This article was originally published in Windows Active Magazine, July - August 2020 issue.
Justin Hunter joined AluK as Managing Director in May, just at the point that the industry was returning to work. He talked to Windows Active about the challenge which the whole industry now faces and what customers can expect from him and from AluK.
I don’t think there is any doubt that, in the months ahead, things are going to be even tougher for fabricators, the majority of which are still SMEs, than they are for systems companies, which in most cases have global financial backing. We will very rightly be judged then on how we step up to support our customers in this moment of crisis.
I’m proud of what AluK’s operations team has already done to ensure continuity of supply and on our quick response in terms of delivering a package of support across sales, marketing and health and safety.
However, the hard work is only just starting. Lots of fabricators are experiencing a surge in demand at the very point when their cashflow has probably never been under such pressure, and before they have even thought about the prospect of having to repay the loans that they may have taken out to survive the lockdown.
The priority for many will be to steady their businesses, and to do that, they will need suppliers who are willing and able to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, be part of the team, and provide the kinds of reliable outcomes which they will need.
Some fabricators, particularly those who are relatively new to aluminium, may have only ever functioned during periods of growth. If the market toughens and revenues flatline or indeed fall then this will present them with new challenges. In which case the support and experience of suppliers like AluK to help them navigate a path through this will be crucial.
Since joining, I have been working with the whole AluK team to identify four key areas where I think we will be able to make a real difference.
The first is efficiency. Quite rightly, fabricators don’t want to tie up their cash in stock so the fact that they can rely on us for fast, on time deliveries will be a financial as well as an operational benefit. AluK is an extremely well managed group and we have continued to pay all of our suppliers on time throughout the shutdown. That has enabled us to guarantee continuity of our own supply so that we can concentrate on product and service delivery to customers.
The second is experience. Along with most of the senior team at AluK, I have been in this industry for many years and I have personally experienced two recessions before. We will certainly be bringing all of our collective skills and knowledge to help and advise customers operating right across the trade and commercial sectors.
The third is resources. As I’ve already said, we are part of a well-funded, global group which has been unstinting in its support of the UK business. That is what enabled us to keep all our support departments operating throughout the shutdown, and I know from the feedback we are now getting that our sales and marketing teams in particular made a real difference communicating with and helping customers. We will continue to invest in support and in product innovation, and customers can expect to see us targeting our resources in areas which we think will make the biggest impact.
Finally, it is dynamism. As has been confirmed to me since I joined, AluK does things differently to other aluminium systems houses. We have real USPs when it comes to service levels, response times and customer experience and we have a youthful, positive attitude which makes us willing to try new things.
Ultimately, we put the customer at the heart of what we do and AluK stands or falls on the strength of the partnerships we build. I know that when we look back at this period, however it unfolds post Covid 19, we will see that it was teamwork which really mattered.