As an industry we’re in the midst of massive change and overhaul. Products of old are slowly being phased out. Better, more advanced products are taking their place. You only need to look to the rise of aluminium, the transformation of PVCu profiles, the endless ranges of architectural hardware. The industry has gone through some serious improvement, and there is more to do.
All of this growth an innovation however has left the industry with information overload. Installers are drowning in choice from the suppliers they use. From one fabricator you could have 12 different ranges of windows and doors. Add in composite doors, bi-folds, hardware, conservatory and solid roofs, and all the permutations they come in, and it’s an absolute minefield.
This is where software is going to be the key to unlocking productivity and making things easier for everyone.
Speaking from the point of view of an installation company, one of the biggest chunks of my time is spent on working out prices for home owners. If I have a house full of windows and doors, it is quite possible that they would want prices for a number of different products from two different suppliers. So, instead of working out one set of prices, that can easily be multiplied by four. That then has to be represented in written quote form, with drawings and product specification. I can end up giving a home owner a bible’s worth of paper before they have even signed up for anything.
As you can imagine, that is time consuming, boring and very demotivating. But, I have a mortgage and a wedding to pay for so I do it. How nice it would be though for me to have the appropriate software tools at my disposal where I could enter my dimensions and the software spit out all the prices I need for all the various options. Right now, I have to use various cloud based software programmes to compile my prices. That means for the type of job I have described, I would have to enter the specs four times. That it unproductive and time consuming.
The holy grail for installers would be software which encompasses all window systems on the market, but of course that is never going to happen. Fabricators would never agree to it. So the next best thing is for fabricators and other suppliers to create their own bespoke packages for their installers. To the credit of some companies, there are some taking the lead.
For example, TruFrame, who advertise on this site, have their quote builder on their website. A specially designed bit of software that allows home owners to design their windows and doors, including size, frame style, colour, hardware and energy efficiency. They can then choose to browse the various designs, or be sent to their Double Glazing Network of installers to find their nearest installers for them to work out a price based on the specifications they have just entered. I have played about with their system. It’s intuitive. Very easy to follow with zero requirement for instruction. It’s that easy to use a five year old could use it. And that’s the point! The easier something is to use, the more successful it will become.
They also have their online customer portal for installers. From there customers can price and order their windows and doors with TruFrame, getting rid of the need for paper. Again, simple, quick and straight forward. For an installer, that’s key. They want to spend less time actually pricing, and spending more time with customers trying to get the sale.
Another popular example would be composite door manufacturers Solidor, another sponsor on DGB. Their Cloud 2.0 facility allows installers to very easily design, price and order composite doors of all varieties. Not only that, there’s an online resource for product specification, installers can order marketing materials.
Again, intuitive, easy to use and there’s no need to be an IT nerd to handle it. For installers, you could churn out quotes for composite doors all day long via this software.
Kudos to these two for showing the way. There are a few others out there too. Brisant for example. But they remain the minority.
Time to get tech heavy
Frankly, there is much more to do. There are many major fabricators and suppliers out there who do not have the capabilities as demonstrated above. Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because as installers fall under greater pressure to provide more and more product options, reduce lead time, speed up quote turn around times to home owners, they need the tools to be able to do that. Those tools are software.
If an installer is waiting days, or longer, to get prices back from their suppliers before submitting to a home owner, chances are that they have already lost the sale to another company who got back to them quicker. The installer loses work, and so does the supplier. So it makes sense to improve that part of the supply chain.
That does mean suppliers putting their hands in their pockets and paying for it. It also involves them getting their heads out of the sand and to face up to the fact that IT and tech is going to rule how our industry works and operates. There are plenty out there, large fabricators, who are lacking in this area. It’s not a fad. It’s not going away. Don’t lose your installers to other fabricators who can provide a faster, more productive service.
We have to get seriously tech heavy as an industry. And we have to do it right. For installers, that means fabricators providing online pricing and ordering systems that are easy to use, well designed, works on mobile devices as well as PCs. There’s no point in coming up with clunky, ugly, complicated systems. It’s a waste of time and money and installers won’t be inspired to use them.
Installers cannot get away with it either. Their websites for home owners must also be well designed, informative, and generate leads for the company.
There is much that technology and software can do to help our industry do more and be more profitable. It means paying for it first, but the returns will be massive in comparison to the costs and will prep our sector for a world that before long will be run almost entirely digitally.
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