Aluminium systems companies play a crucial role in the supply of aluminium windows and doors. They also play a crucial role in helping 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, we explain some of many activities of a systems house.
The role of aluminium systems companies
To illustrate the role of aluminium systems companies means also understanding the sectors they serve. Furthermore, the products available vary substantially.
There are many systems companies in the UK serving either the residential and commercial sectors or both.
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.
A Systems Company brings the window product to market
The Systems Company sits at the top tier in the supply chain of aluminium windows. Some are either independent and privately owned businesses, such as Comar Architectural Aluminium Systems. Alternatively they may be part of global or large groups of companies.
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.
Design and testing
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 a new aluminium windows,, the systems company works with other manufacturers or suppliers. Componentns 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.
The company will also work on creating detailed fabrication, technical and installation manuals. There is substantial work involved in keeping these updated during the life of the product.
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.
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.
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.
Sales and Specification Sales
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.
Brand awareness and Marketing
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 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.
The ATS website works with the trade, manufacturers, systems companies and the wider supply chain. Every one of our expert and detailed product reviews mentions aluminium systems companies. We also explain the role of these via our substantial trade and consumer enquires. We’ve also created buying guides helping readers understand brands.