Change might be inevitable and yet all of us tend to be highly resistant to it. The funny thing, though, is change doesn’t care for your feelings and resistance is futile. That is why, when it comes to technology for windows and doors, it is well worth keeping a close eye on new developments as software is changing the fenestration landscape. While the change required might be uncomfortable or downright annoying, it is also almost inevitably the key to a prosperous future and standing apart from your competitors.
Having been in fenestration for more than two decades, I have seen my fair share of change. Probably most striking is the steady introduction and integration of software technology.
Not all of this was flash, complex, or dramatic. Take email as an example. Back in the early days, we wanted fabricators to use this (then) revolutionary technology called email, to receive a registration key for window and door calculation software. The problem at the time, which now seems crazy, was that many businesses didn’t have email. And just as many weren’t particularly interested in it, either.
These days we might look back and laugh, given how indispensable this mode of communication has become – but the resistance to change and a preference for ‘the old way of doing things’ was (and still is) real. At the time we had to also include an option to fax the registration key. However, once people learnt that the email was an automated and instant response while the fax option could have a 24-hour turnaround they started to realize the benefit of this change.
Email might seem a trivial thing in the greater scheme of things, but it demonstrates that even a vastly superior method of achieving a simple task can initially have an uphill struggle for adoption.
When it comes to more complex business processes, the change required is obviously far greater. So too, is the cost and complexity. While these may seem like drawbacks, for the minus there is also a big plus: addressing more complex problems with appropriate technology solutions delivers a multiplier in terms of the value added.
More complex systems and processes means greater benefit potential
Move from paper-based design, estimation, cutting lists, materials management, accounting, supply chain management and more; integrate these activities, and you have potential for a major benefit multiplier.
These benefits can be summed up as:
- Streamlined workflows: Data entered at the very start of the process (estimation or quote) goes right through the system to manufacturing and is directly integrated into the accounting system. When the same data from the original quote runs through to cutting, ordering, fabrication, and invoicing, you save a ton of time and have dramatically improved accuracy.
- Reduce waste: Higher accuracy and quality data means fewer ‘keying errors’ and more accurate production.
- Repeatability and consistency: When software controls the process, there’s a reduced dependence on individual operators. That means no interruption to production even if a key staffer isn’t at work or decides to leave/retire, ensuring continuity and consistency for your factory floor.
- Process automation: By sending data straight through from quote to the factory floor, there are no gaps which depend on human input or action, therefore improving efficiency. There’s also improved visibility – you can see where every order is in the process.
- Easier introduction of new products: When innovative glass panes or other products become available, software allows for rapid introduction and configuration of new window systems.
- Data analysis: Software maintains a data record. The data can provide insights on trends, aid with inventory control, back warranties, inform marketing, or provide opportunities for further operational efficiencies.
Integration, the cloud, and CNC in Fenestration
Now, in addition to the advantages of software for more efficient operations, most businesses also have accounting software (perhaps even a full-blown Enterprise Resource Planning system) and a few other packages such as Customer Relationship Management keeping track of customers.
The real force multiplier is when these systems work together rather than being established as ‘standalone’ or “siloed” deployments. When integrated, the systems can automatically exchange information so that activities like estimating, quoting, accounting, inventory control, demand management, resource planning and more, are synchronized. This provides a single view across your business and it means driving out inefficiencies and removing duplicated processes like manually transferring information from one system to another.
In simple terms, a quote created in Soft Tech V6 can result in a cutting list going to the factory floor, while generating a customer invoice in the accounting system and placing an entry into the customer record of the CRM system. This can happen completely ‘hands free’, with a single data entry triggering a range of automated actions. Fast, efficient and accurate.
Another development worth keeping an eye on is the emergence of CNC machines for the automated manufacture of complex parts (or the cost-effective on-demand production of bespoke items). Thanks to the power of commoditization, CNC machines are becoming more accessible, with even smaller fabricators integrating these devices with their quoting and estimating software.
And then, of course, there is the cloud. Cloud software is generally paid as a subscription (SaaS), preserving capital, and putting the world’s best technology within the reach of ‘every man’. Most of us use some form of cloud computing every day (Google being the most prominent example) in our personal lives; the same benefits of affordability and ease of access apply for your business, and the benefits are truly transformational.
Through the cloud, every fabricator has equal access to technology which was once only affordable to those organizations with bigger budgets.
Adopting any new technology does come with its challenges, among them the necessity for often uncomfortable change. But as always, the cost and the challenges must be weighed against the benefits on the one hand, and the risks of being left behind on the other. Stand apart from your competitors by delivering exactly what your customer ordered, on time and with superior customer service. Just like few would argue that email is far superior to a fax, the same tends to apply for the software running your business: modern, integrated cloud technology helps you to make better windows faster.