Not a day goes by without AI (artificial intelligence) coming up within the media or social media and how it is impacting our daily lives and shaping our futures. Ever since ChatGPT exploded onto the scene at the end of 2022 and the early part of 2023, the world began to really understand the capabilities AI had.
We can debate the pros and cons of AI, and the Skynet-style risks if we allow AI to go unchecked, but whether we like it or not, AI is very much here to stay and it’s going to affect our sector as well.
I want to explore just a few ways in which AI will change the fenestration sector.
AI in marketing
This is perhaps an area of our market that could be the most helpful and most disruptive at the same time. Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, DALL.E, Canva and now Adobe can be used to create articles and images by simply asking these tools to create them via a description.
I have used ChatGPT, and alternatives like Bard although it’s not quite as good as ChatGPT, to create pieces of my own. I have used it to create blog articles and news pieces for the website of our family-run business. The accuracy and level of detail that it produces is remarkable. And the more detail in the request you give it, the more accurate and in-depth the article or news piece becomes. Yes, you still have to make the odd manual tweak to make it suitable for the company it is being used for, but other than that generative AI produces some very useful content.
Image AI generation in our sector is probably not going to be used that much. When it comes to writing about companies, new products or services, images are not hard to come by so generative AI on the image front isn’t something that I can see being of that much use to the fenestration sector.
Over the past few months, I have been working on updating the website of our family-run business, and I have been heavily using ChatGPT to do a lot of the heavy work. It has reduced hours upon hours of writing down to a few minutes. It has produced page content, news and blog content as well as other items. I have tweaked where needed, but the service has provided content that is so accurate, and SEO-friendly, that it has been almost ready to use from the get-go.
This is where the disruption to marketing in our sector happens. Generative AI is going to make content creation, generally a job for marketing agencies, open and accessible to anyone, no matter their skill level. It means companies who cannot afford to outsource their marketing or at least PR/news writing services can use these services to help them do it for themselves. It means more content can be produced, blogs and news pages can be expanded, and web content can be improved.
Of course, this is to the detriment of marketing agencies who may find that demand for writing services reduces over time. Monthly retainer fees for companies can stretch into the thousands. In a downturn, where every penny and pound of spending is under the microscope, generative AI is going to be an attractive lure to many. And the best thing is, it’s not difficult to learn. Even someone with pretty basic online skills would be able to produce something of decent quality with just a few commands.
So, in short, more content creation and done to a pretty high standard, companies taking on their own marketing activities, less demand for PR/news writing services. Agencies may need to factor this disruption into their own future plans.
One area which I think AI could be very useful is in the background of product development. Generally speaking, it can take 2-3 years to bring a new product to the market. That includes initial ideas, testing, sampling, re-testing, marketing and then the launch. All of that takes time, investment and software. But as we are seeing in other sectors of the economy, AI is being deployed to take the strain off the workload.
AI can be integrated into software platforms to make calculations quicker. It can generate imagery in the CAD space to create prototypes quicker and in more detail, and even work to provide alternative solutions faster.
For example, systems companies who wish to bring new profiles to market could look to use AI to streamline their development process, make it more accurate and speed up the development to help bring new products to market faster. This could then give their own clients an edge over their competitors and the entire industry could see a general shift towards faster product development and innovations.
It would be great to see AI produce improvements in the software that we all use on a day-to-day basis in the fenestration sector. Whether it is cloud pricing, window and door design, energy calculators or generative AI imagery, AI could provide a massive boost to it all.
For example, AI could help unleash a new wave of generative image software to help homeowners visualise in much greater detail and freedom what their home would look like with new windows and doors, in a range of materials and colours. Whilst there are one or two software programs like that out there are the moment, there are not that many and they are pretty limited in their capability. The power of AI could unlock that potential and it would be a genuine sales tool for installers to be able to impress clients with.
The act of measuring windows and doors could also be improved. Sales reps visiting homes could make their task of measuring entire houses of windows and doors so much faster by being able to point a phone at the aperture and have the phone spit back the dimensions, as well as other peripheral information that could be useful. I understand that one or two companies are looking at basic versions of this already, but with the vast potential of AI, the right people with the right skills could be able to produce some truly awesome software that could dramatically cut down measuring time. This would be especially useful on large renovation jobs where there can be 30-40 frames in a single house.
AI is going to upend everything we do in ways we cannot even imagine. It is being likened to the dawn of the internet and predictions, that have since way over-delivered, that it would change the world. Even the snippets of examples I have given above likely won’t even come close to the scale of the advancements AI could bring to the fenestration sector. While there is a lot to do from a societal point of view to make sure AI is safe and we don’t get terminators coming back from the future to stop it all happening, there is a great deal of good it could do as well, so long as it is harnessed and developed properly.
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