100 years of products for skyscrapers to shower doors

How do you get to be 100 years old? Look after your customers. Look after your people. Be conservative but unafraid to innovate. Having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, Wispeco Aluminium has remained a highly successful business due to the company’s ability to read the market and stay ahead of the game, as embodied by its name: W – Wire, I – Industries, S – Steel, P – Products, Eco – the greenest metal alloy, aluminium. 10 November 1920 marked the launch of Wire Industries and set the tone for innovation as the first company in South Africa to make nails from wire using a simple punch process, considered revolutionary in its day.

In the 1930s, the company diversified into manufacturing steel products such as windows and moving into the door frame and galvanised garage roller door market some years later. In the mid-1980s, Wispeco started venturing into aluminium and in the 1990s, sensing a shift in market sentiment and as part of a turnaround started selling off its non-core assets to focus on aluminium which it does to this day. As always, management was canny in ensuring that the sale of their profiles and extrusions enjoyed a large footprint by setting up an integrated value chain consisting of internal and independent Wispeco-appointed stockists, called CDP’s today (Crealco Distribution Partners). However, the company has remained steadfast in its decision to refrain from entering the end market, of fabricating fenestration, so as to leave this market entirely open to its customers.

Circular economy

Another steadfast decision is the company’s commitment to harnessing aluminium’s green credentials, which is that it can be recycled and retain its original qualities into perpetuity. Wispeco prides itself on its recycling efforts. In addition to procuring primary billet, the company is at pains to reuse its own swarf, shavings and offcuts for its in-house smelter and furnaces. There is also a buy-back system in place whereby post-industrial and consumer scrap is purchased for re-use. Strict metallurgical controls ensure a premium cast billet with the important benefit of a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

Green credentials

Energy efficiency is a well-established watchword in the construction industry, accompanied by building regulations and standards put in place governing safety. It is incumbent on each person in the architect-quantity surveyor-developer-contractor-occupier value chain, to remain compliant.

However, a less tangible aspect in the fenestration specifies/procure/manufacture/install process is that of managing durability expectations. Here powder coating and profile strength are key. Colour can fade in twenty years, or it can degenerate in as short as three years. Wispeco only uses reputable Qualicoat powders for ex-stock extrusions giving it, maintenance dependent, an allowed fading coefficient of 10-plus years. Wispeco can however apply more durable powders as specified. A non-negotiable focus on energy efficiency, safety and durability in its fenestration systems has stood the company in good stead as evidenced by its continued success 100 years after first setting up shop. This applies both to the residential and commercial markets. The saying goes: “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.”

The genuine article

Unfortunately, as experienced by many reputable companies, there are those who seek to benefit from Wispeco’s standing by copying their product and passing it off as a genuine article. Let the buyer beware! For instance, the client may require a 1.6mm wall thickness profile for a specific application but receive an inferior (lighter) product giving rise to safety and durability concerns.

Secondly, there may be comebacks when the poor powder coated or thinner product begins to fade exponentially or deform in a very short time. Often, Wispeco is approached by the disgruntled party, only to find that none or only some of the product installed is a genuine Wispeco item. This often occurs when Wispeco look-alike profiles and extrusions are landed on our shores at cheaper prices, partly due to the subsidies the exporters enjoy in their country of origin and/ or reducing the quality. As the price gap narrows, so there is a concomitant reduction in quality. In an effort to combat the scourge of cheaper, inferior products, Wispeco puts in a lot of effort to keep their products compliant and price competitive. In this way, the differential between the cheaper product and that of the ‘real thing’ does not make it worth the end-users while to ‘go low’.

Expertise on tap

With the architecture, building and construction sector still making up a large portion of Wispeco’s business, a deep well of expertise resides in the company. Staff is always on hand to provide guidance to end-users and to innovate products and systems which resonate in the market. The Crealco fenestration systems, with its various value propositions and support tools, is an excellent example of a local design that continues to find firm favour locally and internationally.

The vast range of Crealco systems proudly cater for most fenestration applications “from skyscrapers to shower doors” and the range of products have been rigorously tested by AAAMSA’s (Association of Architectural Aluminium Manufacturers of South Africa) SANAS accredited test rig to conform to SANS 613 specifications for air infiltration, structural integrity and water penetration. To provide further peace of mind, Crealco offers Starfront, a free software program to ensure that all designs are carefully evaluated against the input sizes, modulation and wind load parameters to ensure conformance to all industry standards and protocols. The software also provides costing and fabrication schedules and is proudly Agrement (construction technical assessment agency) certified.

The Crealco product range conveniently caters for applications from the “home to tower” The typical home environment would apply where normal-sized products are offered to accommodate normal glass thicknesses, normal weights, normal wind load factors and normal household frequency/use. The home range also caters for smaller sized products with the GenX range of products. The range extends to adequately provide fit-for-purpose solutions and peace-of-mind for the larger and more complex mansion, mall and tower requirements. From the outside looking in, an extrusion is an extrusion but an uncompromising approach to quality and delivering ‘what’s on the tin’ has kept Wispeco successfully in business for 100 years and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

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