Paul Hetherington, managing director of Alumasc Rainwater and Harmer Drainage.

Short lead times lengthen profits

Published:  03 January, 2014

Alumasc Rainwater and Drainage has more to offer merchants than ever before. Managing director Paul Hetherington explains why.

Despite the economic downturn, it’s been a busy few years for Alumasc Rainwater & Harmer Drainage. The company manufactures a wide range of drainage products for the UK market and has spent the last several years strengthening its business offering by improving its customer service, slashing lead times and expanding its product portfolio.

The result is a company that’s in great shape, with an increased market share and more merchant customers. Paul Hetherington joined the company as managing director back in 2010 and immediately spent time talking to customers about their experiences and how they felt about Alumasc and its products.

“They said the product quality was fantastic, with great technical backup, but our lead-time service needed to be improved,” said Mr Hetherington. “That was our biggest challenge.” As a result of the feedback, the company quickly embarked on a mission to slash its rainwater product lead times. Its most popular aluminium and cast iron rainwater systems, which previously had a two-week lead time, are now available ex-stock in three days, while Alumasc can offer bespoke items in two weeks instead of five.

Alumasc has also invested heavily to improve its ‘on time, in full’ delivery statistics, which had on some occasions been down to 60%, and are now consistently above 97%. “It’s important that we make sure we do what we say we can,” Mr Hetherington explained. “That’s probably been the biggest cultural change – we’ve had maybe one month in the last 18 where we’ve been below 97% on time in full.”

The company also has a costed service available for next-day delivery on certain products in case they are required urgently. This flexibility is something that Alumasc has been keen to offer its customers, and merchants themselves have welcomed. “The number of merchants to stock these products has gone up significantly over the last two or three years,” said Mr Hetherington.

This simplicity means being able to work with one supplier for as many products as possible, something which Alumasc has again been keen to offer, adding steel products to its rainwater range alongside the existing aluminium and cast iron systems. “Even some merchants that we weren’t dealing with at all joined us once we added steel products, saying that it made things so much easier.”


Growing a product range

The biggest product development was carried out under the Harmer Drainage brand. Harmer deals with specialist roof, shower and floor drains, as well as cast-iron waste pipes, focusing on specific projects. “We looked at roof outlets and found that we were perceived as the market leader in roof outlets but we only offered aluminium products, whereas cast iron, stainless steel and some other materials were also in use,” explained Mr Hetherington.

“So we introduced these products and we now have the biggest range of cast iron, stainless steel drains and plastic moduloc systems. We were the market leader in roofs already, so you’d wonder how much more we were going to increase, but our sales have gone up by about 35%. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

To complement all these new products, Alumasc also launched its Rainwater and Drainage Calculator, which enables architects and specifiers to build roof drainage systems which are automatically compliant to BS EN 12056:2000.

The calculator works for foul drainage, internal and external rainwater drainage and flat roof drainage, taking the user methodically through the necessary stages to build the correct size and type of system required, based on project information supplied by the user. It will then provide schematics and data on exactly what products are necessary for a successful system.

“It’s a really helpful design calculator that takes someone’s work to size all the rainwater drainage from three or four hours down to 25 minutes,” said Mr Hetherington. “We’ve had well over 4,000 downloads since it launched, and 98% of the people who we have since surveyed who used it said they would recommend it to a friend. It’s been phenomenally helpful for us.”

Initially available only on a PC, Alumasc has since launched versions compatible with the iPad, which can be downloaded through iTunes as well. “The huge benefit of having an App- or PC-based calculator when designing a system is that it shortcuts the whole design process,” said Mr Hetherington. “People aren’t going to reach up and go through a myriad of different brochures. It’s working really well.”

All this innovation and product development has enabled Alumasc to weather the storm of the recession, despite a market sector that has struggled. “We’ve done pretty well,” added Mr Hetherington.

“I think in a flat market the only way you can take market share is by doing things better. It’s about service, innovation, talking with and listening to customers. You can only go so far with making production more efficient so, for me, our first, second and third words are innovation, because that’s really everything we’re looking at. Whether it’s in the product or service, it’s bringing things to market that the customers want to buy.”


This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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