There’s just two weeks until the 2017 FIT Show doors open, and I am sure those visiting will be starting to think about some specific things they want to see whilst they are there. That includes myself.

I shall be there for the three days, covering as much as I can, seeing as much as I can, trying to gauge the mood of the industry right now. But there are certain things I will be looking out for personally. Products and services that I will be taking a closer interest in, for one reason or another. And there are three things I have in mind.

Door tech

The doors on display at every FIT Show impress me. Our industry is making great strides when it comes to door products, most definitely in the aesthetics and security departments. Each year they get better and better. Last year I was most impressed with the doors by Spitfire. Easily the coolest looking ones there, sporting some very high end hardware, funky designs and cool door tech.

This is going to be an area I will be keeping a keen eye on. I know it’s only been a year since the last one, but I want to see further improvements to what companies can offer when it comes to residential doors. I want to see what new designs are going to be launched, what new suites of hardware are going to compliment. Even more so, I want to see plenty of new door tech.

Considering the amount of things we can now do electronically, the amount of products we can control via the internet, the number of things that are already automated, we should be much further along when it comes to door tech. I know that there are a small number of electronic door locking products out there. But for me, there hasn’t been a single one that has broken through into the mainstream. I will be looking out to see what suppliers are bringing to the table when it comes to door tech, and to see if there will be any that will establish itself in the market properly.

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Focus on restoring customer service and quality control

There is no getting away from the problems our industry is facing right now. Installers in seemingly large numbers are unhappy with the current levels of quality and service coming from fabricators. Indeed, it’s almost every day that I am now spoken to about issues on going with installers from their suppliers. Many have said in the past few weeks that this is the worst they have seen the state of fabrication for many years.

A pretty negative situation to be in, considering growth is still strong in our industry. For me, this is a culmination of understaffed companies, a lack of youth and skilled workers and a rush to diversify flooding the market with more products and options than we probably need. We’re drowning in products and new revenue streams, and not enough people to make it all work efficiently.

So, away from offering new products and expanding product portfolios, I want to see fabricators and suppliers tackling the current problems many of us have head on. Approaching installers, whether they’re existing current or prospective ones, to show them that they’re making changes, hiring the right people, improving their operations to try to improve the quality of their offerings and general customer service.

Our industry is in crisis and chaos in some parts, although you won’t hear that from other areas of the industry media. My installer connections gives me chance to check the pulse of this part of the industry. We have issues. They need solving.

PVCu vs aluminium

The dynamic between residential PVCu and aluminium hasn’t been this competitive for a very long time. If not ever. There’s no denying that the residential aluminium market has been chipping away at the dominance of PVCu over the past few years. And this year’s FIT Show sees by far the biggest aluminium representation ever.

Whilst I’m there I will be taking a closer look to see if and how the aluminium sector will be seeking to erode the market share of PVCu even further. Perhaps most aluminium companies will be diplomatic if you were to ever question their rivalry with the PVCu market. Saying that both can work alongside each other. But it’s important to remember that it was PVCu that demolished the dominance of aluminium in the early 70’s and 80’s in the residential part of the market.

With home owner demand changing, looking for something different and not the same-old same-old, there is a unique opportunity for the aluminium part of fenestration to really steal some of that market share back. The question is, how will the PVCu community respond?

Of course there will be much more going on over the three days, but these are three areas that I will be looking at closely. I would say that my second point, on the restoration of quality control and customer service will be my main focus. I fully believe that our industry is in crisis in this area and I really want to see companies tackling it head on and showing genuine movement towards improvement.

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