Having embraced 3D technology, a small family business is now providing balconies and balustrade systems around the world.
Emanating from the small Lancashire town of Clitheroe, a global takeover is in action thanks to the internet and measured adoption of 3D software.
The idea for Elite Balustrade, a balcony and
balustrade sales and fabrication company,
came when its now managing director David
Martin began selling the component parts to
Realising that he could design and build the
full systems as well as simply supply parts, a
family business was born.
In 14 months the company, also employing
Martin’s mother, brother and brother-inlaw,
has experienced a truly international
The reason for this is not only the dedication
and hard work of the Martin family and
its employees, but the successful adoption
of SolidWorks and the design automation
Customers are funnelled through its
automated website, offering customised
fittings, configured to their choice using
some simple data entry and selection options.
“Most of the kits that we send out are
installed by DIY’ers, fabricators or builders,”
“Everybody’s requirements are different –
their idea of style and look. Although it’s all
on the shelf, we have to build it up to their
specification, so they’ll need the right height
and width. Everything is made to measure.”
The individual component parts all have to
be modelled and fed into the software using
SolidWorks due to the manufacturers being
very protective of the data.
These dimensions, plus a lot of rules-driven
mathematics and equations are then fed into
DriveWorks, giving hundreds of configurable
The fabricated outcome, conforming to all safety and building regulations, is then
collated as a flat-pack kit and shipped.
“We build it up to a stage where it’s a
Meccano set, so all they’re doing is screwing it down and bolting it together,” says Martin.
The data input, far from simple queries, is a
time consuming process.
Some of this is alleviated through a
dedicated member of staff, DriveWorks’
inbuilt query wizards and support from its
reseller Solid Solutions, although much of
it comes down to a gradual learning process
that is unlocking all the software can offer.
Yet the man-hours spent on this single
process are paid back in the savings made in
the sales process.
Building individual balcony systems meant
that Elite could offer up 20 models a month
to be quoted. However, the majority of these
requests didn’t result in a sale.
“When we first started up we were
bombarded with people wanting a bargain;
we’re not here to sell a bargain. As soon as they get a quote [from the online DriveWorks
system] they now know straight away if it’s in
their price bracket.”
Fourteen months on from adopting
DriveWorks into its web-based setup, Elite is
now providing on average 20 quotes a day to
engage potential customers.
This boils down to sales of 25 to 30 kits a
month with no need for extra CAD personnel,
allowing Elite to work 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, across five languages.
The system helps get rid of timewasters
straight away – which might sound harsh, but
given the size of this small business, time is
very definitely money.
“Everything we get is positive feedback: the
person that we’re dealing with wants to buy
our product and can afford it.”
Moments after submitting the details into
the Elite Balustrade website the customer
is emailed five documents. Amongst these
are the cost and a visualisation of what the
assembled product will look like produced in SolidWorks eDrawings.
The system creates a further ten documents,
including assembly instructions and the Bill
of Materials (BOM).
The system is available online from
anywhere in the world, although Elite
operates using independent sales agents as
far away as the Caribbean.
The agents are able to feed the same
information into the website, which will
automatically generate documentation with
that agent’s logo and details on it, while Elite
takes the role of supplier.
Adding agencies across the world, the
future expansion of the system is to increase
the visual marketing – allowing customers to
upload their own photo of the position of the
balcony, and have the render superimposed
Equally viable is using the augmented
reality abilities of eDrawings.
“We’re coming up with new ideas for it
all the time,” concludes David. “There’s so
many different things we can do with it – it’s
Clearly Elite Balustrade hasn’t reached a
barrier of its own.