From the Editor March/April 2023April 12th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs
Our Future Is Staring Us in the Face
It pays to explore outside of your own bubble. That’s something I’ve heard a lot lately—especially when it comes to innovation—and I took the message to heart for this issue.
I’m familiar with the amazing things that the machinery industry has accomplished for door and window manufacturing, including some impressive feats in automation and robotics. Heck, I even had one of those robots serve me a cup of coffee. But what about elsewhere? With so much happening in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, I had to wonder.
I found videos of humanoid robots engaging in conversation and debate with humans—all in plain English. I found others navigating warehouses, where they locate, identify and retrieve materials and packages. Then I came across one of Boston Dynamics’ humanoids navigating a jobsite, handling tools and materials. That was the point at which I began to wonder: With humans merely filling in between automated machines, and the gap between humanoids and workers narrowing, when might the latest robots arrive in door and window manufacturing? Based on my findings, the question wasn’t “if,” but “when?” You can find the answer on page 24, where you’ll discover a healthy mix of optimism from the world’s leading roboticists and scrutiny from the door and window industry.
I found some perspectives surprising. Nothing caught me more off guard, though, than discovering how intrigued roboticists were by the fenestration industry. They had as many questions for me as I had for them. As it turns out, the same complexities that lead door and window manufacturers to be skeptical make the industry intriguing. They thrive on great challenges, so to them fenestration is brain candy.
For as long as I’ve covered doors and windows, I’ve heard folks mention how far behind the industry is in automation, compared to other areas. But some of the experts I spoke with suggest that’s not always a bad thing. I also think it’s a misnomer to suggest that the industry has been complacent. In fact, I would argue that in many ways it was founded on innovation. In 1905, Andersen invented the “two bundle” method for manufacturing, allowing windows to be assembled in as little as 10 minutes. Nearly 120 years later, the company plans to transform the meaning of fenestration with photovoltaic windows. On p20, you’ll find numerous other examples of how Andersen aims to disrupt the industry under its latest CEO, Chris Galvin. If Galvin has his way, other industries will look to fenestration as a leading example. If you ask me, it’s palpable: the door and window industry might be playing “come from behind” in some areas, but it’s accelerating its speed. Just have a look at some of the latest developments in machinery on page 30.
As technology progresses, it’s only natural that we feel a bit uneasy about certain developments, because there are so many unknowns that we face in the process. But in recent years, hasn’t uncertainty become the new normal? Yet in 2022, door and window dealers managed to grow revenues by 21%, on average. Talk about overcoming uncertainty. Have a look on page 36, where you’ll find our annual list of Top Dealers. The numbers are impressive.
When it comes to technology, even when we know what’s coming, that doesn’t always make it any less intimidating. For instance, when you see something that looks, walks and talks like we do, I think it’s only natural that we experience some level of fear … especially when it’s already staring us right in the face and speaking our language.
Drew Vass is the executive editor for Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine.
To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.