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Collaboration is key to innovation

Collaboration is key to the development of the glass and glazing industry in the next decade, because closer integration of products and services will help drive innovation, improve efficiency and create a better user experience.

This is one of the key findings of a roundtable debate hosted by Business Pilot and VBH in October, which promises to be the first in a series of events designed to explore and promote innovation in the fenestration sector.

This inaugural gathering brought together representatives from leading companies to discuss digital innovation, and the role it now plays in the design, manufacture and supply of windows and doors. Present were: Elton Boocock (Business Pilot); Simon Monks (VBH); Ryan Breslin (Cherwell Windows/Business Pilot); Ryan Schofield (Thames Valley Windows/Business Pilot); Jay Patel (Everglade Windows); Marc Henson (Kubu); Darren Pusey (Winmac); Greg Beachim (First Degree Systems/Cyncly); Sophie Stevens (Total Installer/Total Fabricator); and Nathan Bushell (Lasco PR & Marketing).

“The glazing industry has made significant progress over the last few years, in terms of digitising the way we work,” co-organiser Elton Boocock said. “From design and quoting tools, to cloud-based business management systems, manufacturing automation to smart home technology, digital innovation is playing a key role in the way we work.

Elton Boocock – Business Pilot and Sophie Stevens – Total Installer

“As an innovative leader in the industry, we wanted to bring together other leaders to discover how they introduce new technology and digital initiatives. We also wanted to discover how the whole industry could benefit from this exciting revolution.”

In a wide-ranging debate, the delegates shared their views on how digital innovation is shaping new products, developing efficient manufacture, and improving data analysis.

On the manufacturing side, Cyncly’s Greg Beachim and Winmac’s Darren Pusey explained how creating efficiencies can lead fewer errors as well as closer collaboration with other companies in the supply chain, which leads to new opportunities and improved profits.

“We need an environment where every part of the manufacturing process can work together seamlessly,” Greg said. “And having systemised processes is key to this.

“We are modernising Window Designer so that it is easy to use, not only for fabricators, but also through to the retailer. For example, our SQL databases will give users greater clarity and allow them to share data. We will stifle innovation if we don’t give people the tools to do that, and we want to help them be the best they can be.”

Darren Pusey – Winmac Ltd

Darren said the move to greater automation reduces waste, increases output and improves profitability. And this is only truly possible if all parts can work together seamlessly.

“I remember a time when window fabricators were reluctant to let other people into their factories,” he said. “But true innovation comes from machines working closely together, as well as with the rest of the manufacturing and supply chain. You need to get all pieces to mesh together.”

From a fabricator’s perspective, Everglade Window’s Jay Patel said embracing technology in the workplace will give you more time to invest in other areas of the business, but it is the connection with the end user that will create the real benefits.

Jay Patel – Everglade Windows

“Innovation will create an improved consumer experience, which will allow them to interact with our products in a more meaningful way,” Jay said. “I think this is a mentality our industry needs to adopt because it shifts the narrative away from one simply based on cost – in fact, competing on price will undervalue this.

“Ultimately, if you create this desire, thanks to innovation, then homeowners will ask for your products, which means you don’t have to work as hard selling them.”

Simon Monks and Marc Henson explained how VBH and Kubu adopted this mindset when they developed their smart home partnership.

Simon Monks – VBH GB Ltd and Marc Henson – Kubu

“We could have spent years conducting our own research, but after talking to Kubu we realised we had a great opportunity to work with the industry leaders in smart hardware technology,” Simon said. “Plus, they had access to our networks and industry knowledge.”

Marc said this approach to collaborative thinking helped Kubu stay one step of market demands.

“Integration is key,” he said. “Talking and listening to other companies is key to collecting and understanding the data that will drive future innovation. We are already talking to VBH about new products.”

The importance of data was picked up by Cherwell Windows’ Ryan Breslin, who also co-designed the Business Pilot CRM software for installers.

“Innovation has given business owners the tools to understand how their companies are run,” he said. “Business Pilot has allowed us to confidently grow the business because we can see at a glance what works and what doesn’t.

“Without Business Pilot, I’ve seen people make decisions based on emotion and gut feeling rather than data, and they could have missed out on opportunities.”

Ryan’s Business Pilot partner, and owner of Thames Valley Windows Ryan Schofield, agreed.

“Business Pilot gives you clarity,” he said. “And we are definitely seeing people talking and sharing ideas more than they were 15 years ago. When this happens, the total is often greater than the sum of the separate parts.”

Innovation Roundtable

Concluding, Elton thanked the delegates for attending and confirmed there would be future events.

“Openness is key to helping us to drive the industry forward,” he said. “How are we truly going to innovate if people operate behind closed doors and in their separate ecosystems?

“Today has been extremely informative, and so we need to make sure discussions like this are ongoing.”

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