Aluminium suppliers, there are hundreds (if not more). What does it take to be the best of the best? Product and service excellence!
Aluminium suppliers will first listen to the vision of their clients and should be able to, using their knowledge of the qualities of aluminium, add to the practical details required in making it become a reality. For example, you’ve just bought a chic loft in the city centre and you’re looking to have it remodelled as a bespoke jewellery showroom for private client appointments. Or, you are remodelling your grandmother’s traditional style home on the West Coast and want to marry its quaint heritage with contemporary chic.
Using custom aluminium, any architectural design will win an upmarket makeover on an affordable budget simply through close attention to personalized details within the buildings design integrity. Architects today love using aluminium solutions in their architectural designs due to its affordability, flexibility, and its non-toxic, inflammable, non-magnetic, non-sparking and contemporary properties.
If you’re in the market for utilizing aluminium supplies in your next building project, whether it is for the spectacular majesty of oversized sliding doors and windows with a modern, maintenance-free edge or a custom design for a bespoke renovation or restoration, then ensure you choose to work with only the most experienced and quality assured aluminium supplier available.
Undoubtedly, having a clear idea of the look and feel you wish to recreate will go a long way in finding an aluminium supplier to match you. The moment you choose them, suppliers become a core part of your business or project. The relationship you develop is either going to contribute towards achieving your vision or detract from it.
Checklist for selecting the best aluminium suppliers
Not sure how to choose the best aluminium supplier for your next special building project?
Use the checklist below to find out the type of questions you should be asking each aluminium supplier to better understand their inherent knowledge of the industry and their service reputation when doing business.
A service and reputational match
The quality of the project is solely reliant on the workmanship and products the aluminium supplier provides. If the material is not of a high standard, it could buckle and bend and cause major safety concerns. If the workmanship is shoddy, the product may not be as reliable and durable as promised. So how do you check if they are trustworthy?
Longevity in the market place is a sure way to ascertain how long an aluminium supplier has been in business, however, in reality, any company is only as good as its last job. That is especially true for the service and aluminium supplies industry which is built on customer relationships and business reputation.
Your first step should be to ask for their mission statement upfront and the aluminium supplier will know you mean business.
Your next step is to always request to see a portfolio of past aluminium building projects. Consider if the company’s aluminium services match the types of project they are experienced in delivering and if their skills and craftsmanship, are matched to meeting all aspects of the building process required for your project. You can also ask them to provide you with three of their most recent clients which you can call directly for a personal referral. Find out if the client would use them again for future projects, what the timing on the job delivery was; and if their staff were prompt, polite and attentive to delivering quality throughout the full job specifications.
Last but not least, your next step will be to discover if the aluminium supplier is to be trusted. Social media works as a referral platform and if the aluminium supplier has been doing bad business, there will be some mention of it online. In the same vein, check that the aluminium supplier has a website and a marketing arm which celebrates its successes and is proud to display its customer recommendations and referrals online.
Quality of Aluminium Products
If you do not fully specify the type of quality and strength you are looking for then a professional aluminium supplier should be able to inform you of the correct product to use, coupled with industry-aligned costings. A reputable supplier will always use a good quality aluminium solution and correct specification of aluminium applications, for example, the casement thickness required on aluminium windows and sliding doors. Bear in mind that casement thickness will also depend on the window’s application.
Quality products and workmanship on the job will ensure that windows, for example, offer adequate weather sealing, effortless opening action and an aluminium solution that can withstand the weight of the glass application whether it is a top or side hung window or even a pivot door manufactured to open both inward or outward, or in both directions while pivoting on an axis point.
Be aware that there is no standard grading for aluminium solutions. The pricing will depend entirely on the quality of the product that you want to install.
Aluminium suppliers that change their prices
If aluminium suppliers unexpectedly increase their costs, the architect can’t pass this on to their client. They have most likely signed an agreement with the client and agreed on the price. This means that the architect will need to fork this money out of their own pocket. The risk of this being passed to the client is too high as they will become incredibly disgruntled and may even take their business elsewhere, meaning everyone loses the job. When an aluminium supplier agrees to a cost, they need to stick to it.
Often suppliers will work in a small contingency of necessary or warm architects of a possible increase in raw material costs which might influence the price. If the architect is aware of the possibility of a price increase, something can be done about it and the contract can be drawn up with this in mind. Without any foresight, it will just cause anger and frustration.
Customisation and Experience in Aluminium Solutions
An architect is, in essence, a creative individual. They design a project with care and creativity. Having a supplier that can bring these ideas to life means that they need aluminium products to be customised and not simple, boring and standard items. The beauty of aluminium is that it can be forged into any shape, and therefore the aluminium supplier should be offering you that option.
That being said, each building project is unique by its very nature and you will need to check that your customisation requirements can be met by your aluminium supplier.
Most aluminium suppliers have their own manufacturing mill for pre-fabrication services and can provide you with their process of cutting and customizing aluminium products for clients. If the aluminium supplier doesn’t have their own mill, they should have a network of preferred suppliers they choose to work with which will supply testament to the quality and output of work. These days, it is a fairly simple process of uncovering whether an aluminium supplier is working out of his garage or is an accredited industry player.
Beware customisations which might offer an opportunity for low-quality aluminium suppliers to lower their project costings. Always ensure they give you a cost estimate upfront and that the total cost of the job is market-related.
Project turnaround and deadlines for aluminium solutions
Consistently meeting deadlines is a cornerstone of a successful partnership between architect and aluminium supplier. Deadlines are essential to the product. The client has signed off on a project plan, which we know includes timelines, and the aluminium supplier is the one who can make or break this.
An aluminium supplier may be the best in the business but if internal processes and management are not coping with the workload and is juggling too many projects at one time, there is a chance you could be at the effect of bad service or a rush job.
Therefore, you need to inquire as to the timing and turnaround required for your aluminium supplies and or total aluminium solution. We have all heard the horror stories regarding building mess ups, late deadlines, unfinished jobs and absconding suppliers. Renovating or building can be stressful, may be likely to run over budget and if you decided to run with an unaccredited aluminium supplier you might find yourself in for a few unpleasant surprises regarding quality and finishes.
This may be impacted by aspects such as the number of years they have been in business, the size of their staff contingent both on the premises and work teams in the field. Check that there is a project manager on hand to guarantee a consistent quality of workmanship on site. Consider how many projects they may be juggling at one time and the scale of work required by any competing projects running concurrently.
Most importantly, check upfront if they have completed similar projects to yours in the past as discussed previously; you don’t want your custom aluminium solution to be the first project of its kind in their scope of experience.
Find out which are their most prominent or signature projects and the type of aluminium solution which featured. There can be a big difference in aluminium supplies and customisations depending on whether their projects are renovations or restoration of a historic building or a focus on supplying aluminium solutions for upmarket residential homes.
If you don’t meet deadlines, you will create a negative image of your business and cost you money.
Green Points for Environmental Responsibility aluminium suppliers
Aluminium is the third most available compound metal on earth and as much as 75% of the aluminium manufactured on the globe is still in use. This is because aluminium supplies are the most recycled products on the planet. Better yet, recycling aluminium takes just 5% of the energy required to make new aluminium.
Since we all want to be responsible citizens and live in a greener world, enquire how they meet their environmental responsibilities both at their premises and onsite. Any and all aluminium supplies are 100% recyclable. Avoid aluminium suppliers who do not follow industry protocol in meeting all green building industry standards.
Communications in delivering happy Aluminium Solutions
How passionate is the company in discussing your architectural project with you? Your first initial conversations with an aluminium supplier should be open and easy and they should be able to communicate direct answers to you.
As explained, good communication and strong business relationships are one of the main arteries in a company’s body of business. When an architect looks for a supplier, he is going out looking for a supplier that he will partly relinquish control of the project. This can be a very fruitful and productive collaboration, or it can turn into a total nightmare, which is both costly and bad for business. Good communication will help both architect and aluminium supplier build a rapport line that could see them getting the project done smoothly. It will ensure that they do not make any mistakes and lose a client, raising their company’s integrity and reputation. They can also advise architects on alternative manufacturing methods, which could be cost saving and more environmentally viable too.
Good communication also means negotiating cost and lead times that are suitable to the owner. This allows them to commit to a contract that will be beneficial to both of them, but also allow the buyer to manage their budget more economically. These are all very obvious benefits from a supplier’s perspective.
Other questions to consider are: did they seem engaged with you as a customer? Did the project manager offer any free advice or guidance regarding your project requirements so you could make an informed decision? Was it advice you felt you could trust?
Personal service and a good project manager will lead your project to success from start to finish. Communication is key in the exchange of ideas so speak to your aluminium supplier frequently and ask about their after-sales service support. You will want to create a working relationship with your aluminium supplier for the long term.
Testimonials are a great way in understanding how well an aluminium solutions company both communicates with their clients and delivers on each project as discussed earlier.
No company can guarantee a job will go seamlessly but it is how challenges are met that sets the companies passion and attention to service delivery that sets it apart. After sales service will ensure clients are happy and only happy clients deliver glowing testimonials once a job has been completed.
Choosing from the vast array of aluminium suppliers is only the beginning
Just as critical as the selection criteria and the eventual decision, or perhaps even more so, is the relationship between your business and your aluminium suppliers.
Undoubtedly, the moment you choose them, suppliers become a core part of your business. The relationship you develop is either going to contribute towards achieving the company vision or detract from it.
And so it is vital to implement a strategy that ensures uniformity at all times: this could be the difference between a lower profit margin and a higher one or even profitability and loss.
Now, global demands dictate that a reactive approach to supply is a certain recipe for doom.
However, a strategic approach puts your company in a proactive position to make things happen to your own advantage.
Apple, for example, has shown a demonstrable success model to businesses that rely on third-party aluminium suppliers in this regard, earning the well-deserved reputation as a global leader in Supply Chain Management, delivering vast quantities of products seamlessly via a strategy of long term relationships with its suppliers.
Consequently, the importance of managing effective relationships with your aluminium suppliers cannot be under-emphasized. Successful businesses establish a relationship of trust and confidence with their suppliers, leading to knowledge sharing and identification of improvement opportunities.
Listed below are 8 ways to make the relationship with your aluminium suppliers better than ever.
8 Ways to Make Your Relationships with Aluminium Suppliers Better
1: Build a formidable and strategic partnership
Your aluminium suppliers are your partners, and should not be treated as outsiders.
While this partnership can’t be compared to in-house relationships, it should reflect mutual trust and loyalty that goes beyond mere financial settlements.
Make suppliers feel as though they are a part of your business.
How to do that? The same way you would develop a relationship with any other human. The difference is that with a supplier, you would do it by design as a launch-off.
To set the tone, start by introducing them to your company’s standards, methodologies and processes, as well as innovations and promotions. This tells them who you are and what you stand for and what you expect; the same as when you would start a relationship with anyone.
- Take them for coffee, or meet them at events.
- Talk with them human to human.
- Consider supplier awards evenings.
- Celebrate with them.
The point is to make aluminium suppliers feel as if they are building something big, together with your company.
The easiest way to achieve this is to have a strategy in place to set the stage.
2: Communicate effectively
Communication is key in any relationship.
While most people know that on some level, it is not so easy to do it effectively.
Practically speaking, never assume your suppliers know or understand anything. It is better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
When communicating, take into account that everyone’s perception is based on their experiences, environment and understanding and is likely to be different to yours. Be clear and be upfront.
Good communication keeps everyone on the same wavelength. It creates a mutual understanding which wards off disagreements. Having the right tools for both internal and external teams to communicate facilitates effective rapport. Technology has made that very simple. Numerous business messaging solutions abound that makes communication well-synchronized and easily retrievable.
3: Fulfill financial obligations on time
For all of the strategic and correspondence synergy between you and your suppliers, do not delay payment. This is because the payment is a huge element of building trust, and without trust, partnerships die.
It is not only your business which is important; theirs is too. Cash flow is as vital to managing their business as it is in yours. Endeavour to consistently pay aluminium suppliers on time and as agreed.
Paying on time means you naturally become a trusted and respected customer.
Suppliers usually track payment history in their customer relationship management software and will rate you based on how well you keep to that. With a good payment history, you are likely to receive better terms or premium incentives that will improve your service delivery to customers.
If for any reason you cannot meet up with payments for some or other reason, always pre-inform them. This will ensure you don’t disrupt their plans.
4: Spell out detailed agreements
Set the foundations for the relationship right from the start. Supplier Relationship Agreements are a must for any business.
Clearly, enumerate the terms and conditions both parties are bound by. They include service description, delivery terms, payment terms etc.
Set the example by being ethical and fulfilling all obligations.
The contract can be simple or complicated depending on your business requirements.
It’s good to seek professional advice at this stage from your attorney, tax consultants and other stakeholders. A well-documented Supplier Relationship Agreement will reduce (if not eliminate) the possibility of disputes.
This keeps you on course to develop stronger and reliable long term relationships.
5: Factor in other clients
Suppliers serve your business, but they serve other clients too. Don’t forget this, and honour it.
Try giving them the benefit of the doubt when your needs aren’t timely met. This, however, does not mean you should condone an attitude of delayed response. Again, it is communication that is key: not only the spoken word but how that word is spoken.
Your company is important, but their other clients are also important. Don’t expect suppliers to drop everything to meet your needs.
Ordinarily, relationships tend to improve with time as the months and years pass by. Do expect a sustained rise in the attention and level of commitment as the relationship progresses.
6: Evaluate risks
It is in your best interest to evaluate the risks of dealing with aluminium suppliers, especially if you have a complex supply chain. Ideally, this should be done before any contracts are signed. Know what to look for.
References, previous work examples, business experience, areas of expertise, crisis management etc. are some of the pointers to guide your decision.
Price competitiveness, capacity to deal with your orders and financial stability are some of the other areas of concern here. Carefully weigh in your risks so that your supply chain is not jeopardized.
Operational risks exist and things do go wrong.
Be in tandem with your supplier by identifying risks at all levels of operations. This way, you can reduce the risks and anticipate dealing with any emergencies when they arise. Subsequently, interruptions to your business will be minimized and delivery to your customers will not be affected.
7: Simplify relationships with technology
Communication is not the only area where technology is useful.
Some SRMs are embedded with features such as purchase order management and even manufacturing process solutions.
8: Review performance regularly
Always review the performance of aluminium suppliers periodically to ascertain they are delivering on their service and that agreed standards are met.
In fact, this should be part of your initial new supplier onboarding approach.
Performance reviews provide the true picture of your set goals and lets you chart out ideas and strategies to continually improve your supply chain process.
The tips above will enhance your business relationship with suppliers and boost overall business efficiency.
How you can benefit from quality aluminium suppliers
Inso Architectural Solutions remains one of the largest and fastest growing independent, custom manufacturers of aluminium windows and doors in Africa.
The Company has been servicing the upper-end residential, light industrial and commercial markets since opening for business in 2000. Inso Architectural Solutions operations and services extend throughout South Africa as well as into numerous African countries.
Inso custom designs, manufactures and installs aluminium windows and doors, framed and frameless showers, frameless glass doors, partitions and balustrades, shopfronts and a host of other products specified by both architects and owners, ensuring that they meet your required aesthetic and functional specifications.
Inso offers Inso Aluminium – Inso Frameless – Inso Renew and Inso Interiors, with each of these divisions offering solutions to the residential, commercial and industrial market sectors.
Inso has two separate factories producing aluminium products, one in Kyasand, Randburg and the other in Germiston as well as a factory specialising in the manufacture of Double Glazed Glass.
The Inso team maintain a personal relationship with all their clients and strive to make sure that their projects are as important to them as it is to you. Each and every client is treated with the highest level of professionalism and personal attention by one of their numerous Project Consultants.
Business integrity plays a huge role. Whether the company is involved in designing, manufacturing and installing aluminium solutions themselves, or uses an industry recognised supplier, they will need to meet all aspects of customised architectural designs including thermal, structural and mechanical requirements.
Any accredited industry aluminium supplier should be able to anticipate and respond to any potential issues which may arise from your building’s design and he can offer you a variety of custom design options that will still keep you within your budget.
More so, businesses should prioritize the aluminium supplier relationship. A weak supply chain threatens the success of the business and improving such relationships is expedient.
Aluminium is renown as the safest, and “greenest” building materials on the market today. Just like you wouldn’t take your mother’s heirloom diamond ring for a redesign at just any goldsmith, so you wouldn’t want just any supplier doing a botch job on your next architectural design project.
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