G & GP Editorial November 2015
Late in 1998 Steve Haines got together with Stuga. Steve knew that there was a considerable potential market for automatic sawing & machining centers that were both practical and affordable. There were a small number of German built machines that were very big, overcomplicated and adapted for use with simple German window styles to the more complex styles seen in the UK. Given that Steve had enquiries and Stuga had ideas that fitted with his philosophy they joined forces to create the machine the market needed, hence the Stuga Flowline was born. Once the decision to go ahead was made Stuga soon sold the idea to Astraframe in Norwich and owner Trevor Collier invested in the first machine. This prototype was demonstrated at Stuga in December 1999 and as a result another five machines were sold to fabricators that wanted to get in on this innovative and affordable technology. All five are still fully operational, three of them with the original owners.
The prototype Flowline was delivered to Astraframe in January 2000 and the competition claimed that this British equipment would never last. How wrong they were! Fifteen years later every Stuga sawing & machining center is still fully operational in the market place. There are more than 150 Flowlines, ZX3, ZX4, Microline and AutoFlow-2 centres. Although the German versions were quite impressive they seemed to the normal fabricator overly complicated, hard to look after and expensive to run, whereas the Stuga was quite the opposite. The Stuga machines were also actually designed to operate around the more complex British window systems. Not only have Stuga machines been proven to have great longevity but their energy efficient design means that running costs are much lower than for their competition and when things go wrong they are usually very easy to fix without too much skill.
Right from the first designs Stuga have catered for the internally glazed British window styles with designs that incorporate automatic arrowhead centering and rotary tooling that is always extremely helpful in this market when compared to fixed heads. Additionally the smallest possible footprints have been utilized to save space and on the bigger machines a ‘U’ shaped configuration makes a single operator possible which doesn’t work on straight line models due to the considerable distance between loading and take-off.
It is heartening for Stuga to see its machines outliving much of the competition and being used and maintained throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland on a daily basis. Stuga machines are not overly large but effective and innovative in a market where it is easy to purchase the wrong machine, paying for that mistake for a long time. Most Stuga business comes from recommends to prove the point.
Stuga doesn’t win or expect to win all sawing and machining business but the fact that it has outsold all competition for nearly fifteen years suggests that the company has a level of success to be envied. Spare parts are always available, including for fifteen year old machines, service is legendary and there are work-arounds for all levels of obsolescence, whether they are mechanical, electronic or software. Stuga has its own in-house software department and writes its own software, something that most competitors would love to claim they have to hand, rather than in another country. Seven field technicians geographically based means that back-up is never far away and onboard cameras complete the customer peace of mind.
The simple fact is that dealing directly with this British based manufacturer for UK uPVC window fabricators makes sense on all levels because they are here in this country, speaking our language and working in our time zone, all critically important points often overlooked.