When and how did you start up your company?
JMP: "We started in 1991, in an old farm in Nivelles, with a staff of 4. The place quite soon became too narrow and we relocated inside an old, abandonned boxing factory: a site offering 5,000m² of sheltered space and a 2,000m² yard, 15 minutes from Nivelles. I bought the site in 1994 and we moved in after 10 months of transformation works."
And how did you come up with that simple but quite clever idea of manufacturing traditional, quality window frames in series for professional woodworkers?
JMP: "I came to that concept after working in the interior design sector. I was constantly on the move, which made it really hard to conciliate work and family life. The competitiveness of the small, traditional woodworker in window frame manufacture was inexorably declining every year. I had always been passionate about window frames and I saw in it an opportunity to settle and focus solely on production."
Your stock of wood is quite impressive. Isn't that in contradiction with as investors' credo, i.e. just-in-time production?
JMP: "I realized towards the end of the 1990s that importers were not doing their job anymore, so I turned myself to brokers. We consume some 600m³ of wood each year and we just cannot take the risk to run short of stock. I had to find a solution. I felt like in a dead end."
And thus the idea of the trading company?
JMP: "Yes, the idea was quite seducing, all the more since my customers –professional woodworkers– were sometimes asking me to supply them with quality wood."
So you have wood directly imported?
JMP: "That's right. A trustworthy middleman is constantly on the look out for wood at the best prices in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries. We buy precuts, i.e. dressed lumber already dried up, on the Asian market. Of course, it costs us more, but thanks to the added value generated for local producers, we don't have to pay any export surcharge on rough wood."
The main drawback of that method is that we need to keep a bigger stock to be able to meet our customers' orders. One should not forget that Asian lumber does not arrive here overnight: it takes from 6 months to one year to get it. We keep a 150m³-stock in our Bois d'Haine factory.
You are well aware of the trends of the market, constantly looking for new products and a frequent visitor of main trade fairs. Can you tell us about the precuts proposed by Asian producers?
JMP: "The main advantage of precuts is the intrinsic quality of the product. Any woodworker will understand the advantages of being able to work with wood cut off with an overmeasure, dressed on its four sides and then dried, straightened up, rid of knots and other flaws, and finally planed on its 4 sides. There's no question about that!"
One thing that immediately strikes visitors, is the organization of the chain: carrying tables, rails, ... Everything seems to have been carefully thought out.
JMP: "Well, I carefully studied and organized the layout of the workshop so as to avoid any unnecessary movement of the operators and get a maximum efficiency. Working tables were adapted specifically to each link of the production chain. Some are at the required height to pick up the profiled lumbers.
Furthermore, a conveying system allows us to move frames and doors between the various working posts (paint – hardware – glazing). Thanks to that convenient system, a single operator can move on his own."
You brought some major improvements to finishing...
JMP: "Let's face it, the finishing of window frames has required substantial investment (some 450,000 €) at ICP! But ultimately I think it's quite positive, because it is all in favor of the decennial warranty.*"
*: Read Maintenance and durability of painted products
We have noticed in the workshop several 5-meter-long frames with arched and oversized sashes. Most competitors would have chosen to assemble several frames. Which increases manufacturing costs and ruins the aesthetic balance.
JMP: "Our traditional frame is perfectly suited for the renovation market. It enables woodworkers (and we count quite a few among our customers) to comply with any request. Furthermore, we were requested on many an occasion to produce a window frame on an emergency basis, i.e. in 3–4 days. And our customers really appreciate that."
We didn't spot a single name on your window frames. Why?
JMP: "The type of assembly and manufacture of our frames allow our customers to sell them just as if they had manufactured them. It is a concept we greatly value."
Who are you customers?
JMP: "Mainly professionals: installers, woodworkers, contractors working mainly on renovation sites (95%). People who are requested to reproduce architectural aesthetics in conformity to urbanism regulations, to replace by applying new techniques or better insulation coefficients. So far, word of mouth has always been our best advertising tool."