The Folding Sliding Door Company
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The Folding Sliding Door Company bites back!

Posted by Noreen Williams on Thursday, September 22, 2011

L-R: Paul Shearman CEO, Kehinde Jolaoso, Managing Director and David Shearman, Commercial Director

Folding Sliding Doors Limited is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Demand has rocketed and competitors may have arrived but this complex product is still best left to the experts, says founder Paul Shearman.

Folding Sliding Doors Limited is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It was 2001 when Paul Shearman, a joiner working in the window industry, developed an inline folding sliding door system. The main improvement over previous attempts was in the hardware. He used flush hinges, slim handles and a running track on the top and bottom of the opening for even weight distribution and ease of operation of the opening panels.

The appeal of this product was that the door leaves folded neatly to create a wider opening – perfect for cafes in summertime or rooms in the home that face the garden, to give just two examples.

Paul Shearman continued to improve his product. "We were the first to develop an inline PVC-U folding sliding door system with no face fixed hardware and concealed running gear in 2003", he says. Paul's development was an advance on the cumbersome out bound hardware that was available and the introduction of running tracks meant smooth operation and the positive support to enable the manufacture of taller and wider folding sliding doors. Flush tracks were fitted as standard, complying with Part M disability access regulations, and the absence of faced fixed hinges made the installation more secure.

Within two years Folding Sliding Doors had acquired premises and was employing 16 staff to manufacture the product, which utilised VEKA Matrix PVC-U window and door profile. Turnover had reached £1 million by 2003. This year the Bradford company is on course to achieve £10 million turnover.

Today, the company makes inline folding sliding doors in aluminium, timber, ali-clad timber and a range of PVC-U systems. In addition, Folding Sliding Doors manufactures its own range of hardware which it supplies to some major retail and commercial trade manufacturers.

The popularity of these glazed doors has soared during the company's time in business as property owners have realised the potential of wider openings in commercial buildings and homes. This type of product, often supplied by Folding Sliding Doors, has featured on many TV home improvement programmes.

The product commands a high value. Consequently many installation companies have been keen to add it to their portfolio and some new companies have tried their hand at manufacturing it. A recent trend has seen several window systems companies develop their own system in an effort to grab a share of this market for themselves.

A true specialist

Inline folding sliding doors are best left to the experts, maintains Paul Shearman. Too many corners have been cut in recently launched systems, he claims. A common failing is the use of either a top or bottom running track but not both.

These design omissions can compromise the effectiveness, security and operating limits of the system, says Paul, who is very proud of his system's technical merits. The Folding Sliding Door Company (FSDC) can manufacture doors in its system in sizes up to 4 metres high and 15 metres wide, while 2.5m is the maximum height generally for PVC-U systems.

FSDC offers a lifetime warranty on its product. "That's how much confidence we have in our product", he says. The company offers a no-quibble change on parts and has seen no need to alter its hardware specification in the last eight years.

Door manufacturing

Folding Sliding Doors are manufactured at FSD Works, the company's 55,000 sq. ft facility in Bradford. There are dedicated areas for timber, aluminium, ali-clad timber and PVC-U fabrication. Doors progress on a trolley system to minimise handling. Final assembly is in a vertical jig before the system is despatched in flat pack form for ease of transportation & subsequent installation on site.

The company follows a Japanese organisation methodology called '5S' because its principles translate to five words beginning with S: sorting; straightening or setting in order; sweeping or systematic cleaning; standardising; and sustaining the discipline. Traditional levels of performance must not only be exceeded, they must be replaced by a completely different perception of what is acceptable. This is borne out by the efficiency and thoroughness on display.

The timber door production process is perhaps the most impressive. FSDC uses sections of engineered timber (oak, eucalyptus or meranti) that have been laminated together for strength. An optimised saw is used to minimise waste and CNC machinery is used to shape the timber profiles, cleverly cutting out the glazing bead in the same process. It takes just six minutes to manufacture the profiles for each door panel.

Gluing and painting processes follow. Timber doors account for 30 per cent of FSDC's production. Offcuts and sawdust are processed through the extraction system into an external compactor to make pellets which are burned to heat the factory in winter.

FSDC's aluminium doors incorporate a 28mm thermal break. Bar lengths are cut and joined using a crimp and glue process. This is done on two crimping tables.

Doors are made in several different PVC-U systems. An aluminium tongue & closer are fitted along the length of the profile, which adds strength and stability.

Fold N Slide Hardware & Systems

The Folding Sliding Door Company has developed its own suite of hardware & systems - branded Fold N Slide - which it now supplies to some major retail and commercial trade companies to manufacture door systems with. This is made to strict quality standards. Stock is held in a 15,000 sq. ft warehouse in Bradford. FSDC will soon offer branded hardware to its larger customers.

Exports and testing

The Folding Sliding Door Company delivers nationwide offering a variable order turnaround that starts from five days. The fleet comprises three 18 tonne vehicles and two 7.5 tonne vans. Additional vehicles are hired to cope with peaks during the busy period that runs from summer through to Christmas.

Besides the home market, the company exports to mainland Europe, the USA, Canada and other countries. In America, the company is putting its product through very demanding weather tests to achieve Miami Dade Building Code Compliance. This will help to raise the performance of all doors because the company works to a standard specification. FSDC prefers to manufacture in the UK to maintain high quality standards.

The company was prepared for last October's changes to the Building Regulations Document L 1B and offers fully compliant products with documentation confirming its thermal performance. FSD is keen to stress that its 45mm door system is only suitable for use as internal partitions.

Management team

A management structure was quickly established as the company grew and this has continued to evolve. Kehinde Jolaoso is Managing Director and has a wealth of experience in the industry, especially on the design side. Paul's brother David Shearman is Commercial Director. Paul's title is now Chief Executive Officer or CEO. This role frees him to work on different areas of the business with more of an outsider's perspective.

Folding Sliding Doors Limited is celebrating its 10th anniversary. To mark this occasion, founder and CEO Paul Shearman is due to take the entire staff and their partners for a long weekend to Tenerife.

Competition is hotting up the inline folding sliding doors market but the management team believe that this product is still best left to a specialist manufacturer with a proven product that is in the market for the long haul. Paul Shearman suggests that companies research a supplier's website history at waybackmachine.org to check how long they have really been supplying this niche product.

FSDC offers to match prices against doors of a similar specification and has responded to the challenging economic conditions by offering standard sized doors at lower prices.

"We're experts in this", concludes Paul Shearman. "Jack of one trade, master of one", he adds. “Customers need to be aware and not be fooled by speculators and chancers wanting to make a fast buck, only really interested in selling plastic profile.

“Ask yourself, why copy or bring out an inferior largely untested, unreliable hardware system when we can offer our universal brand of folding sliding door hardware compatible with most systems whether PVC-U, aluminium or timber, they are purely storing up problems for the future, tolerances on operation are non- existent.

“We know we speak from experience because we have been there, seen it, done it, the learning curve is massive! Nice websites poor products, the industry doesn't change. The same mentality exists today as always: jump on the bandwagon, take the ride, but jump off when the going gets tough, and leave the specialists to pick up the pieces.”

He has a point: over the years Folding Sliding Doors has diversified, but only into more doors.