I’d like to think that the industry stands in pretty good shape right now. There has been good solid growth in the sector for the past couple of years. There have been tons of new products announced. The UK economy is the strongest performing in the whole of the advanced world and the construction sector is generally good too. But within all this positivity there remains a few key areas that could threaten to do untold damage to an industry back on the rise.

Major skills and youth gap

It’s been widely reported in the general construction sector of the skills gap facing the industry. Stories of imported brickies on £1000 per week have hit the headlines more than once in recent times. But it’s also a problem that our own window and door industry faces too.

In the ten years I have been in this industry I have seen very little mass movement towards investing in a new generation of skilled young people to take over from those moving into their twilight years. If you want to see how bad the situation actually is, speak to Mick Clayton, head of GQA Qualifications. Their organisation runs NVQ courses and in in direct contact with a huge network of training centres up and down the UK. We often moan about how little seems to be happening to attract new blood to our sector.

And it is a big problem. As one generation decides it’s time to put it’s feet up, there seems very few personnel ready to take the reigns. The same goes for all areas of windows and doors, be it installation, sales, manufacturing etc. It’s going to stretch our industry, and quality will suffer.

On a slightly more positive tone, the Government has promised 3 million new apprenticeships for the UK over the coming parliament. I am hoping that some of those apprentices find their way to our lovely little corner of the economy.

Glass toughening

Anyone else notice the general quality of the industry’s toughened glass is rather poor at the moment? I have, and it’s not just me either. I remember a Twitter conversation not so long ago involving a few accounts, all venting about the quality of toughened glass at the moment.

Now admittedly, the problems seem to be stemming from one area, or rather one big manufacturer, as opposed to an epidemic across the whole industry. But it’s a problem that is far reaching and one that can affect the home owner’s experience with their installation company.

Considering the cost of glass right now, there must be a lot of money being spent on replacement toughened units. Perhaps an investigation of production, along with revised QC procedures might do the trick?

The same cannot be said for other products though. The quality of the glass we use for our own conservatory roofs for example is absolutely pristine. No marks, no waves, no scratches. Nothing. Very impressive. So, it begs the question, if some can manage it, why not the rest?

Pitting hardware

A recurring problem in our industry and a subject that I know many of us are happy to have a moan about. Pitting hardware is becoming, or perhaps already has become, a real thorn in the side of the industry.

We just can’t seem to get it right. You sell a high quality door with a high quality service for around £1500-£2000 and then within 12 months you’re being called back out because the high quality door handles and letter box you told the home owner they were buying has now badly pitted. You look a fool. Neighbours start to wonder why you’re already back out, or back out again depending on how many times the hardware has failed. And all that shine and novelty starts to wear off as the home owner doubts if there are flaws in the product overall.

It costs an installer time and money to go out and replace such simple parts of the door. And the problem of pitting hardware isn’t restricted to areas like the coast, where you would expect it. It’s everywhere. Inland. In the hills. In all areas of the UK.

The various hardware houses need to be getting together and start making some decisions. One of which should be to bring manufacturing of all hardware components back to the UK, start making them with a mindset of quality first, price second. That way we might start to make handles and letter boxes that will last at least 3 years before any pitting starts.

Also, I don’t think many of us would mind paying a few quid more per item if it meant quality was going to be assured and that we could go to home owners and tell them that their nice new chrome door handles won’t be pitting any time soon.

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