Have we ever been as diverse an industry as we are at this very minute? Probably not. The world PVCu has exploded into a party of choice, innovation and endless permutations of it’s products. Aluminium is back in a big way. Even timber is getting a foothold back into the residential market. We’ve never had so much choice.

Borne out of necessity back in the recession years, fabricators entered a phase of research and development unlike anything we had seen in the past, in an effort to create new product niches and increase the number of reasons for home owners to buy new windows and doors. Hence we have all the choice we have in front of us today. And it continues to expand.

The problem is, in terms of personnel we’re much smaller as a sector. Yes business has recovered to pre-recession levels, and moderate levels of growth are forecast for the next five years despite Brexit. But we’re all now doing much more than before the recession, and there is less of us to get it all done. We’re creaking. But there are things I think we should be doing to help relieve the stress.

It’s time to cut the product dead wood out.

Time to cut out some products

It seems as though a lot of fabrication in UK fenestration is trying to do anything and everything. Every product now has ten dozen options. Some fabricators are well into the double-digits when it comes to systems that they fabricate. Each of those systems have their own world of options, marketing and technical back-up.

However, not every single product is going to be a best seller, or go on to replace other products as the bread and butter business for that company. So the question is, why bother going to the effort of supplying every single little thing possible? When we’re all understaffed, overworked and drowning in product options, it seems inefficient to me to continue to supply some of our lowest selling products as an industry.

It looks as though as an industry we’re not in a massive rush to hire more people to reduce the stress and workload. So I think it is time we take an honest look at all the products we’re supplying at the moment and look to cull some of the lowest selling, worst performing products. A bit like clothes in the wardrobe we’ve hardly worn for the past couple of years, if they’re not being bought, it’s time to get rid.

Still stocking handles hardly anyone is buying? Stocking a foil colour no one is buying? Producing cylinders installers don’t want any more? Why? You’re having to make room to keep that stock. You’re having to sustain knowledge of those products just on the off chance someone might enquire about them. You’re having to retain information, data and pricing details on those products no one is buying. When we’re all busting our backsides to keep businesses running, we really do need to take a cold hard look at what is and isn’t being sold and be bold when it comes to streamlining product options.

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Why I’ve come to this conclusion

Right now, our industry is facing a number of very critical issues, all of which are having negative and adverse effects on pretty much all parts of our sector. We’re short of skilled youth in all areas of fenestration, meaning we’re all understaffed and overworked. We’re growing well as an industry, over and above pre-recession levels of business. And we’re a whole lot more diverse than we were ten years ago. It is becoming impossible to be this diverse and chronically short of the right people to keep this sustained.

It doesn’t look like our industry is going to be going on a major hiring spree any time soon, so it is time to look at our product portfolios as a way to alleviate some of that stress, and I think we should be culling the lowest selling products.

I don’t mean the odd clip here and bolt there. I mean bigger items, things like profile colours, hardware suites, glass products, the tangible and more significant products we sell. If your sales of a particular colour profile total just one or two percent for example, is it really worth it? You have to buy in stock, store it safely, have information and price resources on a product you may never sell this year. When we’re all drowning under the weight of all sorts of products, we cannot be hoarding products everywhere just in case someone might be it some day.

By doing this, fabricators, installers and also syscos can focus on the products that are bringing in the sales proper, and concentrate on getting those right. Because there is also a crisis in quality and customer service right now. It seems no one is happy with anyone at the moment. I would like to see us all really get to grips with the products that are actually selling and nail quality control and customer service around them.

With the FIT Show a week away, it is for this reason that I really won’t be jumping for joy at the prospect of even more new products. Does our industry really need any more right now? Do we really want companies to be claiming to change the game? Does the game need changing? Or does it simply need streamlining and making more efficient instead. I argue the latter. I will be more interested in finding out how our industry is going to address some of the problems we’re all facing at the moment and how to improve quality and productivity.

So, like your wardrobe, it’s time to have a big dig through and get rid of anything you don’t need any more. Consider it as like a big fenestration spring clean.

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