In an exclusive interview, Glass News’ Editor, Chris Champion, talks with DOORCO’s Dan Sullivan, CEO of DOORCO UK, and Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha, President and CEO of DOORCO Korea, at their stateof-the-art GRP composite door manufacturing facility in South Korea.
GN: Dan, you are either an avid collector of air miles or have a ridiculous penchant for Korean Barbeques! In the last three years you have visited Korea literally hundreds of times and, often, week on week. Can we talk about how, and why, it was necessary for you to invest in building your own GRP composite door factory?
Dan Sullivan: I do have a lot of air miles! My visits to Korea go back to around 2007 when I kept visiting Capstone to try and persuade them to provide me with a UK specification GRP doors. It was a long process and a matter of being both patient and persistent. Finally, when Mr Yoonshin Cha, the Vice President of Production for Capstone, was able to see me, I persuaded him to come to the UK and see the opportunity that existed. He recognised the opportunity: and the relationship between DOORCO and Capstone started. At that time it made sense to use the Capstone name to market their doors in the UK, as opposed to DOORCO.
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: I should mention that when I finally met with Dan, after about 18 months of his visiting Capstone, I was surprised to know that most of my management and workers already knew him from all his visits to the factory!
GN: Tony, can you explain the fact that you have partnered with Dan and now own DOORCO Korea?
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008, and the economic downturn that followed, meant that Capstone’s main market in the US was hit, severely. Rationalisation programmes were being talked about and the need for the Korean factory to find other markets while maintaining manufacture in China, concentrating on US specification doors. Having been responsible for building and developing both the Korean and China plants, I felt it was time for me to leave Capstone.
Dan Sullivan: Meanwhile, I recognised that the composite door, generally, would come under more scrutiny as sales grew in the UK. I always thought the specification and quality of the door would need improving, plus we needed a factory focused on UK products and designs. All the other available suppliers were focused on other markets, mostly the USA, so the desire was to build a factory designed for UK demands, and have control of the supply chain. Tony and I had formed a close friendship during the years we worked together and I kept in touch with him after he had left Capstone and I floated the idea of setting up our own manufacturing facility.
GN: That must have been a huge decision – being prepared to move from a vast company like Capstone, part of the Trinity Glass empire, to making your own doors. How could you expect to achieve that successfully?
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: Having read Mechanical Engineering at University I went to the US to Graduate School and then joined LG selling injection moulding machines. I did this as a Sales Manager throughout the USA, Australia, India and South Africa for around 7 years. I then joined Trinity Glass as a Project Manager based in Seattle and, when Trinity, who were supplying Home Depot in the US with glass, was asked to takeover being the supplier of GRP composite doors if they could guarantee to have prototypes within 6 months, I was charged with setting up the Korean factory. Within the 6 months we were producing 1,500 doors per week and I was then asked to set up a factory in China with 20 presses producing 3,000 doors per week.
Dan Sullivan: With Tony’s experience of production and with Hyun Sik on board, a chemist and expert in Sheet Mould Compound who worked for both Sungil and Capstone in GRP production for 15 years, we had a team capable of producing very high quality product.
GN: There was still the problem of finding or building a facility…
Dan Sullivan: As you know, the factory is 2 hours south of Seoul. The reason for this is that we found a GRP factory that was producing roof vents and the owner, Mr Kim, was wanting to retire. This gave us an experienced work force used to working in GRP and, while Mr Kim’s business was purely for the domestic market, DOORCO Korea was going to be purely export – something that the Korean Development Board were very keen on. When we explained that in the first week of manufacture we would be exporting 10 containers, we had tremendous help with the planning and building issues!
GN: However, this is not any ordinary GRP factory. It’s highly automated and with the capability to supply the whole of the GRP composite door market in the UK…
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: We have the capacity to make 900 door blanks per day, currently, and have the space to extend our lines as required. Technology has moved on such that modern 1000 tonne presses take up much less room and we already have seven. We have taken out as much hand operation as possible to give consistency to production. The gluing line is automated and, as you’ve seen, the foaming and trimming line is also fully automated with just one operative required to oversee foaming.
GN: That’s true. But as the door blanks come off the line, you have seven people at that station…
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: Quality Assurance is key to our manufacture and those people aren’t just putting protective coverings on the doors….this is the final check before despatch. Of the 100 staff, 35% are employed on quality checking throughout the process and this is key. As Dan says, once he’s sold a door, he doesn’t want to see it again!
GN: Everything you do is very detailed. I’ve noticed how precise each operation is and how clean everything is kept and even the quality of the components…
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: It is imperative that our quality is maintained. We are very experienced in door production and source the highest quality materials. We pride ourselves that the polymer rails have the densest PVC content on the market such that if someone chooses not to edgeband the door, the finish is still smooth. Our finger jointed hardwood is specially sourced and is an integral part of the construction, not simply timber offcuts. The GRP skins are of a thickness that every door blank that leaves the factory is capable of achieving Secured By Design. Importantly, the door specification does not change. That is essential for Dan when he is supplying to his customers in the UK.
GN: There are specific things that I have noticed such as air temperature control prior to foaming, painting of the skins prior to door construction, and even specific technology to ensure both foam and paint adhesion to the skins…
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: Both Hyun and I have experienced manufacture with different companies and we are fully prepared to research other industries to keep pace with the development of technologies. In the case of painting the skins, you have seen the two paint lines and the care that is taken. The aim is to produce perfectly painted skins and we would rather reject a skin than a whole door, hence painting the skin first.
GN: It is also clear from seeing the doors being readied for loading into containers that you are making a wide variety of door specifications – and I don’t mean door styles. Are these for specific customers?
Yoonshin ‘Tony’ Cha: We have a ‘can do’ mentality. Some of our container customers require doors for a specific purpose or contract and you can see from the door blanks that some may have a timber edge finish, a smaller polymer rail or may be much higher than standard.
If a customer wants a specific specification they are often surprised how quickly Dan can show them the prototype. It really is a seamless operation between DOORCO in the UK and Korea with Dan and me often speaking 2 or 3 times a day. Dan is in Korea this week and I’m over in the UK next week. Our staff are quite used to seeing us at either location!
GN: To move from being a distributor of the Capstone door to building a new manufacturing facility and producing your own DOORCO GRP composite door is a remarkable feat, especially as the transition has been, essentially, seamless…
Dan Sullivan: We owe a lot to our very loyal customer base who have trusted us to develop the high quality DOORCO door and get it in production. It was important to them that our normal service was maintained so that their own fabrication wasn’t interrupted, and the switch from Capstone to DOORCO was efficiently handled and I’m very happy to acknowledge and thank our customers for their support.
GN: What you have achieved, and the facility you have developed is very impressive. I feel very privileged to have been invited to see DOORCO Korea and I look forward to seeing you both on your stand at The FIT Show and to see what products you will unveil for the UK market.