Quality and quantity don’t have to be mutually exclusive in manufacturing, as GL Joinery Ltd can attest. The staircase specialist, based in Middlesbrough, UK, has increased its turnover by 30% in 12 months by modernising the way it creates staircases with Staircon by Elecosoft. Digitising design and automating the production process has enabled GL Joinery to turn around customer projects much quicker. At the same time, the company can now offer new, intricate design features to attract high value commissions. The next step in GL Joinery’s ambitious growth plan is to upgrade to a 5-axis CNC machine, and to introduce a ‘design your own staircase’ function to its website, powered by Staircon software.
Making sure production keeps pace with demand
GL Joinery Ltd has been designing and manufacturing stairs for over 20 years, for a broad-ranging customer base including building and development companies, local authorities and individual homeowners. In 2019, the company decided to scale operations and create new revenue streams, by updating its machinery and core processes. The critical first step was to invest in a new 3-axis CNC machine from Felder UK and Staircon stair design and production software. It took just four months from the initial conversations with Elecosoft and Felder to the CAM software and machine being deployed and production starting, with only two days required on-site for implementation, testing, and to fully train the team. During the implementation period, GL Joinery was able to use the CAD tools within Staircon to produce drawings and production details.
“Prior to using Staircon, everything was designed by hand,” explains GL Joinery’s CEO, Gary Lamming. “And even then, we need to buy-in more complicated staircases. “Now we can do everything in-house, from straightforward jobs to spiral staircases, glass staircases and floating staircases. And the turnaround time is much quicker; before Staircon we were fitting around 3-4 staircases per week. Now we’re fitting 15. We can finally keep pace with demand!”
Speeding up the design and manufacturing process
One key reason for GL Joinery’s increased capacity is the rate at which Gary and his team can design staircases. Rather than taking 3-5 hours to draw each staircase by hand, Staircon can plan designs in 2D or visualise them in 3D in just 20 minutes – providing an immediate, clear view of what the finished product will look like.
“Customers are always impressed with our set-up,” Gary shares. “They can come into the workshop and see our CNC machinery, and then look at the visualisations we’ve created using Staircon. Many of them make the decision to move ahead with us straight away.”
Production processes are also much quicker with Staircon. It now takes one day to cut out and make an oak staircase; more than a week less than the previous average turnaround time.
“For a straightforward job like a loft conversion, I can measure up on a Tuesday and have the finished staircase delivered to the customer on Friday,” Gary shares. “It’s completely changed our scale of production.”
Keeping waste materials to an absolute minimum
In addition to being much quicker, Staircon makes production more resourceful. The software generates technical drawings that give the team the exact quantity of wood needed to create the correct number of lengths and treads required for each staircase, limiting material waste.
“We utilise every bit of timber that we’ve got,” Gary explains. GL Joinery automatically calculates the price of each job using accurate data on material requirements. Customer quotes can be generated in real-time, pulling database information on the cost of materials and labour costs. “Every day we learn something new that Staircon can do to make our life easier,” adds Gary. “The software is so easy to use and has quickly become essential to our business.”
One reason that Staircon has become a cornerstone of GL Joinery’s operation is the close relationship between both companies. Any CAD/CAM enquiries can be managed remotely by Staircon from its UK customer support base, to keep GL Joinery running at full flight.
“We’re now making staircases for other companies that haven’t got the technology to manufacture intricate designs,” Gary advises. “We’ve gone from outsourcing certain jobs to becoming a supplier!”
Success in numbers: the impact of Staircon
- Increased capacity: GL Joinery can now turn around 15 staircase orders per week; a 275% increase on previous capacity
- Quicker design: it takes 20 minutes to design a staircase instead of 3-5 hours, with options for 2D or 3D visualisation
- Faster production: the average time to cut out and make an oak staircase has been reduced from eight days to less than one day
- Rapid expansion: turnover has increased by 30% in 12 months, while Staircon’s speed and scalability has enabled GL Joinery to step up production, moving to a bigger premises and opening a new trade counter
“The quality of the products we’re producing speaks for itself,” Gary notes. “We don’t do any advertising. All our new business is through word of mouth from existing customers, and we have positive feedback every single day. We get three referrals for every job that we do.”
The only way is up
After taking such a huge leap forward in its business operations in 2020, GL Joinery is keen to maintain the pace of improvement in 2021. The company has ordered a 5-axis CNC machine to facilitate new design features such as curved handrails. It also recently welcomed a talented machinist and plans to make further staffing investments.
Additionally, GL Joinery aims to integrate Staircon into its website, to launch a ‘design your own staircase’ service. “We want to put the power into customers’ hands,” Gary concludes.
Once customers have perfected their online design, Staircon software will generate a production drawing and price to complete their online. The manufacturing team will then cut out and ship all components for assembly on-site; another revenue stream to add to the tidal wave of opportunities that Staircon is creating for GL Joinery.
GL Joinery Ltd
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