quality product underpinned by very effective customer service.
What we’ve been working on is maintaining that same level of product quality but increasing our capacity in those areas which we see as delivering growth for us and our customers”.Phil Gray, Operations Director, HWL
“Increased efficiency means that we’ve added volume. For example, we’re now manufacturing about 120% of what we were in terms of daily output on our flush casement line. We’ve done that without compromising on quality. We’ve achieved it through efficiency and enhanced process as well as a very willing and adaptable factory floor team.”
Flush casements are key to HWL’s strategy. It pioneered the development of a non-glass-bonded 90° jointed R9 window using a ground-breaking application of Timberweld® manufacturing technologies to replicate a traditional 90° mechanical joint without glass-bonding it.
Reducing weight in handling and delivering significant installation efficiencies and cost savings, the company has seen sustained growth.
Built around an innovative 6-chamber profile that helps to deliver U values as low as 1.2 (W/m2k). Making it a turn-key solution for Part L new build.
Also available as a Timberwelded product, it’s driven HWL to a decision to step away from volume manufacture of casements to concentrate on specialist and higher-margin products.
“We saw a swing coming in the market. That’s something we expect to continue this year as things ‘normalise’”, Phil continues.
“I said to Mark [Haley, Managing Director, HWL] there’s a bun fight coming in standard products as the market slows down and things get back to normal. Why would we want to be there fighting it out in a very congested end of the market for around £120 a frame when we could be making double that on flush casements?
“It wasn’t only about the market. The investment that we’ve made makes the product easier to bring together. We can control our cost of quality far easier because it’s a mechanically jointed product.
“That and where the market’s going meant that the advantages of focussing on specialist products, particularly flush casements, very quickly outweighed the loss of volume.
“Despite the logic, the real skill was pushing the button to actually do it because it was it was a big and scary decision to make.”
HWL’s decision to add Sheerline to its offer also sits within this strategy.
Supplied PAS24 as standard, HWL offers Sheerline’s Prestige window range in a choice of two opening sash styles. Both of which are available in either a standard outframe or as a flush option.
These include ‘stepped’ – which mimics a traditional steel window – and ‘contemporary’ which offers a more modern aesthetic.
Incorporating patented corner jointing technology that is designed to eliminate misaligned frames; installers can specify Prestige with a choice of small, intermediate and large outer-frames. Available with 28-44mm glazing options, with u-values as low as 0.9 W/m2k.
Phil explains that to accommodate the expansion of its offer but also to retain focus on quality HWL has recently added a new, 4,000ft2 warehouse to its operation.
“All of our profile is stored internally. We’ve increased the vehicle fleet and we are changing the internal structure to suit the change in the business. We’ve now got three 15m continuous flow lines so that the product moves itself.
“We’ve also invested in plant and machinery and we’re bringing in more bar code scanning stations. We can watch each individual frame and sash as they move towards hanging and final QC.
“We’re also developing a dispatch process which will make sure that we have nested absolutely everything within each job before a dispatch note is generated.”
With more than three decades of experience in window and door manufacture, including more recently Polyframe as well as two stints with Epwin, Phil brings extensive expertise to his role. He takes the greatest satisfaction from the flexibility and agility that HWL is bringing to window and door supply.
“The market now expects a very different product – but it also expects a better level of service. With the Three of us at the head of the business, Mark, Graham [Howatson, Director] and myself we’ve got a good balance across operations and it’s working really well.
“We’re big enough to cope, small enough to be versatile, and you know when you’ve dealt with some of the industry big boys it’s very hard to turn around tankers, to change a process.
“HWL is genuinely agile. We’re a business that is thriving and will continue to invest in our service and product offer, to make sure that what we offer to our customers keeps on getting better.”