Velbert / Düsseldorf – “We have successfully overcome another extremely challenging year and are completely satisfied with the results we achieved in 2021. This applies to turnover, profits, and market shares alike.” This is how Marcus Sander described this year’s development of Roto Frank Fenster- und Türtechnologie GmbH (FTT) in mid-November 2021. The “impressive performance” is due to several factors, explained the CEO during the Roto Group’s 16th International Trade Press Day. To achieve this performance, it is crucial to maintain the high delivery capability worldwide despite the severe crisis of materials, including raw materials, mainly caused by the coronavirus, and therefore to meet the performance expectation for the industry that is currently by far the most important for customers. This is also the result of consistent process digitalization, which achieves a real increase in customer benefits through greater speed, transparency, and efficiency.

Expertise in all segments

The CEO firstly provided details of the global hardware industry’s market volume to the around 75 media representatives from 15 countries who were either attending the event in person or tuning in online. According to calculations and estimates, this was around €3.4 billion in 2020 and was therefore at the previous year’s level. The ranking of the individual product segments also remained constant according to these figures. Tilt&Turn (35% in total) took the leading position by a clear margin, followed by Door (25%) and Sliding (23%). Outward Opening (11%) and Casement & Awning (6%) completed the field.

The company offers suitable hardware technology solutions in all market segments. As successful examples, Sander cited the “Roto NX” Tilt&Turn range, a complete package (door lock, door hinge, threshold) for main doors, and the “Roto Patio Inowa” sliding series. This is complemented by the compatibility of the hardware systems. Alongside on-time delivery – which is currently a priority – this enables window and door producers to manufacture a reduced number of parts and to cater to end-user requirements.

Short trip around the world

In the detailed overview of international market regions and FTT’s performance in each one, the same keywords frequently cropped up: the effects of the pandemic and material supply issues on the one hand, and positive market development, good delivery quality, and strong Roto turnover growth on the other hand. For North America, the CEO also reported a general trend towards larger windows and doors and, for the FTT division, in particular, the successful acquisition of new customers. In South America, the often volatile political situation and macroeconomic challenges were a burden. Nevertheless, construction growth is showing signs of recovery in the most important countries. Roto is experiencing a dramatic upturn in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

The same applies to Europe as a whole, despite some differences in market development. The driving force behind the considerable growth, especially in the Tilt&Turn, Door, and Sliding segments, is the increasing volume of renovations on the market side and, specifically to the company, the launch of new products and high delivery capability. The latter factor also played a significant part in acquiring new customers and therefore gaining further market shares.

The market development in the countries and regions of Europe is, of course, also dependent on particular influences. While there is, on the whole, a clear upwards trend regardless of this, for example in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Benelux countries, France and Italy, the construction crisis in the United Kingdom remains serious. Scandinavia is still stagnant, while Spain, Portugal, and Greece are proving to be resilient despite new coronavirus outbreaks in 2021. However, Roto was able to grow even in markets with “below-average performance,” stated Sander.

In the Asia / Pacific business area, the market development is particularly suffering from the “toxic mix” of material shortages and a drastic increase in the price of raw materials. In China, this is having a negative impact on investment in new construction in second-and third-tier cities. In first-tier cities, the demand for new construction has since largely been met. On the whole, the market is shifting towards renovation and retrofitting. Individual countries throughout the rest of the Asia-Pacific region are still having to cope with strict COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this by no means easy situation, FTT is still managing to perform well. With the hardware portfolio in the premium market segment, successful product launches, and consistent delivery performance, the company also offers recognized advantages compared to its competitors.

Stabilizing the upturn

Sander’s initial conclusion was that all things considered, “a lot of things went the way we wanted them to in 2021”. This is ultimately apparent from a clear double-digit turnover increase, excellent profitability, and therefore the renewed consolidation of the company’s economic strength, as well as positive development of market shares. This was achieved through factors such as extended production capacity, the global delivery capability that was ensured through regional production, for example, the confirmed reliability, and the expansion of digital services. In this context, we should not forget professional health management at Roto in the times of the coronavirus, which includes an extensive package of measures, such as international support to get employees vaccinated.

Looking ahead to 2022, the Head of FTT stated that “the problems of the old year will also be problems in the new year.” Ultimately, it is not possible to accurately predict when the pandemic will be considered to be over at last and when the raw materials markets will go back to normal. Roto is, however, expecting a noticeable relaxation by the middle of the year. Sander described the possible consequences of exploding construction costs on market demand as another element of uncertainty. This is why next year, the window and door technology specialist will continue to concentrate on what it can do to sustainably stabilize the current healthy growth course.

Challenging but unavoidable

The CEO classed the customer-oriented digitalization of all company processes as an “important support factor.” It is unavoidable if long-term success is to be achieved. For Roto, it is a tool for making processes faster, more transparent, and more focused. This is geared towards the key element of the company’s strategy, which is to have customer benefits as the top priority. At the forefront is the expansion of the e-business framework that was established in recent years and, therefore, at its core, safeguarding the company’s viability. For a global player with 15 production plants around the world and sales activities on all continents, this is “a challenging but unavoidable task.” The Head of FTT demonstrated the requirements and structures that have already been established using some examples.

Production is, of course, placed at the forefront. The ultimate objective of the various digitalization steps is for all machines and tools to be able to optimize their performance autonomously. This results in a large number of advantages that save time, boost efficiency and make planning more reliable. For customers, all of this is reflected in improved delivery and product quality, therefore meeting their main requirement for the industry. The list of projects that are already complete, are ongoing, or are scheduled to start soon is long. Specifically, they include online machine data acquisition, collaborative robots (cobots), driverless transport systems indoors and outdoors, digital spare parts management, drone-based warehouse automation, and additive manufacturing (3D printing).

Digitalization is becoming increasingly relevant in design too. For instance, virtualized product tests significantly reduce development times compared to conventional physical methods. In addition, numerical simulations ensure quantified calculations and, therefore, precise detection of any weaknesses. Digitalization has also been a fixed component of sales for some time now. The “Roto Con Orders” hardware configurator, which can be linked to SAP and dealers’ websites, is already somewhat of a “classic.” The “Roto City” communication platform, in turn, ensures tailored support for market partners through modern conference technology and special presentations at any time and anywhere. A personalized customer portal for global access to customized content and functionalities is currently in development. Sander does not doubt that “the digital value chain in the future.”

Marcus Sander summed up the performance of the Window and Door Technology (FTT) division during the 16th International Roto Trade Press Day as follows: “All things considered, a lot of things went the way we wanted them to and in line with our strategy in 2021.” Specifically, the CEO referred to clear double-digit turnover growth, strong profitability, and a positive development of market shares. Photo: Roto