The outlook for the industry has improved, but many companies still have excess capacity,” said Ron Crowl, president of FeneTech Inc., developer of FeneVision and host for the conference. “Owners and managers want to know how their tools can help them sell more.Our theme this year was back to basics, and there isn’t a much more basic business need than selling.”
Nearly 70 representatives from window, door and glass fabrication companies were on hand at FeneTech's annual user conference. Keeping with that theme, improving efficiency and quality remain important in the industry, Crowl said. Many of the 35 breakout sessions were on topics like reducing work-in-process, easily ordering service parts, capacity planning, purchasing and inventory control and improving glass yields. “While companies continue to make advances in these areas, they most want to enjoy increased revenues this year,” he noted.
Wincore Windows & Doors in Parkersburg, W.Va., and Vista Window Co. in Warren, Ohio, are among the FeneVision users that have extended estimating and ordering into the home. Sales representatives for Wincore’s main distributor carry iPads, while Vista has dealers who create and print detailed estimates—and take orders—right in the kitchen or living room.
“The estimates our dealers produce in the home include all the details on the windows and doors, and an image of the unit,” said Tony Kesicke, Vista marketing manager. “The prospect feels more comfortable, and the dealer closes more orders. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Toby Nichols, Wincore vice president of information systems, said moving the estimation process as close as possible to the end-user helps his company deliver orders within one week as far as Denver. “It reduces the number of hands the ordering process has to go through before reaching our facility, and orders don’t need to be rekeyed. For the most part, they come through untouched.”
Nichols also initiated the idea for, and has been working with FeneTech developers to add to FeneVision, a visual selling tool called Product Navigator.
“Product Navigator offers a visual representation of the unit with the order entry screens that makes it easier for dealers and other who are not employees or are far away to easily price and order products,” he said. Clicking on the images can lead immediately to product web pages, technical documents, installation videos and other resources.
Break-out and roundtable sessions gave attendees the opportunities to learn about numerous details in using FeneVision.
Wincore will begin beta testing module in July. It is expected to be available to all FeneVision users in January. “I think it will make a big impact,” said Nichols, who first saw the need five years ago when remote order entry became available. “This is about using easily understood representations, in this case photos, to guide users to the right choices and reduce errors especially with more complex units like entry doors.”
The session on Product Navigator was well attended. “Other attendees told me they want this capability as soon as they can get it,” Nichols said.
Nearly 70 people from 36 companies came to the User Conference from the Midwest, New England, Texas, California, British Columbia and Estonia. Representatives from a half-dozen non-competitor industry vendors also attended and participated in the three-day event.
A new twist at the User Conference was an increase in user-driven “Ask the Expert” sessions. Each breakout time slot included roundtable sessions with a topic but no planned presentation. The three tables in the Ask the Expert room were in constant use by groups of up to dozen, and down to one-on-one sessions.
As always, the conference saw attendees well fed and entertained during the evenings. Monday, the group bused over to a lusciously landscaped local winery that makes a range of wines from California, Oregon and New York grapes. Tuesday evening, FeneTech hosted a carnival under a big tent at its new headquarters nearby. Barbequed ribs, chicken and vegetables were featured along with karaoke and a variety of games.
FeneTech also asks attendees for their input on improvements to FeneVision for the next 12 months. Crowl estimated more than 16,000 hours of enhancements were made during the previous 12 months.
FeneTech also announced plans to host GPAD, the glass focused conference held simultaneously last year with the User Conference, to the winter. Schedule and details will be announced soon.