By: Brad Blank –
“Someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete,” said venture capitalist Georges Doriot. Never stop improving your building product, never stop adapting, never stop innovating, and never give up. Fear can be a powerful motivator for building product manufacturers. What can building product manufacturers do to ensure that their products never become obsolete?
Watch Your Competitors
“Being ever fearful makes you ever watchful. Watch what your customers are doing. Watch what your competitors are doing. Watch what the regulators and government are doing. Visit your sales offices, distributors, and stores. Talk to everyone in the company. Watch and listen,” says best-selling author Jeffery Fox in his book How To Be A Fierce Competitor. Keeping an eye on your competition provides crucial intel on new products in the pipeline, pricing, distribution, partnerships, warranty information, new AIA courses, and helps your team stay ahead of the curve.
We all have seen various products and services come and go. Remember Blockbuster Video? Fax machines? Floppy disks? Pagers? Obsolete products become antiquated and discarded. Superseding technologies cause obsolescence. In the tech sector, products and services become obsolete very quickly. Luckily, there are several recycling programs to deal with some of the massive e-waste generated by obsolete products.
Tracking your competition can also help your company prevent potential mistakes. By researching your competitors, you can find mistakes they have made with important architects and designers, and avoid those pitfalls. On the other hand, building product manufacturers can also find what works for their competitors and incorporate successful strategies into their model. It is important not to copy your competition verbatim, but to find the right solution for your company.
Leadership Is Full Disclosure
“Especially in tough times, everyone who works at a company wants to know what is really happening. It is unnerving and time wasting to hear negative or positive news on the rumor mill. Leaders don’t have to allay fears, fear can often provide focus. But leaders do have to allay false fears,” says author Fox. If there are problems at the company, management have to tell the truth to employees. If the competition has manufactured a new cutting edge product that threatens to make your product obsolete, it is imperative to inform all employees. If employees are fully informed, they are more likely to be confident when addressing the challenges ahead.
If you are a player in your industry and have any traction whatsoever in the marketplace, there will always be another startup looking at your products and trying to figure out how to make them better and cheaper. Sometimes building product manufacturers don’t even see it coming. Maybe they are experiencing financial problems, distribution issues, or manufacturing headaches. They see a light at the end of the tunnel but it turns out to be an oncoming locomotive that obliterates everything!
Innovation is key to making building products that are cheaper, faster, or easier for our customers to use. If you don’t innovate and adapt, your competition will and leave you in the dust. In a previous blog we discussed strategies about how to get specified by architects. Education is one of the most significant ways for building product manufacturers to reach architects. Education is a positive force that can help make your employees ready for the challenges of tomorrow and hopefully prevent your building products from becoming obsolete.
Education Is Crucial For Manufacturers To Succeed
Most successful building product manufacturers have an AIA continuing education course. Many manufacturers also register their AIA CEU with the USGBC for GBCI hours. These education programs are the most effective method to reach the decision maker and influence product specs. In addition, education can also train your employees about cutting edge technology to improve efficiency at your facility. For example, if your commercial window manufacturing facility can save time on processes, use alternative materials to improve the supply chain flow, and enhance the distribution network then then your product can fight against becoming obsolete.
LEED has increasingly become an important part of product specification over the past few years. If building product manufacturers don’t adapt and create products that can be specified on LEED projects, there is the possibility that those projects could become obsolete. Paint and finish products that don’t meet certain VOC requirements could become obsolete. A product can become obsolete due to the environmental impacts it has on the planet. Most asbestos products have been phased out and have become obsolete. Asbestos drywall, insulation, plaster, and caulking have been banned in Europe and other countries. Luckily, there are several free resources for building product manufacturers to learn about LEED and how it affects their products.
Building Product Testing, Certifications, and Documentation
Green building certifications, documentation, and testing can also have a major impact on a product’s chances of survival in the marketplace. Many products are tested using UL, ASTM, NFPA, and CSA test standards for timed fire endurance, flame spread, safety and efficiency. If the building product doesn’t meet a standard it might not be specified. Testing can be very expensive but lack of testing for a product can be a death knell.
Finally, documentation can have a major effect on specification opportunities. A manufacturer that doesn’t develop 3-part guide specs for a curtain wall system is going to have a very difficult time getting specified. Architects, spec writers, engineers, and other design professionals need accurate product information. Health Product Declarations (HPDs) are becoming a common requirement for specification from large AEC firms like Perkins + Will, HKS, and ZGF. It is crucial that building product manufacturers stay ahead of the curve to anticipate what the industry will require for specification.
How does your company prevent your product from becoming obsolete? What education programs does your company utilize to train staff, improve manufacturing efficiency, and stay up to date on green building practices?