Supplier support post-lockdown

Russell Hand, head of product management and technical at Rehau Windows sets his expectations for the rest of the year, while exploring the role of suppliers in supporting installers, fabricators and consumers.

Due to travel limitations and other restrictions through 2020 there was a significant change in consumer spending, and homeowners have been investing heavily in home improvements.

However, as the vaccine rollout continues and lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we can expect changes.

Suppliers must continue to communicate effectively with customers when navigating the ever-changing business landscape. Ensuring supply chain robustness is key, especially as installers and fabricators look for stable polymer suppliers to help weather pandemic-based upheaval. Rehau’s status as a stable, family-owned, global company helped the business during 2020’s disruptions.

While spending more time at home, consumers have been conducting greater levels of research into their purchases, windows included. This means consumers are becoming ever-savvier as they familiarise themselves with products. More specifically, smart home solutions are an area of growth. As such, introduction of smart technology in window systems will become more prevalent in the upcoming months.

Privacy in particular has become more important due to increased time spent in homes. For example, Rehau is looking to incorporate innovations like smart shading and smart privacy into window products, with the aim to reduce heat transfer and turn windows non-transparent at the touch of a button.

This increase in homeowner research also means there is greater demand for individualised, bespoke solutions, with greater uptake of frame accessories and an increased demand for a wide variety of coloured foils.

Aesthetic appeal continues to be a key factor in window frame choice. In response, fabricators and installers may source solutions that provide the aesthetic appeal of timber and aluminium frames, with the performance benefits of PVCU. For example, Rehau offers the Rio Flush Fit Window as a highly realistic alternative to traditional timber windows. Based on the Total70C system profile, it boasts excellent weather performance credentials and PAS24 security.

Alongside these considerations, sustainability continues to sit at the forefront of consumer conscience, ultimately affecting their purchasing decisions.

Although sustainability took a back seat in some industries throughout 2020, the fenestration sector remained committed to how products are sourced, manufactured and recycled. With sustainability growing in importance for homeowners as they become increasingly eco-conscious, fabricators and installers are reminded to choose green solutions. For example, with PVCU windows, frames should be sourced from socially responsible providers with extensive operations dedicated to reducing landfill and recycling older material back into the circular economy via co-extruded products.

The inclusion of closed loop supply chains needs to be considered right from the outset of product research and development. At Rehau, there is continued investment into eco-conscious product design with innovations such as co-extrusion technology and trackable materials. As a method that processes recycled materials in the core of the profile, co-extrusion is key to improving sustainability within the windows manufacturing sector.

Commitment to sustainability can be seen through reuse of valuable secondary raw materials to create high-performing solutions. The Total70C co-extruded window system, for example, is made of up to 75% recycled post-consumer waste. This demonstrates a clear link between sustainable practice and customer benefit.

Additionally, developments that make it easier for customers, installers and fabricators to opt into the circular economy for polymers will be vital to further enhancing the sector’s sustainability. To this end, Rehau is currently working on a Windows ID Tracker to make it easier to identify the material composition of our products and support ongoing building maintenance programmes. Alongside providing further information on how products were sourced and produced, this will make expired frames easier to recycle and incorporate back into the wider circular economy in the future.

With digital opportunities in the works, it is an exciting time for the industry and suppliers need to be at the forefront. Rehau, for example, has developed new tools for its sales team and partners to reach customers remotely, and provide aftersales servicing as well as offering digital exhibitions and training to explore, in place of in-person events. These developments make for an exciting future for fenestration but for this to work successfully, effective communication between all parties is vital. Using digital tools to simplify the process could ultimately be the ideal way forward.

As lockdown comes to an end, there is renewed opportunity for the window market. As such, fabricators and installers should look to source solutions that respond to demand. With sustainability, smart technology and effective communication ranking highly on the public’s radar, suppliers are key in the move to a successful future in the fenestration industry.