Composite door sales have continued to grow – and with them the pressures on production with many fabricators facing rising costs as a result. There is another way, says Distinction Doors’ Gareth Williams.

Traditionally, the fabrication of composite residential doors has brought with it a host of advantages, including control over the throughput and order-to-fulfilment cycles, customisation options, quality of the doors and of course, price.

However, any manufacturing process is inevitably expensive. And despite composite residential door sales remaining stable and even showing growth as sales of other home improvement fenestration products have fluctuated, competition has inevitably eroded prices and margins in the composite door market. A commitment to manufacturing requires enormous investment and resources, causing many fabricators to question if they can continue. But despite sometimes overwhelming evidence, it can be an enormous wrench for factory owners to look for alternatives.

The obvious path for fabricators is to buy in prepped doors. And despite clear evidence of the economic advantages of doing so, the decision to convert to prepped slabs is a tough one for many to take for fear of losing control over the production processes. They need not worry, says Distinction Doors’ Managing Director Gareth Williams: “As the UK’s largest supplier of composite doors and having been instrumental in the development of the market, Distinction has worked closely with fabricators and we believe we have a clear insight to the pressures many are facing, which can include staff resources, factory space and of course, reinvestment in new machinery.

“That is why, in response to the requests by many fabricator customers, we introduced a prepping service within which we rout, trim and edgeband, paint and glaze slabs and deliver them ready for the addition of hardware and dropping into a frame. In other words, removing the most costly and intensive parts of the process.”

But, says Gareth, what started as a relatively low key customer back-up for a handful of fabricators, now represents 40% of Distinction’s sales by value: “The costs of stockholding, premises, capital investment in ever more complex machinery, added to overheads such as skilled staff, are conspiring against fabricators and not just smaller operations,” asserts Gareth. “And such has been the demand that around two years ago we took the decision to invest to create a further, advanced door prepping production facility.

“We were determined to offer a facility that would match, or better still improve on the quality our customers could offer through their own factories, as well as an enormous range of customisations such as styles, sizes and colours; and with dependable deliveries too. That infrastructure has been operational for some time and we continue to add to it, for example with the addition of two further CNC machines early in 2020.

“Originally we did this to support existing volume blank customers and we had to get this right. And now we are attracting increasing numbers of new customers who appreciate the commitment we have made to producing large volumes of prepped slabs, matched with a huge range of glazed cassettes and custom painted: and delivered within competitive lead times.”

The die is now cast however and, even when the market improves, it is unlikely that, once door fabricators have switched to a prepped service, they will ever switch back: “We now handle volumes that enable us to continually invest in our facilities and offer an every improving service and at competitive prices too,” said Gareth. “Of course, we continue to supply large numbers of blanks to highly successful fabricators and that will continue. But prepped doors is now a very substantial part of the market and that will continue to grow.”

With Distinction accounting for 1 in 4 composite doors installed in the UK, including those manufactured using blanks supplied by the company in addition to prepped slabs, Distinction continues to dominate the sector. But the company does so with a keen eye on answering the needs of and promoting the wellbeing the industry that it helped to create just over 20 years ago.