Roto Finds Success with Focus

May 1, 2012

While sales have retreated at many window and door companies in recent years, Roto Frank of America has enjoyed growth thanks to "a strategic focus on customers," according to Chris Dimou, president and CEO. The operation, based in Chester, Ct., was recently honored by Roto AG, its German parent for its turnaround in sales.

The focus on customers can be seen throughout the Roto facility, states Craig Tooker, director of operations. In some cases, the company has made large investments, he notes, pointing to a five-axis laser cutting machine used to produce precision casement hardware parts.  He emphasizes, however, the many small steps Roto has taken over the years, including the development of special tooling and re-purposed machines. All the efforts are designed to give Roto the capabilities and flexibility to deliver customers the hardware they need, when they need it, he says.

Roto's success in delivering quality components in a lean manufacturing environment, while maintaining its flexibility to serve customers, can be attributed to the experience of its workforce, Tooker states. Roto has also tapped that experience in its efforts to convert window manufacturers to its hardware, he states, pointing to work he and other employees have done to enable its customers to produce units more efficiently.

One of the big reasons for Roto's success has been the X-Drive casement hardware system, first introduced about five years ago, notes Dan Gray, director of business development & product marketing. "It's been able to grow because we've worked to make conversion to it as easy as possible," he states. "We know people want more than quality. They want more than price. We want to partner with customers to meet all their needs."

Roto's recent success has not come overnight, Dimou states. The North American unit is now about 30 years old, and originally was established as a supplier and then manufacturer of skylights.  "Many people still think we make skylights, even though we left that business several years ago," he states.  

Exiting that business and focusing on hardware has been beneficial, he notes. The company still sells European hardware, but it has been able to evolve to offer not only the casement line, but patio door hardware and automatic sash locks, all specifically targeted at the North American market.  It is looking to expand too, even looking at potential acquisitions, Dimou states.  "We know there are opportunities out there."

One new area of business in which Roto foresees growth is window opening control devices, Gray reports.  Roto is now North American distributor for the Angel Ventlock, developed by the UK's Mighton Products. Interest in that product is growing both among window manufacturers, but also among large property owners and management companies. "With new code requirements coming into play, there's a substantial opportunity in retrofit," according to Gray.

Dimou points to opportunities for Euroepan hardware systems as well.  "We expect to see more demand, especially in commercial buildings, schools and those types of applications,"  he reports.  "It's still a niche business in North America, but it is getting bigger."