Chain reaction

How are pressures on the supply chain impacting on installers, and could software deliver the answer? By Business Pilot.

The growth seen in window and door retail this spring and summer came with a unique set of headaches for installers: in April and May, many fabricators remained in a self-imposed lock-down; systems companies and glass manufacturers were also operating at reduced capacity; and the hardware supply chain was also disrupted.

This contributed to the extended lead times and product outages reported at the end of the summer and into this autumn; the work may be there but the availability of product isn’t guaranteed.

“We’ve been exceptionally busy,” Sally Roberts, from Leicester-based Harveys Windows, said. “There was the release of demand; the jobs that we should have been doing during lockdown were suddenly there again and then the additional business we’ve picked up during lockdown and since it.

“People have felt flush. Even where they’ve been furloughed, they’ve been earning 80%; they’ve not paid out on holidays, and I’d like to think it will carry on.

“As someone in the throes of my own house move, it’s clear that the housing market is also very active and I hope that as an industry we’ll reap the rewards of that through and into next year.

“After the end of the stamp duty holiday, things may slow down but there’s going to be a time lag before that hits.

“You’re looking at next year before the demand generated by movement in the housing market is going to kick in; people moving now will want to get Christmas out of the way before they start to think about new windows and doors and what they’ll do.”

Operating throughout Leicestershire and neighbouring counties Harveys Windows came back to work in early May, only to have to contend with a local lockdown at the end of June. Nonetheless, the retail specialist reported a strong performance for the year going into the autumn.

This has been supported by Business Pilot, a CRM and business management tool that mobilises the power of cloud-based technologies giving installers complete visibility of each and every element of their operation from leads and conversions to job scheduling, cost of installation, service calls, and financial reporting.

This, according to Sally, has been important to Harvey Windows during not only lockdown but the period of exceptionally high demand that has followed it, supporting Harvey’s Windows in not only managing its own jobs and scheduling workloads, but staying on top of its supply chain.

“We use Business Pilot exclusively to place and generate purchase orders,” Sally said. “As these are assigned to specific jobs, we can see what we need and when and then check against them that products have been delivered and are in stores when they’re meant to be there.

“We print out a list every day that our storeman goes through and checks off that product has been delivered or, if we’ve received stuff that wasn’t scheduled for that day, why and which job it should be assigned to.

“It’s quite a long journey to get to a point where you’re absolutely reliant on something but we’re there on this and works very well.

“Bringing everything into one place has delivered efficiency gains in our day-to-day operation, scheduling, ordering, planning and also management information.”

So why does Sally believe more installers aren’t embracing software and CRM systems to run their businesses more efficiently?

“The big thing has been getting people to use Business Pilot as a default and to rely on it, rather than seeing it a burden or something else that they have to do,” Sally said.

“What Covid-19 has done, is to accelerate that process. People have been working from home and being forced to use it because they weren’t in the office with the charts and all of the T-cards.”

Sally and her business part Richard are now looking to the future, of which Business Pilot is a part.

“We’re currently writing a process manual for the whole business and having Business Pilot makes that so much easier,” she said.

See the whole interview here: