Not a whole lot in Window + Door’s 2022 Industry Pulse surprised me. Continued supply chain challenges and inflation are driving up both costs and lead times across the industry, all while demand remains high. Amidst these challenges, many throughout the residential window and door space see opportunity, including increased sales and the ability to optimize production from top to bottom.
We’ve been dealing with unprecedented market conditions for two years now, and there are no immediate indications that these will change soon. So, what have we learned? And how—if possible—can we still improve? Here are three things I’ve been thinking about lately:
1. Continuous improvement on logistics
The supply chain crunch has effectively forced every manufacturer to become more fluid, dynamic and efficient in its thinking. Optimizing inventory and understanding what you’re capable of producing are essential. Your understanding of the amount of raw materials you use each day, for example, has probably sharpened since the days before the pandemic. You know how to better minimize waste to maximize what you have available. And you might be more in tune with the everyday demands of your customers.
The good news here is that these skills will serve you well no matter the market conditions, and it’s worth your investment to improve here no matter the market conditions. “Logistics management” was rated as one of the biggest opportunities for the industry in this year’s Pulse—and for good reason. Your ongoing success depends on it.
2. Use equipment to your advantage
We’ve known the benefits of automated production for years now. Less labor. Better quality and consistency. Higher throughput. Sixty-three percent of Pulse respondents reported that their investment focus this year will target improving operations efficiency—and automated equipment is an ideal way to do just that.
For some organizations, higher production volume might not be a huge motivator. Your demand may not require the volume. And given the supply chain issues mentioned, obtaining the raw materials to get the most of an automated line’s capacity might be a challenge. But in terms of operational efficiency, the benefits are real and clear-cut. An automated line can help you better predict waste and how many units you can produce during a shift. Taken together, these things can grant you a much clearer picture of how much raw material you’re likely to use during a shift; it’s another way to improve your logistics focus. You’ll also be paid back in quality and labor benefits.
3. Keep communication lines clear
As a salesperson, a big part of my job is keeping my customers happy—getting them the products they need when they need them. Needless to say, this has been challenging to accomplish over the past two years. What I’ve found—and perhaps you have, too—is that clear communication goes a long way in challenging scenarios. If lead times are long, setting the right expectations with your customers is more advantageous than overpromising and underdelivering.
The same is true in the other direction. Working closely with your suppliers and maintaining a clear picture of what they’ll be able to deliver for you are essential to setting the right expectation for the customer. This is true whether or not an unprecedented supply chain crisis is happening, by the way. Strong relationships you can rely on are forged with open and honest communication.
These market conditions can’t last forever. When we do finally return to something resembling normal, the skills we have learned along the way will be highly beneficial for ongoing success.