Home Installer Corner It’s good to talk: why collaboration and communication are essential to drive innovation in the glazing sector

It’s good to talk: why collaboration and communication are essential to drive innovation in the glazing sector

As digital innovation continues to transform the glazing sector, a recent roundtable discussion identified collaboration and communication as essential elements to maximise the potential of what the industry can achieve. Total Installer reports…

As the world becomes increasingly entrenched in tech, the progression of digital innovation has been transformative for many fenestration industry companies who have chosen to embrace it.

In a recent roundtable discussion organised by cloud-based CRM system provider, Business Pilot, alongside hardware supplier, VBH, and attended by some of the industry’s most enthusiastic innovators, it became clear that innovation is not just a buzzword but a conscious effort to improve the lives of people – via the products they consume, or the efficiency and profitability of their businesses. 

With the ‘smart home’ concept continuing to gain momentum, Marc Henson from Kubu Smart suggests that smart products controlling aspects such as domestic heating and security will eventually become a normalised ‘expectation’ as opposed to something more unusual.

“Over the coming five to ten years, smart is going to be a requirement, not a nice-to-have,” says Marc. “We believe that we’re starting that ball rolling and moving the fenestration industry through to give the consumer what they want.”

For installers like Thames Valley Windows, striking a balance between practicality, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetics is key when bringing a new innovation to market, according to MD Ryan Schofield: “If you can find a product that offers true practicality, doesn’t provide a huge barrier to entry because of cost and doesn’t compromise on the overall aesthetic appearance, that would be the ideal goal,” he says. 

Improved profitability
Touching on the role of digital innovation in enhancing business efficiency and profitability, Evergalde Window’s Jay Patel suggests how the adoption of technology can free up time for businesses, allowing them to focus on ideas and development, rather than day-to-day challenges. This, says Jay, can lead to better decision-making and improved profitability.

“If you embrace technology you will create more time to spend on innovating and developing your business, rather than the day to day fire fighting – so you have to take the plunge,” he says. 

Making reference to the Business Pilot CRM system for installers, he adds: “I think everyone taking on Business Pilot is daunted at the beginning, but now ask them to move away from it and they’d sooner say ‘chop my arm off’…”

Drawing parallels to the highly successful technology company, Apple, which benefits from the creation of a fanatical user base, Jay advocates the idea of building more value into a product, thus allowing consumers to interact with it  “in a more meaningful way”.

Features such as notifications, humidity sensors and automatic opening/closing can all help homeowners appreciate how to use their windows and doors “beyond just ‘open it ‘cause I’m hot, close it ‘cause I’m going out and I want to be secure’,” says Jay. “This is where innovation and digital technology can make a big difference.” 

And if the product appeals enough to the consumer, the group agree that essentially, the hard work is done. “If it’s good for the end-user people will come and ask for it; you don’t even have to try and sell it,” says Jay. 

For Ryan Breslin of installer Cherwell Windows,   the increased efficiency and streamlining offered by Business Pilot “has worked remarkably well in challenging times”.

Attributing a big part of the company’s growth to the effective use of the data available, he notes how easy access to industry trends, as well as reports and statistics have allowed the company to forecast for the future more accurately, in turn, reducing reliance on “emotional decisions that don’t always pay off”.

But the group agree that emotion and intuition still have an important role to play when it comes to both business, and digital innovation. 

Greg Beachim, of First Degree Systems and Cyncly, describes emotion as the catalyst that motivates us to ‘light the fuse’ on business decisions, but suggests the provision of tools to deliver success is fundamental. 

While acknowledging that “factories are run on emotion”, Winmac’s Darren Pusey emphasises the crucial need for experienced personnel to interpret the data available. 

He also highlights how integration is key to running a profitable and efficient operation: “I think innovation centres around the whole business if you’re talking to a fabricator,” he says. “It’s a big challenge.

“I always saw that as the real bone of contention, getting things to properly integrate… It’s a rare thing to find.” 

He notes that while the latest digital advancements are often deemed to be “cool”, getting the various elements to “genuinely mesh together” and “making it cohesive in the workplace so that everybody gets it” is the only way to truly transform your business.

With the need for open systems, collaboration and integration a recurring theme in the discussion, the participants recognise that working together and sharing ideas is crucial to drive innovation, leading to the collective success of the industry.

Referring to the ‘Works with Kubu’ tagline as an example of the importance of integration, as well as Kubu’s partnership with hardware supplier, VBH,  Marc Henson says: “We are always looking at how we can integrate with other people’s technologies and brands; how can we provide a product that compliments other things but doesn’t take over from them… if we can all be open and sharing and honest with each other, it’s just going to make it better…

“That can only be the way that we progress, because otherwise we will be stagnant and we will fade away very quickly.”

VBH’s Simon Monks notes how “scrapping over price” devalues product innovation and urges the industry to “accentuate the positives” of their offering as opposed to instigating a race to the bottom.

“It’s about confidence that your product is the right product and you are comfortable with your position,” he says.

“We’ve created an industry to our detriment, where people don’t feel comfortable with their position…there is so much chatter about what others are doing. Accentuate the positives. Accentuate the reason for someone to invest with you as a partner and your offering…”

Sharing information
Greg Beachim agrees, suggesting that sharing information and making connections “is fundamental in today’s world for the success of our customer base because we’re are stifling their innovation if we don’t.”

But with the digital world constantly evolving, is there a risk of overcomplicating products and alienating customers? 

Discussion amongst the group firmly asserts that there is: “One-hundred percent, we’ve done that as an industry,” says Marc. “We’ve tried to force products onto people that they’re not ready for…”

Business Pilot’s Elton Boocock articulates a measured approach to the introduction of tech by suggesting that “innovation really should be invisible until it’s not there”, adding: “If we take this huge leap then we put people off…”

But as Simon points out, “what consumers want now will be different to what they want in ten years’ time”, and as a result, acknowledging and adapting to generational shifts is vital. 

Referencing the societal resistance to change from older generations that often underpins reluctance to embrace innovation, Elton sums up: “Things are moving on. We might not be comfortable with it, but guess what; your grandma didn’t like some of the things you were doing and her grandma hated some of the things she was doing..!

“There will always be the innovator and the follower,” he adds. “The follower comes along kicking and screaming but they will move forward, and it’s on us to drive it.”

Change is inevitable, and while the group agree that “baby steps” are the best course of action to avoid overwhelming the customer with overzealous ideas, Simon warns against dismissing them altogether: “If you turn a blind eye to innovation, or if you think ‘our industry isn’t ready for that’, you will be quite surprised by what people say if you sit down and spend five minutes talking to them,” he says.

While the group conclude that digital innovation is not a worthy substitute for genuine passion, experience and a good old-fashioned discussion, it is clear that it will continue to transform the glazing sector, with collaboration and communication deemed as the only way to maximise the potential of what can be achieved. 

www.businesspilot.co.uk

www.vbhgb.com

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