Ryan Fitzgerald, President
In the city of Richardson, just north of Dallas, TX, a team of analysts, engineers, and product designers are building a giant in the making.
Recently featured on the Inc 5000 fastest-growing companies in America and ranked among the 100 fastest-growing in Dallas, Alwood has quickly made a name for itself as a force to be reckoned with in the aluminum extrusion and building products industries.
Alwood is a supply chain company specializing in aluminum extrusion that operates as an extension of its customers’ supply chain departments to provide customers with ways to improve their material costs, innovate their product lines, and drive efficiency in their business.
The company is the brainchild of Australian founder Ryan Fitzgerald, a 20-year veteran of the aluminum industry.
“Having owned and operated several manufacturing operations in my career, I was well aware of the challenges manufacturers face in their supply chain, especially as it relates to their aluminum.”
“During my time as a manufacturer of products for the window treatments and hurricane protection industry, it became apparent to me that some of the strategies I was employing to manage offshore suppliers could be of benefit to other companies in similar industries. That led to the founding of Alwood.”
Fitzgerald describes the company as a bridge between manufacturers and a vast network of offshore extruders, die casters, injection molders, metal fabricators, and other hardware producers. He adds that Alwood takes a product-centric approach in how it develops supply chain strategies for each of its customers.
The company’s Business Development Manager, David Cheetham, says the approach has been well received in the market by both the company’s customers and its vendors. “We find that, very often, parties in the upstream environment are competing for their own interests without considering the impacts downstream. We’ve taken the approach that we want each of our customer stakeholders that interact with our products to derive value from material supplied by Alwood. We want to make the people in the factory just as happy as those in the board room.”
This approach has proven positive for the company, and they have quickly forged relationships with a number of notable manufacturers across several building product verticals.Fitzgerald says, “There is nothing more satisfying for our team than hearing the feedback from our customers that we’ve made a positive impact on the way they do business.
It’s what motivates us to keep pushing to find new ways to create value for our customers.”
DESIGN, MANUFACTURE, SUPPLY - THE ALWOOD PRODUCT PHILOSOPHY
Bringing years of practical product expertise to the equation, Alwood offers a first-hand understanding of the challenges that manufacturers face in developing their products and building channels to supply the requisite materials.
In the design realm, the team has developed several product solutions that have seen international market success. Fitzgerald credits that to a know-how that blends the practical with the theoretical:
“Design is what I am passionate about, and Alwood has provided me with an avenue to continue to develop products and do so across a wide variety of product ranges. When we endeavor on a new design project for a customer, we focus on a few key questions that underlie our approach: Can we make it simpler? Can we make it cheaper? Can we make it anywhere? Can we make it easier to install?”
The company cites a few case studies of proprietary designs that have been successful for their customers, including an operable, bi-fold woodgrain aluminum shutter system, a motorized exterior screen, and an adjustable bracket for the roller shade industry to allow installers to cover the light gaps in out-of-square recessed windows.
When customers require extra production capacity, Alwood leverages its network of mills to speed up the process, and it is our ability to multi-source that also mitigates the risk of supply chain disruption
This tailor-made approach has led the company to develop a widespread network of aluminum factories across Latin America, Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe. Through this network, the company can offer a multitude of manufacturing capabilities and processes to its customers.
“Each mill we work with brings its own advantages,” says Business Development Manager David Cheetham. “Depending on what our customers are trying to achieve, we look at the network and identify options to meet our customer’s objectives. As for aluminum, this includes a review of a number of criteria such as monthly extrusion capacity, press size, number of presses, alloy types, finishing capabilities, finished length requirements, added value processing, as well as container access and logistics costs.”
The company also utilizes a multi-source strategy for many of its customers to mitigate the risks involved with offshore supply.
“We all learned some hard lessons after COVID-19, and in a short time, many manufacturers went from a Just-In-Time supply chain to needing what we call a ‘Just-In-Case’ model.”
“We were fortunate that we were already employing that strategy before supply chains became very difficult, and our customers were never hurting for material when the market went crazy in 2020.”
Fitzgerald adds, “For most of our customers, we look into cutting tooling at multiple locations to take advantage of added production capacity and metal pricing structures to give our customers options to save money.”
BREAKING AWAY FROM THE TRADITIONAL EXTRUDER-CUSTOMER MODEL
“Our customers aren’t the only ones receiving greater value from the Alwood model,” says Fitzgerald. “We also work to add considerable value for our supply partners to help them conduct business in a way that is more efficient, more profitable, and results in greater customer retention in the long run.”
Out of their offices in Dallas, TX, Monterrey, MX, and Brisbane, AUS, Alwood’s team takes on the entire end-to-end onboarding process for its customers and its suppliers, from CAD development, first article approvals, finishing matching, logistics coordination, and customer service.
Fitzgerald says that win-win relationships have been the key to their success “Our model is to help everyone involved in the manufacture of a product play to their greatest strengths. For our customers, we take on the burden of managing an offshore supply network so they can focus on increasing their sales and making products. For our extruders, we enable them to focus on extruding metal, and we take care of servicing customers in a way that would be too costly and time consuming for them to manage on their own. As a result, our extruders look at Alwood as their business development team for the North American and Australian markets.”
We enable our mills to focus on optimizing their manufacturing operations by taking total responsibility for customer service
The company also employs its own on-site staff in several of its mills to look after its production orders while its domestic team services its domestic customer base.
“The members of our team bring some pretty unique advantages to the company that I think has been instrumental in our growth,” says Cheetham. “We have had an internationally diverse team, and many of us on the team are multilingual, which certainly helps bridge the language barrier in the countries where we manufacture. The symbiotic nature of it all has been fun to be a part of as we’ve helped some customers internationalize their products into some of the markets where we extrude from.”
THE LOOK AHEAD
Becoming a key player in an industry with a high barrier to entry requirements is no easy task, regardless of the industry.
Ryan Fitzgerald credits the recognition they’ve received to going the extra mile for their customers. “This industry has been an incredible thing to be a part of, and I want to push the company to continue to develop solutions for everyone we work with.”
Fitzgerald adds that for 2023 the company is going to continue working to help its customers enhance their product ranges and has several product development projects in the works that it expects to license in the latter part of the year.