chaz1If you’re looking for evidence of new life in the UK economy, the industrial door and loading bay equipment market has picked up in 2010.

Alan Jenkins, Commercial Director at market leading company Hörmann UK Ltd certainly thinks so. He says order intake for both Hormann’s industrial and domestic markets dropped off quite significantly over the last two quarters of 2009. However this has completely changed in the first two quarters of this year, more noticeably in the last quarter.

“Our domestic orders have risen dramatically across all sectors, including house builders, and in the private sector, with purchases of high value garage doors and front doors showing good growth. Similarly with Industrial, tender levels have improved, resulting in increased orders, although these orders take longer to be converted into invoices. Even one of the larger commercial property developers was talking about producing ‘spec’ build sheds again soon.

“All in all it would seem quite promising, however there is a growing trend among some 3PL’s to source loading bay equipment to accommodate double deck trailer loading and unloading, in particular those trailers that have fixed beds. Similarly logistics companies are becoming much more involved as to the specification and quality of loading bay products and systems. Therefore manufacturers of doors and equipment must be more versatile in accommodating their requirements.”

Greater versatility is a good thing, surely. But has the recession also meant door companies have taken up ‘cost-engineering’ in a bid to build margins? Not the Hörmann group, according to Alan Jenkins: “The Hormann Group constantly strives to improve its production facilities without compromising on the quality of the product. Our aim is to ensure that our clients get the very best quality and safest products on the market without having to pay exorbitant prices for them and in doing so hopefully raising the minimum threshold that other manufacturers have to achieve.”

Alan Hirst, Sales Director at Union Industries, says business at Union is really good and has increased month on month over the last six months: “Despite some industries still experiencing difficult times, many companies will always buy good quality, reliable products and are willing to pay a premium price for having the best doors. This makes more sense in the long term.”

Union have received orders for several multiple-door projects over the last few months, including Co-op Retail Logistics for their new DC in Scotland, Henderson Group in Belfast, and also several orders for multiple doors for various Tesco Distribution Centres around the UK.

“Customers are coming back to us with repeat business due to the reliability of our doors. Over 65% of our business is repeat orders from existing customers. We are also seeing lately that customers are ordering two or more different types of doors from our range.

Union’s customers have recognised that it makes sense to standardise with our doors for all their rapid roll door requirements, rather than having different doors on site from various suppliers. We are keeping a close eye on several projects where we are confident we will receive the orders for the doors. Consequently, we expect business to continue to increase over the coming months.”

Talking about the loading bay overall, which includes doors and curtains, Jon Tridgell, President of the Association of Loading and Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM) is cautiously optimistic:

“It’s tough out there. ALEM members have reported a decline in enquiries relating to new warehouse loading bay fit outs and those available for tender have been very fiercely fought over with prospective clients knowing there are deals to be had, as companies fight to recover from poor yields during 2009.  However, the positive outcome is that innovation in the industry is very buoyant, as members seek to offer new ideas to set them apart and stimulate a broader buying criteria with clients”.

It’s a brighter picture all round according to Andrew Georgiou, General Manager, Loading Bay Division at Stertil Stokvis, an ALEM member company: “We had a record year in 2009, with invoiced sales of new equipment 5% up on 2008. We seem to have bucked the trend by sticking to our principles on value for money, reduced lifetime costs and reliable equipment.”

And Andrew reckons the future looks pretty hopeful too:

“We’ve seen a steady flow of new enquiries during 2010 for new build projects with many suppliers competing fiercely for this possible business, particularly larger contracts involving 20 or more bays. Some suppliers seem to be stacking high and selling cheap thereby reducing product quality to maintain margins. However, many customers are frustrated with this short term view, realising that, in the end, they will pay the price. By contrast, Stertil Stokvis is still committed to supplying long-term operational solutions for both existing and new customers. Our current level of enquiries is holding up well, and it’s gratifying that many of these are from companies interested in buying quality equipment rather than cheap products. We encourage customers to consider the lifetime costs over, say, a 10-year period. Stertil Stokvis is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year by giving away an LCD TV every month, and we’re proud to have supplied equipment over 25 years ago that is still operating efficiently in demanding applications.”

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