The Aluminum Composite Material or ACM industry has become very competitive both in the US and Canada over the past 15 years. We can likely attribute this to the large influx of new fabricators now on the scene. The law of averages dictates that with the increase in fabricator base we are also likely to see a number of companies who in an effort to win jobs, will attempt to deplete margins and further commoditize a great product like ACM.
The abundance of supply options in the exterior cladding market is not what I view as being the culprit, as healthy competition should be seen as good thing. The depletion of profit in most composite panel projects can be directly linked to poorly written specifications and a lack of system understanding allowing unproven, untested assemblies to find their way onto job sites as alternate designs across North America. Simply put, if you have invested nothing in your facility, equipment and design you will likely sell it for nothing as well!
There are three components to profitability in composite manufacturing:
- Acquisition of raw materials used in manufacturing
- In-house labor for fabrication of ACM panel systems
- Job site installation
If you take these three areas and address them individually, we feel we can help you find a solution for each of them.
Acquisition of Raw Material
Sourcing your aluminum composite ACM plank from a domestically based manufacturer rather than off shore will greatly reduce lead times on project specific requirements. More often than not the pennies you may save on the front end, you’ll pay for on the back with quality and warranty issues. Purchasing your tested ACM panel extrusion and components through a qualified system designer, who warehouses and distributes nationally, will increase cash flow by allowing you to no longer have to factor long extrusion mill lead times, into your purchasing time lines. This means you don't have to bring in raw materials until you're actually ready to fabricate panels. Additionally, you will experience a component cost savings through the distributor’s bulk purchases.
In-house Labor and Fabrication
There are superior system designs that are available to you such as the Fusion “Drill Free” and EVO “Rivetless” Panel Systems that greatly speed up panel manufacturing through patent innovative extrusion designs, cutting shop labor by up to 40%. All of this is made possible without sacrificing a quality product through the use of inferior assembly methods such as unsightly self-drilling screws or costly adhesives and tapes.
- Design a Building Using CADdetails: Access design files including cad drawings, specifications, videos and related documents. The CADdetails program is developed specifically for design professionals with the goal of getting manufacturer-specific product information into their working plans.
Job Site Installation
Having your own in-house, qualified and trained installation teams who are well versed and familiar with a quality progressive system will greatly increase your ability to be efficient on the job site. Additionally, the use of pre-cut and pre punched connection clips will allow you to facilitate prepping panels with ease and greatly speed up installation while allowing installers the flexibility of adjusting panels for plum and level while fastening.
Another smart choice is to utilize a fully progressive system that can be installed top to bottom, bottom to top and left to right or right to left, while still allowing removal of a single panel should one become damaged. Steer clear of the often used and cumbersome track style systems, that requires full layout of elevations in order to begin panel installation. They are simply not user friendly and out dated.
I am confident that if you focus on the three areas listed, and the things that are within your control, rather than the model of high volume and low margins, then ultimately you will be successful in putting profits back into your ACM wall panel business. And more importantly afford yourself the option of choosing the type of projects that are a good fit for you and your company. You may even experience a change in the quality of projects offered to you, and general contractors who prefer to work with you.
In summary, it is typically the things that are right in front of us that can make the biggest difference in our day to day routines, lead times on raw materials, smart lean manufacturing and ease of job site installation. Focus on improving in these key areas and you will become profitable, and likely develop happier and healthier employees as a result!