It’s the height of summer (supposedly) and this time of year tends to bring the window and door industry it’s busiest period. The schools are off too. So even though families will be using this break to jet off for a week or two, they will also use this time to organise and plan home improvement works, such as window and door replacements.

It is also this time of year when lead times tend to be at their highest. I am already seeing one or two companies saying that pre-Christmas fitting is looking a bit dicey as their fitting schedules get booked up.

So, it begs the question, mainly for installers, how is your lead time looking right now?

Too high or too low?

There is always gentle commentary around what is too high or too low when it comes to lead times. Of course it also depends on the size of the business.

At the moment, our place is running a lead time of around 10 weeks. At the time of writing this would take us into the beginning of October. Great, you may say. And yes, to have such healthy fitting schedules is reassuring. But at ten weeks, we’re finding that this is just about the threshold where some home owners are starting to become a little fidgety about having to wait that long.

It’s not long enough to put them off buying from us, and they do tend to see it as mostly a positive that they’re buying from a business that is doing well. But as with every home owner who signs up to a big ticket home improvement, once committed, they want to get going with it as soon as possible.

The more work we sign up though, the longer that lead time becomes. As a small business with a quickly growing clientele, do we really want to go much beyond ten weeks?

The stumbling block

I suspect that many businesses of our size are going through the same balancing act. They’re busy, with full fitting schedules. But they don’t have enough fitting crews to facilitate the ever growing order book. They can’t let the lead time stretch too far, they might lose one or two customers who are looking to have their windows and doors fitted sooner rather than later.

So those installers look to the market for quality fitting crews so they can take on the extra work. Problem is, there just isn’t the stock of qualified installers out there to call upon. Our industry, along with the wider construction sector, has suffered for year after year with little to no influx of fresh talent. No young or up and coming skilled tradespeople to take up the new work and allow companies to grow smoothly.

We now have the scenario where companies are looking to expand and grow, but don’t have the right tradespeople to make it happen. Therefore, lead times become longer and longer and harder to manage for installers.

The lack of skilled trade is an issue for another post though, I’ll tackle that another time.

The poll

I thought it might be useful to try and see what kinds of lead times the industry’s installers are operating at at the moment. It will not only give us an indication as to the health of the industry at the moment, but could also give another indication as to the performance of the industry since the Brexit vote.

As you can see, I have embedded the poll in the sidebar on the right hand side. No more pop-up polls which I know used to annoy a few people!

So before you click away, please take a second to either vote below or on the right hand side. As soon as the poll reaches the few hundreds votes mark I’ll close it an analyse the results in a future post.

As always, thoughts on this post and any other topic are welcome via the comments section below.

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