Operational efficiency: Lessons learned | BDC.ca
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How a focus on operational efficiency helped Durabuilt grow from 12 employees to 450

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Harry and Joe Sunner, Durabuilt Windows & Doors

At Durabuilt Windows & Doors, the products are not the only things that are meticulously measured.

Nothing escapes benchmarking in a relentless drive to improve quality and efficiency at the Edmonton-based company.

“Whether it’s how much we reduce waste going to the landfill or how quickly we respond to telephone inquiries, we keep track of it all,” says Durabuilt President Joe Sunner, who runs the business with his son and Vice President, Harry.

“If you want to offer a top-quality product and exceptional customer service, you have to know how you’re performing in all aspects of your business.”

With operational excellence as their guiding beacon, the father and son team have transformed a small shop of 12 employees that Joe bought in 1995. Now, the manufacturer of customized, energy-efficient windows and doors employs 450 in a 15,800 square-metre facility. The company’s average annual growth rate is in the 25% range.

It has benefitted from a healthy economy in western Canada, servicing contractors, builders, architects and home retailers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Originally a partner in the firm, Sunner made the leap to buy Durabuilt despite limited experience in the manufacturing industry.

“Our background was retail. But we had the tenacity to give it a try because we’re true entrepreneurs,” says the 61-year-old who emigrated from England in 1994.

In sixteen years, Durabuilt has moved its manufacturing facilities three times to accommodate its growth and faced the hurdles that come with it.

“The orders are pouring in and you need more people, equipment, trucks and capital,” says Sunner, a client of BDC Financing and Advisory Services. “What has kept us going is putting in those 14-hour days when we need to.”

He also attributes much of Durabuilt’s success to a steadfast commitment to quality control and efficiency.

“It can be a grueling process because you have to turn over every stone in your business to see how well you’re running it,” Sunner says, noting the contribution of General Manager Amar Randhawa.

That perseverance has paid off. In the last three years, Durabuilt has improved productivity by 30% and decreased its environmental footprint by 25%, Sunner says.

A year and a half ago, Durabuilt became the first window and door manufacturer in Western Canada to receive IMS (Integrated Management System) certification, a set of internationally recognized standards encompassing quality, environment, and health and safety performance.

Investing in technology has helped Durabuilt build a competitive business. The firm implemented a proprietary enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that tracks the company’s production process from order to delivery.

Durabuilt also focuses on creating a strong brand that is recognizable to consumers in a highly competitive market. The company has set up design galleries at dealers and showrooms across Canada.

“We’re not the biggest yet,” Harry says, “but we’re the best at what we do.”

Lessons learned

  • Measure performance in all aspects of your business.
  • Invest in quality certification to help eliminate waste, improve efficiency and increase productivity.
  • Invest in technology to boost your competiveness.
  • Recruit and retain employees by demonstrating your company’s commitment to quality and social responsibility.
  • Build brand visibility to compete in a crowded market.

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