Clearview National April 2017 - Issue 185 - Page 62

PROUD SPONSOR OF DOORS & WINDOWS DOORS&WINDOWS Irish Ambitions Door and window fabricator Apeer recently opened up its factory in Northern Ireland to the trade press - and showed visitors the Belfast peace wall and the Titanic Belfast tourist attraction. Steve Sidebottom and Helen Williams of Pro Installer, Clearview Group’s trade counter newspaper, went along… » » WE WERE SAYING OUR prayers as we careered sideways into Belfast City Airport on route for the Apeer factory in Ballymena. Storm Doris was battering the country with 90mph winds and giving our plane a good rattling. Thankfully, our Irish friends were on hand to calm our nerves with a giant Ulster breakfast and a whistle-stop tour. We were overlooking the iconic yellow cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where enormous investment is happening in the shape of the Titanic Belfast tourist attraction. Apeer - the family business founded by Austin McGillian - is also investing, innovating and growing. It manufactures and supplies PVCu door panels, GRP external composite doors, fire doors, decorative glass units and commercial glass. An ambitious company, it aims to boost market share across England and the Republic of Ireland. The business plans to grow three times its size in a four- y ear period and has come a long way since the 1990s, when staff were using sledgehammers to test the endurance of PVCu panels. Managing director (and Austin’s son) Asa McGillian recalled: “We made 1,400 panels a week but the death of the PVCu panel was predicted and we saw a steady decline. We have, however, retained all our PVCu panel staff.” Staff repay the favour as many have stayed with the company for 15 to 20 years. The business launched doors in 2003 and came up with products such as the ISOLATE fire door. Asa said: “Hardly anyone was doing composite doors when we were investing. We grew year after year and introduced multiple products along the way.” Austin and Asa decided to design their own composite door including its GRP skin, adding in as many unique selling points as possible. They have always targeted the top end of the market but the financial crash in 2008 made them realise they also needed to include a more ‘cost conscious’ offering, so they introduced the Diamond range of composite doors. Other products have been exceptionally successful such as the Modo range of modern doors with stainless steel glazing trims and the popular stable door. But Apeer’s major triumph is Lumi. This is a ground-breaking range of customisable, matching frameless windows and bi-folding, patio and residential doors. The secret to Lumi’s aesthetics, performance and strength is the triple glazed units that are bonded 62 » A PR 2017 » CL EARVI E W- UK . C O M to an internal core of high– strength glass reinforced plastic (GRP) frames, the external pane of which offers uninterrupted, edge-to-edge glazing. The system is a radical new approach for residential windows and doors. It was not all plain sailing developing it. Asa said: “One colleague said the first sample looked like a microwave oven. But we stuck to our belief, made a capital investment and launched it to universal acclaim at Grand Designs in 2015. “We now want to show that Lumi is a replacement window and not only for new build, self- build and extend and renovate. It is of course a high-end replacement but there is a real appetite out there to modernise houses. Lumi can bring a ‘wall of light’ to any structure and people are amazed when they find it was a company in Ballymena that brought this product to market. They think it must be from Scandinavia.” Asa added: “Now we need to communicate the ease of installation for Lumi and how it can add value to a house. The FIT Show this year will be all about getting more installers in our network.” Apeer is also bringing in three new door designs this year, revamping its door furniture offering and its Door Builder software so customers can order online more easily. Asa added: “We want to be a super fabricator on our own terms with our own products.” ILLUMINATING VISIT Steve Sidebottom, Director of Clearview Group, said: “The recent trip to Apeer was both illuminating and interesting. The Northern Irish welcome and hospitality was excellent. “It’s clear to see why this company is achieving excellent results and poised for significant growth when you consider the people who work there. “The senior management team boasts years of service, experience and dedication, and Asa the MD is supplying creativity and innovation matched by investment in current and future products. But the key ingredient for me is the passion shown for the company, its products and for future growth from every single person I engaged in conversation. Clearly, all the ingredients are there for continued success.”