Delivering on customer demands has always been priority No. 1 for window and door makers. Technological innovations, new performance demands and homeowner preferences have brought continual change to the space, and it’s long been our responsibility to rise to the challenge.
Right now, it might feel like doing all of these things is more challenging than it’s been in a while. A hot housing market and low interest rates have contributed toward more homeowners making improvements to spaces they’ve found themselves spending more time in since last spring. The resulting demand spike has put greater strain on a supply chain that is still grappling with the effects of the pandemic. Availability of components and raw materials has left many stakeholders scrambling to get products into their customers’ hands in a timely manner.
In fact, the supply shortage may be nearing its peak as I write this. But there’s some potential good news as we get into the thick of our traditional busy season. As the pandemic eases in the U.S., and as states have lifted their incentives for folks to stay at home, it seems that we’re catching a bit of relief on the labor front. I’ve heard from a few of my customers lately that the burden of finding employees to fill gaps on the shop floor has gotten a bit easier. So, while our biggest challenge over the past year seems to be subsiding a bit, another takes its place in the form of the supply crunch.
How do we stay ahead?
For window and door makers, I think successfully navigating these choppier waters will depend upon leveraging relationships with suppliers throughout the value chain. Vinyl extrusions provide a good example—the availability of particular resins and other raw materials that go into high-performance windows continues to be challenging. If you extrude in-house, you may have found yourself seeking alternative materials or sourcing them from different parts of the world. With heightened demand, you may have also run into some capacity constraints.
One solution is to leverage a specialized external supplier for your extrusions. The right partner should be able to extrude to your exact specifications while maintaining strict quality control, all at the capacities you need to keep up with customer demand. This can help eliminate the hassle sourcing raw materials presents right now and free up some of your labor to focus on other measures.
Screens are another area of opportunity here. Aluminum and steel coil have been in shorter supply than is typical, and some window manufacturers I’ve worked with recently have reported trouble keeping screens production in step with customer demand. Offloading some screens production can alleviate these headaches and, again, can help free up some of your people to focus on higher-value tasks.
Whether it’s vinyl extrusions, screens, spacer technology or any other critical component in high-performance windows and doors, alignment with the right suppliers is one of the most important things manufacturers can do right now to ensure reliable supply channels. Your ability to provide your customers with the quality window systems they demand depends on it.