How does an aluminium systems company work?

The aluminium systems company designs, tests and supports the doors and windows bought by the trade and the consumer. Whilst their primary role is supplying aluminium bars and components, to window factories, other systems companies design, make and supply their own products. Here’s everything you need to know about why an aluminium systems company is important when buying aluminium windows and doors.

aluminium systems company windows in a large modern house
Aluminium systems companies key role is bringing our doors and windows to market

Understanding the role of an aluminium systems company

An aluminium systems company has several key roles in how you buy doors and windows. Furthermore, systems companies help with the distribution, sales, specification and support of aluminium windows and doors.

Whether they work with aluminium doors and windows manufacturers or directly with installers or homeowners, here are the various roles carried out by an aluminium systems company.

The Systems Company sits at the top tier in the supply chain of aluminium windows.  Most of these systems companies are part of global organisations with operations in all major markets and counties. Others are either independent and privately owned businesses, such as Comar Architectural Aluminium Systems, Origin, IKON, Jack Aluminium and others.

To illustrate the role of aluminium systems companies means also understanding the sectors they serve. Furthermore, the products available vary substantially.

The end-user buying aluminium windows may not know anything about a systems company, nor their important role. At the same time, some installers may never engage directly with one. They only deal directly with their own suppliers.

Furthermore, a system company plays a role not only before any windows are even made, but also after they’re installed and paid for.

aluminium systems company extrusions and components

How the aluminium systems company brings a window to market

First of all is designing the aluminium extrusions and producing these. Some systems companies either in-house, part of a group or using external extruders produce the aluminium profiles. Then they source or design the other components required to put these windows and doors together.

SAPA, Technal, Smart Systems, Kawneer, Reynaers and Schuco are just some examples of systems companies producing their own aluminium extrusions.

The aluminium systems company is responsible for the design of the aluminium window.  Typically they have in-house product designers. These also work with their manufacturing and installing customer base.

Prior to bringing an aluminium window to market, the systems company design the product. They will lay down preliminary dies for the aluminium extrusions, samples or 3D models.

In the design of an aluminium window many tests will be carried out by the systems company including:

  • Extrusion tests for compatibility between the various profiles with design changes if needed
  • Security tests to make sure the window will withstand attack
  • Testing to ensure it meets the legal requirements for thermal efficiency
  • Air and water leakage tests

In order to create new aluminium windows, the systems company works with other manufacturers or suppliers. Components such as locks, handles, accessories, hinges and gaskets, come from other suppliers.

For these components, aluminium systems companies may use generic hardware. Alternatively they may choose to have a component made, specifically for the product. Reddiplex or Schlegel for gaskets, Monticelli for corner components, Debar Hardware for door rollers.

an engineer testing a window by an aluminium systems company
Once designed, the window needs testing for security, weather resistance and meeting other important standards

The door and window testing explained

After the profiles are designed and extruded, the product needs testing. Testing includes submitting for security and weather performance tests. Other tests include wind loading for larger products such as commercial curtain walling.

The tests are carried out by one of many independent testing organisations, all authorised and approved by the relevant industry bodies. Some also extrude and powder coat their own aluminium extrusions. Others also provide general aluminium extrusions for fenestration, construction or any product relying on aluminium.

Kawneer UK, Smart Systems, Technal/SAPA are just some of these also producing and/or finishing their own aluminium extrusions. More recently, Garnalex set up producing extrusions and bringing Sheerline Aluminium Windows to market.

Then there are systems companies manufacturing and producing their own products for doors and windows installers. Origin, Sunflex, Solarlux are three well-known brands operating in this way.

How an aluminium systems company prepares the windows for sale

Once testing is carried out, an aluminium systems company will then do even more work carrying out glazing and installation tests. Some will work with some of their best manufacturers getting feedback on ways to speed up and make easier the manufacture and installation of the product.

Once complete, significant work is carried out creating detailed fabrication, technical, glazing and installation manuals. There is substantial work involved ongoing, in keeping these updated during the life of the product.

These technical manuals also list the performance and product specifications of the product as well as a full list of components, security tests, weather tests, size limitation charts and other important information those making the windows require.

Finally, systems companies work with external or in-house software. Software is required for creating CNC programmes. It is also required for sales and estimating software the installer uses to provide quotations.

profile from an aluminium systems company in a powder coating line
Many systems companies also have their own powder coating plants

Understanding who paints your aluminium profiles

The powder coated finish on aluminium windows, is essential for protection of the bare aluminium under the paint as well as providing the desired colour.

Many aluminium systems companies have their own in-house paint plants. Others rely on the services or independent powder coating businesses, or both. Some manufacturers choose to buy unpainted material as they have their own powder coating suppliers and like to have more control over colours and lead times.

Consultation with manufacturers and installers

Aluminium systems companies not making their own products work with their experienced and trusted fabricators. For instance, they’ll produce prototypes of a new window. Then it’s presented to several of its experienced manufacturers.  Here they will gain valuable feedback on how easy the window is to cut, machine, fix hardware, glaze and install.

Similar to any “customer clinic”, the aluminium systems company listens to this feedback. If it creates a product that the manufacturer finds hard to make or the installer finds hard to install, the product simply will not sell well. 

How a systems company supplies its products

The majority of aluminium systems companies, provide their products through a network of window and door manufacturers. These are all unrelated businesses.

Manufacturers make a commercial decision to sell the system based o design, ease of fabrication, pricing, features and options.

The systems company supplies the aluminium bars and accessories to the manufacturers. Prior to this they’ll spend time training staff or working with the manufacturer setting up any machinery, such as programming CNC machining centres.

Moving forward the sales department of an aluminium systems company works in finding new manufacturers to make their product.

With a large number of aluminium systems companies in the UK, each one is aware of each other and what product range it offers. 

It is not uncommon for one company to introduce a new product only for other systems companies to follow suit.  Bifolding doors are an excellent example where for many years many systems companies did not offer one. However, in recent years virtually every company now provides a folding sliding door. Another good example in aluminium windows is a flush casement version.

Importantly some systems companies also work with their competition. Smart Systems is a good example of a company customising and providing aluminium extrusions for other systems and brands to use.

an aluminium systems company windows in a new block of flats
An aluminium systems company tries to get its products specified by builders and architects

How windows find their way into new build properties

The systems company as part of its sales and marketing strategy employs many people involved in sales and specification.

Sales involve the Systems Company actively looking for aluminium window manufacturers to make, supply, or supply and install its products. When a manufacturer makes a decision to take the aluminium system onboard, the systems company will work with them. They’ll provide assistance in making that first window. Additionally they’ll help with tooling, the technical manuals, assist with the fabrication of the window and ongoing support.

Specification involves the system company working hard to ensure that an architect working on a particular project specifies their system. 

Any new building relies on an architect. Often they specify the brand or system of glazing. Schools, supermarkets, retail and commercial buildings, housing. These are just some of the contracts where there is active product specification.

Systems companies work extensively with architects on their building design and achieving the desired aesthetic, performance or specification.

It is not uncommon therefore for systems companies to have strong relationships with architects. Some work with an aluminium system for many years and prefer to specify it ongoing.  Crucially, specification results in valuable ongoing work both for extrusion sales. Their fabricator and installer base also benefits from ongoing contract work.

How systems companies help their customers sell more

The systems company supplies the window manufacturer.  The window manufacturer supplies the installer, the installer supplies the homeowner.  All of these different parts of the supply chain require brochures and marketing support. Ultimately the end user, especially with residential products, needs active marketing.

Origin doors and windows, are arguably the best example of where a systems company markets successfully. Borchures, showroom samples, direct marketing, vehicle livery are just some of teh marketing and brand awareness provided by Origin as a systems company.

Reynaers and Aluk are another two examples of systems companies with an end-user face to their business.

Systems companies create and provide literature used by its manufacturers or installers. Or they’ll provide different literature for the architect/specifier and the homeowner. The brochure the homeowner has seen will have been created in most cases by the systems company.

Some aluminium systems companies also choose to exhibit directly at building and home exhibitions. Some even carry out extensive advertising in property magazines, radio or television.

Often the role of the systems company confuses the homeowner. They are unsure as to who is actually making and selling the windows they buy. That said, proactive systems companies have an interest in making sure their brand is visible to the wider public.

Manufacturing and Technical Support

Ongoing, the aluminium systems company will be providing bar length aluminium and hardware for the manufacture of it’s products.  Additionally, it will have a dedicated technical department. Even though systems companies don’t make their products, it’s not uncommon for them to provide general support.

They’ll help with designs, manufacturing, installer training. They’ll also at times assist on specialist or more demanding projects.

aluminium systems companies

Aluminium systems companies provide site support

It is common for the systems company to present itself when things go wrong.  A homeowner may have a problem with a finished product however, there may be issues the manufacturer or installer can’t resolve.

In order to resolve these issues, aluminium systems companies may get involved directly. As the designer of the product, some will work with all parties and helping seek a solution.

Summary

In most cases, the average trade buyer or homeowner, won’t work directly with a systems company, but their presence is evident throughout the research and buying processes.

We’ve explored many of the major doors and windows products and you can read more about these in our expert and detailed product reviews. It’s in these reviews, you also see an aluminium systems company mentioned. We’ve also created buying guides helping readers understand brands. You can get in touch for more details about where to buy doors and windows near you and details of manufacturers and installers for homeowners and the trade.

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