Our industry faces a number of challenges and problems right now. We’re still in the middle of a huge skills crisis. Brexit is on the horizon in the form of no-deal as it stands right now. The sustainability scrutiny is on its way and our industry is still complaining about poor product quality and customer service.

So, as you might imagine, this called for a poll.

Much to do

Each of what I have mentioned above is a big deal individually in their own right. Each problem could and is causing large headaches for the fenestration industry in this country.

I have long argued that the skills gap is the one that will do the most damage to the industry over the long term. I still believe that. Progress and development will come to a grinding halt in this sector if we’re unable to recruit enough talented young people. Installers and fabricators are experiencing the rough end of that deal right now. Speaking from the point of view as an installer, I can confirm that the talent pool remains very shallow and spread very thin. It holds back company growth and increases strain on the business. The same will go for fabricators. There appears to be a sharp lack of dedicated, hard working young people ready to come in and help fabricators grow.

Before I examine the other problems, this is the question I am asking my followers, and you guys, to go an answer on Twitter:

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The sustainability question

Although our industry’s people problem remains the most important issue to resolve at this present time, you cannot ignore the green wave that is spreading across all sectors and society in general.

Our industry, just like all others, is going to have to prove to itself and the outside world that what we make, how we make it, how we use it and how we reuse it is sustainable and as least damaging to the environment as possible. Specificially, PVCu has this problem the most. Timber and aluminium are well known for being recyclable. But PVCu can be too, many times over. Our industry has to very quickly learn how to speak to the public rather than itself and educate the public that before they go off the idea of PVCu windows and doors, they’re actually a sustainable material which can be reused and doesn’t have to go into the ground once used.

If we fail to grasp this particular problem now, we could face a huge societal swing away from it’s use, which could cause huge damage to the industry.

No-deal Brexit

In a recent poll by Insight Data, they found that 60% of their respondants said that their business would propser under a no-deal scenario. Remarkable confidence in the face of predictions of the end of days for the UK.

We have to consider that as we get closer to the end of October, which is the current leaving date for the UK, the media machine will go into overdrive. Much focus will be on Parliament and how that particular institution continues to function during these unprecedented times. But for all the noise that will be created, we have to remember that overnight the world isn’t going to fall in on itself.

There may well indeed be a sharp, but short, period where we adjust to different paradigms within the UK. Again, the media will make much of the fallout, whichever way it goes. But, this is not the financial crisis. That was a much more immediate, dramatic, global collapse of the single most important interconnected system on the planet. Leaving a political union will not match that.

Though the figure of 60% may seem high, its a signal that many are able to see through the hype and spin of politics and media and understand what is possible for their companies. Its actually quite a refreshing stat to see.

Quality and customer service

This one hasn’t gone away. I have written in my yearly reviews in the past couple of years that problems around product quality and customer service have been high on the agenda for the fenestration industry. Its something we have to get a grip on.

During the course of this year, I have seen nothing which tells me things have got better. I wouldn’t say things have got particularly worse. But the bar was already set quite low in the past couple of years, which means its disappointing to see that the early voting in the poll above puts this issue quite a way out in front.

Poor customer service and product quality, no matter where you are in the supply chain, is so disruptive to business. A batch of poor quality windows to an installer from a fabricator can make the different between them being paid by the home owner or not. It has a chain reaction up to the fabricator and their suppliers as well. Get a couple of bad deliveries in a week and it can cause huge problems, especially for the smaller installers.

I can understand fully why this option may come out on top when the poll ends in a weeks time. Many of you out there are installers and fabricators, so will experience the problems this brings quicker than any of the other three options.

It will be an interesting poll to run over the next week, and as always I’ll report back in a week with the final results. Get voting!

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