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Revolution at Louvolite

Louvolite’s Steve Birtles explains how the company retains its market-leading position.


Looking in the now all too familiar thesaurus that we have on our computer menu list, I note that the alternatives offered for the word ‘revolution’ are ‘rebellion’ and ‘transformation’.  Well there is certainly not a rebellion at Louvolite, and while I would class the word ‘transformation’ as a little mild, it is much nearer the mark.

Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing principles are typically found where large organisations dictate supply terms and delivery times to their many smaller supply companies. This reduces the levels of stock held and eradicates the risk of holding the wrong stock to meet sales. It allows space to be maximised against production requirements rather than being used to hold large quantities of stock in the hope someone may place a corresponding order. In addition, this also enables the large company to use cash flow to support other activities within their company rather than having their cash tied up in stock.

Twenty-four years ago, Louvolite turned the industry upside down by adopting a reversal of this strategy to support its new and extensive fabric collection. The collection was extensive and while Louvolite recognised that it was what its customers and the market needed, it believed the pressure it would put on customers to stockhold was too great. So Louvolite reversed the JIT principle and introduced the cut length fabric facility that is taken for granted today.

The benefit of the cut length facility for all of Louvolite fabric products is still absolutely clear for all to see today, however challenges still exist in the fight to provide the consumer with a product offering that enhances their living space and allows the uniqueness for which we all search.

Window blind hardware programmes continue to develop with a huge variety of aluminium profiles being designed to improve the appearance of the product, in addition to allowing improved manufacturing efficiency and ease of installation – the Louvolite Open Cassette programme is an ideal illustration of this.

Products such as vertical louvre blinds are now offered in a myriad of colours and hardware finishes to better satisfy the desire for a more sophisticated appearance in those areas where colour and style are important. This is all well and good for a systems designer and supplier such as Louvolite, but again such improvements in products inevitably poses questions to blind manufacturers regarding their ability to house the extra stocks, let alone finance them. As an example, Louvolite actually offers 90 extrusions to support its various programmes; it would be nigh on impossible for a blind manufacturer to support the need for this depth of range.

It’s all well and good enhancing product offerings and taking the systems that are key to the industry forward aesthetically and dynamically and introducing new programmes that provide new attractive options to the consumer, but as these new items require increased stockholding and impact on cash flow, it sometimes results in blind making companies not taking new product offerings due to the additional strain on the business. That said, the need to improve products and make the offer to the consumer more special and unique is also growing and the success of products such as the Louvolite Vision programme provide positive proof that such additional products such as this are absolutely right for the market and also expand sales opportunities for the industry as a whole. So, ‘Catch 22’!

Louvolite recognises that, once again, it needs to revolutionise its supply offer to remove this major concern from its customers once and for all. To achieve this Louvolite has repeated the change that it made in 1990, although this time the change is to system supply.

With immediate effect, Louvolite customers can buy cut length options on all their extrusion profiles. Component parts will be available in quantities much less than standard box sizes to allow manufacturers to offer the variations that may, hitherto, have not been available to them due to the extra stock and cash burdens. Essentially, Louvolite will mirror its fabric cut length facility with the new offers on Louvolite systems. Its customers will be able to offer the complete options of Louvolite products and enhancements and order only what they need, when they need it.

Revolution it may not be, evolution may be a more appropriate phrase to use but let’s not fool ourselves, this move to support its customers will help transform the industry and dramatically improve the opportunities for Louvolite manufacturers.





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