Window profiles: why famous companies started working actively in the low-cost segment

Window profiles: why famous companies started working actively in the low-cost segment
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What performances of PVC windows are important for the Russian customer

What is the current condition of the window market? How to choose the right window? Our conversation partner today is Josef Beckhoff, Director General of the VEKA Rus company, dealing with PVC profile designs and production for window and door assemblies. VЕКА Rus is a 100% affiliate of the VEKA AG leading German company that also includes two enterprises in Russia.

Lowering pricing proposals is not an option

— Mr Beckhoff, what is the current condition of the window profiles market? How tough is the competitive environment?

— For the last four years the market has shrunk by 60%. And. of course, it impacts on the work of companies producing windows. Presently, it is not uncommon that window production companies choose not to continue the business and either close or become dealers (not producing but only selling).

The situation heats up in the sphere of extrusion: our rivals are ready to work with extremely low prices to provide themselves with a steady share of the market.  Many of them are actually struggling to survive. 

The so-called situational price proposals from some profile producers which are widespread now are actually a common dumping.

But if the number of processors has decreased, there are not fewer window profile producers. This is why our life cannot be called easy.

— What is, from your standpoint, the right behaviour on the market in the course of the crisis? Should one develop or just hold the positions?

— We need to realise distinctly the market’s demands. It has been actively developing towards cheap systems lately. And it would be a mistake if our company did not think about how to work with this segment.

The profiles of the VEKA brand are produced according to the RAL-A standards, which is the German quality standard of the highest class PVC profile. Of course, such profiles cannot be cheap enough to enter the price reduction struggle, meaning the low-cost niche. 

That is why in 2013 our company introduced WHS profiles to the Russian market. The WHS system refers to the RALB segment, which is the medium level PVC profile quality standard, which is where the basis of the products of the majority of our competitors come from. Having these profiles at our disposal we have raised both our and our partners’ competitiveness in the economy class segment.

It does not mean that we are not developing our main brand, VEKA; we are carefully focused at it and will actively develop it via a wide range of marketing tools and the widest breadth of profile systems.

Presently, the market is being polarised and divided into low margin and premium segments. The support of the main VEKA brand provides the support for each of them. 


— A challenging question: are low-budget windows always of low quality? 

— No, they are not always of poor quality. Rather, it all depends on the different performances of a window from the viewpoint of its service life! And the different risks in the course of its operation. Such windows are not worse, they are less durable and sustainable.

If you buy a high-quality window produced with High-class components, such as the RAL A class profile, you will not have any trouble with it for 30 - 40 years. We know it is important for our customers in Europe, and are sure that Russian customers need the same reliable and functional windows.

If windows are produced of lighter materials and have different components they will wear away quicker, and the first signs may be detected in the first years of operation.

          I can assure you that inexpensive WHS profiles are produced by our company according to high standards and their quality is strictly checked, but they are designed differently. Meanwhile, it is no secret that some of our competitors have proposals of very low quality and that such profiles do not undergo strict control, so they only work for a couple of seasons. 

The only thing that should be advised to a customer, a builder or an investor is that they should be very careful about the low-cost segment: the cheaper it is the lower its quality is!


— What profiles, from your point of view, should be produced for high-rise construction, ultra-low temperatures?

— The windows are tested full scale in extreme conditions, such as in environmental chambers, etc. For example, we worked for a long time “to teach” our profiles’ function in the climate of the Extreme North. And a Byelorussian polar station equipped with VEKA profile windows has worked in the Antarctica for several years already.

Considering the PVC profiles from the point of view of a high-rise construction, performances such as wind loading are very important. The window profile framing the window area and the insulated glass unit (IGU) – especially in high-rise buildings! – are exposed to huge amounts of sharp variations in temperature.

And here the key factors are the structure safety on the whole and the profile’s reliability in particular. There are technological methods and decisions for stabilising a window with the help of special enhancers adding to its strength and stability.


Russians are more interested in safety than in sustainability

 — What quality level of window profiles make it possible to succeed on the Russian market: heat conductivity, sustainability, installment simplicity? What are the Russian customers’ demands?

— In Germany, the most important performance of PVC windows is to provide for energy conservation. Energy efficiency is crucial for us, as the country is not rich with energy sources. It is the parameter which determines the development of PVC window production in Germany.

Energy efficiency is mainly provided by the profile width. The wider the profile is the better a window performance is, including its noise insulation. The first characteristic feature of a quality window is that when you close the window it is quiet! That’s what a customer feels at once. 

It is quite different in Russia, so performances of a window such as its safety are more important, for example, protection against unauthorised entry. 

The Russian urban construction scourge is the treillage of ground floor windows: this is both ugly and dangerous! Meanwhile, due to the development of window production technologies, windows may serve as protection systems and perform this function even more efficiently than gratings or even shutters.

We have developed possibilities for such windows where it takes too much time to break into them, and a criminal as a rule gives up his intentions.


— And what is the attitude towards such a performance as sustainability in Russia?

— Russians think of it less than a window’s appearance, its components’ quality, heat insulation characteristics, its service life and durability.

One may wonder if a PVC window emits any pollution, and we can assure that plastic profiles and their production are absolutely safe. In the beginning, such windows contained salts of heavy metals but presently the PVC mixtures’ formulae have crucially changed, and they are all safe.

The ecology topic in Europe is different: environmental friendliness and sustainability there mean, first of all, the opportunity of recycling. When the first generation of plastic windows worked out its term, the problem of their utilisation arose.

In Germany it resulted in the decision whereby its implementation added to environment protection. In 1993 VEKA built a factory for the recycling of used windows which is completely automated. 


— Should a window profile producer know his customers – those who produce ready windows from the profiles?

— I think so. Sometimes the “profile” business is organised as follows: a producer delivers profiles to a customer, and his responsibility is then over.

VEKA’s approach is different. As far as our company’s experience is concerned, we know every company that buys our profiles. We do not deal with strangers on the market. And I consider such a policy to be right.


There must be closer contact with the construction community

— How do you think it is possible to raise the quality of the windows produced in Russia?

— I think strict state standards are needed and, what is even more important, the strict following of them. And the leading production companies should actively work with the construction community and help with their experience and knowledge.

Our company, together with the Certification Centre of window and door equipment, the “Inzhstroyservice-1” company and the Central Scientific Research Institute of construction structures named after V.A. Kucherenko, has developed state standard Р 56926–16 “Window and balcony structures of different functionality for residential housing”.

It is a new regulatory document which may serve as a basis for developing other norms and regulations on translucent structures. One more interesting initiative is the “New windows of historic development” album. It contains the list of the RF laws and regulations determining general requirements on cultural property preservation and its accommodation in modern usage; the terminology of the RF operative regulatory documents; and architectural monuments’ classification as to the use of PVC windows. The recommended working design and technical design specification patterns on window units’ replacement in the process of cultural heritage objects’ accommodation for modern usage and their preservation are also included.