The word ‘unprecedented’ has been reaching the point of overuse in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. As businesses temporarily closed their premises and homeowners shut themselves inside as part of the lockdown, we knew the only certainty was that the future was unclear.
Martin Thurley, Group MD at innovative systems company Liniar, gives his take on this unique point in history and how it’s affecting our industry.
“The UK may officially now be in recession, with certain markets and sectors facing a dramatic economic downturn – but who would have ever predicted the demand our industry is currently experiencing? The reality is that the fenestration, and indeed the wider construction industry, has seen huge surges in demand, to the point that this in itself is causing problems.
“This unforeseen volume spike, coming after several weeks of zero sales – combined with companies coping with back orders and attempting to return to full capacity with social distancing measures in place – has created a perfect storm, the likes of which we’ve never seen in the past. Unprecedented indeed!”
How did this happen?
“Once lockdown measures were eased and businesses were able to re-open their doors, everyone had to address the backlog of orders from March, April and May. This was at first carried out with skeleton teams in order to maintain social distancing measures, whilst businesses nationwide undertook risk assessments and worked out how to bring their employees back safely.
“At the same time businesses had stopped manufacturing, more and more consumers were spending more time in their homes and gardens. With holidays abroad cancelled, and more time on their hands, it became apparent a large proportion of families were busy planning projects and placing orders – ready for when everything was open again.”
A rapid surge in volume
“Liniar was one of the first companies to reopen following lockdown, bringing its operational workforce back in increasingly quick stages as soon as the demand pressure became clear.
“Overall demand reached record levels in June and July, compounded by certain ranges such as patio doors and fencing being up between 75% and 140% on usual volumes.
“With over a hundred new operational staff now taken on to ensure that Liniar’s extrusion and lamination operations are maintained at higher than normal capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we’ve been able to cope better than most.
“Fortunately, and as a result of Liniar’s long term high-level investment strategy, we have the physical infrastructure and capacity to adjust to these levels – however our own supply chain is also feeling the pressure, so further disruption is expected in the short term, with August also looking set to continue the high volume trend.
“Liniar’s customers have been tremendously understanding, in spite of the issues faced, and we’re grateful for the close relationships we have with them. We’re encouraging them to manage expectations with their own customers as lead times are increased, and communicating with them throughout. I can’t thank them, and our own team, enough – everyone is working as hard as possible.
“As we all know, our supply chain is complex, and it isn’t just systems companies which are impacted by this surge in demand. Every supplier, from raw materials and hardware to glass and finished goods, is feeling the pain – and as we keep telling ourselves, there are far worse problems to have!
“Working together all the way through the supply chain is the only way we’re all going to get through this. Providing realistic lead times on products and having open, honest communication down the supply chain will ensure that customer expectations are met, at every level.
“It’s important as we all tackle this challenge and deal with the daily frustrations thrown our way that we remember we aren’t alone. Most companies across the industry are facing challenges – and I firmly believe that if we deal with them correctly, we’ll look back on this time and realise they have actually made us stronger.”