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5 January, 2022

With most installers’ order books full for the next few months, they should be looking forward to 2022 with a spring in their step. Instead, according to Russell Yates, Managing Director of leading aluminium trade fabricator AluFold Direct, the reality for many is an ongoing struggle with supply chain delays and very real issues when it comes to cash flow.

That’s because so many have had to place orders months in advance to try to mitigate long and unpredictable lead times from their suppliers; filling their lockups and storage depots to capacity and tying up hard earned cash in the process.

Russell explained: “On most bigger jobs, installers have to coordinate separate deliveries of PVC-U, glass, composite doors, and aluminium products. They can’t schedule installations until they know that all those elements are available and, ultimately, they can’t get paid for a job until it is fully installed and completed.

“Installers that we are speaking to tell us that they’re delaying placing orders as long as they can to try to conserve space and cash, but also trying to factor into their 2022 quotes the fact that there will almost inevitably be price rises before those orders are delivered.

“It’s a huge dilemma for the trade, which I’m not sure that rival fabricators in both PVC-U and aluminium, who are pushing the narrative that installers should be happy to work around 6-8 week lead times, entirely understand or appreciate. As I see it, the supplier has to accept that the onus is on them to reduce lead times and offer better assurances and clearer communication to their customers, rather than expecting the installer to carry the risk and the financial burden.

“Certainly, at AluFold Direct, the huge investments we’ve made in processes and automation over the past year have largely been focused around being able to guarantee lead times of just two weeks on all our windows, patios and bi-folds, no matter how big the demand is. Industry wide supply chain issues at the moment mean we’re currently closer to three or four weeks, but even that means we’re picking up new business from installers for whom those extra couple of weeks’ breathing space before they have to put their orders in are proving invaluable.

“There is an irony of course to the fact that it is aluminium products which are now amongst the easiest to source from big, efficient fabricators like us, while glass and composite doors are now often the biggest bottlenecks.

“The best advice I can offer to installers who are facing a difficult New Year struggling with supply is to think a bit more strategically about the order in which they buy, and choose materials, products and suppliers that offer a greater degree of certainty and peace of mind.”

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