I’ve been in the industry for 11 years now, and during those years, I have to say that this is perhaps the most unfocused, messy and disorganised the industry has been. There doesn’t seem to be any direction. No clear path. No shining light pointing the way forward for us all. And this is bad for absolutely everyone.

Messy and dysfunctional

The stupid thing is, the industry is producing the most advanced products we have ever produced in this country. And perhaps there lies the problem. There has been a race to the top by almost everyone making products. It’s meant that pretty much every company has a new product, or range of products for installers to have a go at. Yet, as soon as one new product is launched, along comes another, then another, then another. The industry cannot keep up.

It’s like having too many toys and not enough time to play with them all. Eventually, by the time interest in those toys comes along, they’re already old and there’s newer toys already out replacing them.

The end result means a plethora of new products backed up by half baked marketing campaigns that fail to deliver. Installers are left selling products without full knowledge of them. Pricing jobs up in the new products becomes difficult. Frustrations rise and they filter all the way back up the chain. It’s all very messy and very dysfunctional.

QC…or lack of it

I think one of the most popular complaints among installers at the moment is the poor quality parts of the industry is suffering from.

It’s incredibly frustrating for installers when products they are supposed to be selling as high end and premium quality come delivered with nicks, scrapes, gouges and all other means of discrepancies. It stops them in their tracks, and with a stores full of products that they cannot install.

In the race to bring out the newest and best product, I feel like quality control has suffered as a consequence. All too often I see on my social media time lines complaints by installers about problems with products. It’s vital that if a new product is launched, the production of that new product is mastered before it comes to market.

An industry understaffed

The skills shortage on the labour side of our industry is well known, but it goes much further than that. I believe that all areas of our industry are severely understaffed.

During the recession years, many companies shed staff in an effort to stay afloat. It was a tactic that worked for many. However, as business recovered, many businesses were reluctant to start re-hiring as they sought to increase margins by spreading the work load around the existing staff.

We’ve done the same at our place. We have the same number of people working at our company as we did during the rough years. Yet, business has recovered massively, so much so that we had our best year in seven in 2014. At the moment, we’re full to bursting. We’re all doing about two or three people’s work. It’s stressed. It’s hard work and it sometimes isn’t all that fun. Yes we’re bringing home the business, the money is pretty good. But we’re all very quickly getting tired. It’s time to bring on a few extra people.

I suspect that our situation isn’t rare. So consider then that when we have all these new products, new initiatives, bureaucracy, red tape, new laws, new regulations – we’re all trying to cope with this onslaught with far less manpower than we should have. It has a detrimental effect on every single area of our industry.

No clear path forward

The industry is undergoing an extreme transition, and one that looks set to continue for years to come.

Manufacturers don’t look like they’re going to let up on the new products front. Not a single one will want to appear as thought they’re slipping behind the competition. So we shall continue to have a flood of new products and installers will continue to struggle to make sense of what is worth selling and what isn’t.

Even the industry media is in flux. Right now there is a transition from print to online media, with both sides fighting their corners for supremacy. This has created a flux for companies looking to advertise, but with opinions split on which path to go down. This makes things difficult for the publications and difficult for the companies looking to advertise.

Right now, every area of our industry appears to be without direction. We have the most advanced products but no clear path. Clever tech and online power, but a disjointed approach. Quality control issues across most areas of manufacturing. Lack of communication despite the rise of social media. Where will the direction come from?

If you’re an installer, my advice would be to closely analyse your business. Consider carefully what products suit your company and cut out what you don’t need. Take on what you can cope with. Then strap yourself in!

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