After a nearly two-year hiatus from business traveling, I flew to Florida twice in February. First, for the International Builders’ Show in Orlando and, second, for the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance’s Hybrid Annual Conference in Amelia Island, Florida.
Attendees at both trips were enthusiastic, business-minded and clearly ready to be back out doing business in person. As we discussed labor and supply challenges, product trends, manufacturing capabilities and more, I kept noticing the overriding theme of innovation. Innovation in how to mitigate labor and supply chain struggles, innovation in product development and innovation in manufacturing processes.
I’ve attended IBS for the better part of a decade, and am always impressed with the product solutions manufacturers bring to the table. Specifics have varied throughout the years in accordance with trends and market demand, but the thing that never changes is that each product on display meets at least one market need.
Of note this year was the broad range of customization options and a focus on product aesthetics. When I attended my first IBS a decade ago, I remember a lot of neutral shades that could fit anywhere; this year, colorful booths abounded. Although neutral options are still popular, companies are showcasing all they can do with customization, whether it be color, digital printing or decorative glass.
As homes continue to become more connected, more companies showcased smart and connected products. Nowhere did this appear to be more pervasive than in door hardware. I saw numerous locksets that could be operated via a touch or keypad, through an app on a phone or even with the simple wave of a hand, giving a truly hands-free experience. There are even automated systems to power large multi-panel doors. As technology continues to improve and expand its reach, I anticipate seeing more and more smart products in the window and door space in the coming years.
The March/April 2022 issue’s Trendhunter focuses on smart and connected hardware. Hardware suppliers tend to agree that smart hardware is the future and we can look forward to seeing a lot of growth and innovation in that space in the coming years.
One of the more notable sessions for me at the FGIA conference was a panel about embracing innovation in the windows industry. Moderator Ray Garries said 90 percent of CEOs regard innovation as “critical” to an organization, yet only 10 percent are satisfied with their innovation progress. He recommends companies ensure their culture, commitment and focus is right and that a failure tolerance exists. “You have to fail a lot to get the right thing,” he says.
He also said that “Innovation isn’t just for engineers or technical people. Everybody can be an innovator. Everybody has great ideas. Following through on those ideas is important. Innovation is turning ideas into invoices.”
Panelist Tim McGlinchy, executive vice president of engineering and R&D, GED Integrated Solutions, shared the company’s new product development process of evaluate, prioritize, develop, launch and measure. Critical actions include justification (market need and financial ROI), customer involvement (validate the value proposition) and continual communication. “You need good ROI for you and the customer to make a win-win situation,” he explained.
Likening the product development and innovation process to an exercise program, McGlinchy said, “You have to have a program to follow so you stay more disciplined, do the right things at the right time and follow up with it.”
Read more about what innovation is coming to the fenestration industry to bolster energy efficiency and building performance in the Next-Gen Tech to Meet Energy Goals feature.