We aren’t just great because of our pioneering products and services, we’re great because of the people who are behind them and our business as a whole.
Our employees are undoubtedly one of our best assets. They’re among the best in the industry and are passionate about providing our customers with canopies that exceed their expectations on multiple levels.
Between them, they play a part in helping us retain our title as the UK’s leading designer, manufacturer and installer of outdoor canopies. In this Day in the Life of post…we’ve caught up with Stephen Wruk, who’s one of our area sales managers (and long-standing members of staff), whose role involves designing our industry-leading canopies.
Q. How long have you worked for Canopies UK for?
A. I started working for Canopies UK on Monday 3rd September 2001, so I’m coming up to 18 years’ service. I was 19-years-old when I first started, fresh out of college. Over the years, I’ve easily driven more than 700,000 miles up and down the country and personally overseen more than £20million in canopy installations.
Q. How long does it take you to typically design a canopy?
A. Nowadays, with all of my experience, it doesn’t take me as long as it used to. Once I’ve spoken with the customer and clarified their requirements, I can then design their canopy in as little as 30 minutes, to a couple of hours, depending upon the complexity of the installation.
Q. Can you explain the processes you go through to design a canopy?
A. The first step involves determining the customer’s requirements and their need for a canopy. What are they looking to achieve? What are their reasons for wanting a canopy?
Once I’ve clarified these points, I’ll then move on designing the canopy, which starts with choosing the right system from our extensive product range, with our Connekt system being the most popular.
I’ll then measure the area and use our design package to start creating the structural design, which involves determining the specification of the steelwork, positioning of the frame and the make-up of the foundations. These details are all determined on a site-by-site basis.
The next stage then involves calculating the costs and taking pictures of the area. The images are then used by our graphic designer to superimpose the canopy into position so that the customer can see what their canopy will look like in situ. All of these details are then use to create a detailed proposal for the customer.
Q. What software/equipment do you use?
A. I use a Windows Surface Pro 4 tablet for all of the design work. This gives me the flexibility to use a tablet while measuring on site and then a laptop when in the office.
On site, I use a tape measure and laser measure to take dimensions and I record all of the measurements and make drawings of the area on my tablet using Adobe Pro. As the tablet has a stylus, I have little need for pen and paper, making it easy to store all of my notes digitally on the move. The structural designs are done mainly in Excel on site, using heavily macro-intense workbooks.
Q. Is the canopy process the same for every canopy? If not, how does it differ?
A. Each of our customer’s requirements are unique and while the overall process doesn’t change too much, we do adapt our process, depending on people’s needs.
For instance, sometimes I’ll come across situations where a canopy needs to be completed at very short notice, which means our overall process has to be quickened up. Other times, it can be the other extreme, with timescales spanning several years, meaning revisions have to be made to the costings and design. All of our canopies also involve a slightly different process, as the design phase does change depending on the style variation we’re working with.
Q. What’s the most favourite part of your job and why?
A. I love being out of the office and meeting different people around the country. I really enjoy the challenge of finding a solution to suit each situation that I come across. Some briefs can be quite difficult, but I always manage to come up with a solution, which is rather rewarding!
Q. Which part do you find most challenging and why?
A. Striking the balance between design, budgets and structural calculations. It’s vitally important that every canopy I design has full site-specific structural calculations, but at the same time, this can sometime affect costs, putting the canopies over budget.
It’s a real balancing act, making sure everything works, every box is ticked and the customer is getting a canopy that’s fit for purpose, does what they want it to do and meets their budget.
Q. What’s the best canopy you’ve designed so far and why?
A. The best – and most complex – canopy I’ve designed so far was the one we installed at the Doubletree by Hilton Tower of London hotel’s 12th floor rooftop bar.
Having to construct a canopy up on the roof was a major challenge in itself. The canopy also takes on various different projections and heights and has been constructed over split levels. It also features six retractable roofs too! The design process was intense, involving architects and our structural engineer, but the finished result is amazing and a real showpiece of rooftop bars in the capital.
Q. Who do you tend to work closely with within the company and how do you work together?
A. I work closely with our Business Development Team, who take enquiries from potential customers. They’re passed over to me so that I can make contact and start the design process personally and as quickly as possible. I also work closely with our graphic designer to produce the visuals that illustrate what each canopy will look like. Once an order’s been placed, I’ll then work with our installations manager, sharing all of the design information and job requirements to make sure the whole process runs smoothly, from first visit through to the final installation.
Q. What’s the one thing that most people don’t realise about your role?
A. Not all quotations lead to orders. There’s often a lot of work involved with quotations, which can be shelved due to funding, postponed or sometimes cancelled due to changing circumstances.
Often the time from quotation to order can take a long period of time too, One recently spanned five years, with staff coming and going during this time. Being in my role for such a long time helps with these longer-term projects; it’s important for customers to know they can start the process and end the process with the same person, who remembers their project details.
Q. Looking at Canopies UK’s current product range, what’s your favourite canopy and why?
A. I really like the versatility of the Connekt system. It can be matched to any colour, provide shelter in almost any situation and be fitted without front supporting posts. This is closely followed by the Cantabria, which has a retractable roof that can be opened and closed at the touch of a button.
Want to find out more about us through the eyes of our employees? This blog reveals what a typical day’s like for our production manager, Neil Chipps. He’s the main man behind making sure everything goes out the door when it’s supposed to.