At the start of the New Year, software company Anthill asked a group of kitchen and bathroom leaders about the industry focus for 2022 and their plans on how they will approach the topics.
The subject areas spanned the skills gap and training, retaining staff and working around longer leads times created by increased demand. Here is what they had to say.
Plug the skills gap
CEO of BiKBBI Damian Walters said the most significant challenge for the kbb industry will be to plug the skills gap.
He commented: “The first half of the New Year will see further interruptions and delays to the supply chain, causing more short-term disruption for the sector.
“Yet the most significant challenge for the kbb industry in 2022 and beyond remains the skills gap crisis.”
Damian Walters explained: “The ramifications of the skills gap is not as simple as consumers having to wait longer and installers having to work harder.
“The real threat is the certainty of unskilled, and sometimes unscrupulous opportunists taking advantage of workforce shortage. In turn, this will cause long-term damage to the reputation of the industry.
“The lack of qualified, experienced and compliant installers is not a problem for the installation sector alone.
“It’s a problem that will impact all areas of the industry; manufacturers, distributors, retailers and installers alike.
“Therefore it is vital that the whole industry take ownership of the challenge.
“”We must come together to support the efforts of BiKBBI and our partners in 2022 as we develop the future generation of installers for the KBB sector.
With the Level 2 Fitted Interiors Apprenticeship we have made strides towards the long-term solution for the labour shortage, but there is so much more to do.
Effective Digital Transformation
Founder and CEO of Anthill John Endeacott reported digital technology is going to become a greater focus of 2022.
He pointed out: “Technology’s influence is only going to grow throughout 2022 and beyond.
As such, organisations across the KBB industry should be looking at implementing an effective digital transformation.”
Endeacott explained: “KBB businesses are already operating under a tremendous strain on resources.
“Harnessing the best available technologies can help alleviate these pressures and improve efficiencies.
“With the potential for ongoing restrictions affecting businesses beyond their control, being able to maximise internal operations provides a stronger base to respond.
“Aligning disparate teams, integrating key systems, removing data access obstacles and automating customer communications can all have a drastic impact.
“Freeing up resources to continue driving toward your goals for 2022.
Adapt and adopt
Managing director of The Kitchen Group Liam Hopper stated the supply issues would mean retailers have to adapt their business to cater for longer lead times.
He stated: “Lead times for stock will require a lot more organising, especially with 16-24 week appliance lead times, affecting logistics across the industry.
“There will be a need to secure the supply chain so price fluctuations won’t hit you at the last minute.”
Liam Hopper added: “Likewise, trends will continue to evolve. We have already seen Scandinavian, 3D wood effect doors are going to be in and, as such, many showrooms have already been fitted with these for the start of 2021.
“Lastly, all of this will be compounded by a shortage of good quality employees. This means companies need to ensure they’re looking after staff and customers alike, making them feel valued.”
Train the Next Generation
Managing director of Quooker UK Stephen Johnson believes training the next generation must be a focus on the industry to solve the skills gap crisis.
He commented: “As we have weathered the Covid-19 storm and looked at how our own workforce operates, this crisis has been helpful in shining a light on the sizeable, and growing, skills gap the UK is facing.
“High consumer demand for installation and after-sales care is increasingly unable to be met with any speed. And in many cases, without any guarantee of quality.”
Stephen Johnson urged change: “No matter how many taps, kitchens or bathrooms we sell; if there are not enough installers to keep pace, there is an inevitable bottleneck.
“It’s an area that requires drastic change and immediate support.
“I would love for the industry to recognise this shortage is a real problem, to get behind it and work hard to try and fix it. We cannot afford to wait years for this to change.
“Quooker are fully invested in training the next generation and would urge other KBB organisations to get involved.”
Consider Your Environment
Managing director of the Unified Water Label Yvonne Orgill says consumers are becoming more eco-conscious and incoming legislation will need a greater focus on sustainability.
She explained: “There will be more consumer demand and a focus from the government to encourage industry to develop and innovate.
“We will see legislation in some cases, as the government seeks to meet its environmental targets.
“Sustainability, repairability and life cycle will all be big themes in 2022.
Yvonne Orgill added:“Many manufacturers have already responded to this challenge by looking at their products and their processes.
“At the UWLA we want to support them and others in the supply chain to promote these products and encourage behaviour change in consumers.
“Our activities are designed to promote the importance of good performance products and influence consumer behaviour.
“ It’s crucial for the KBB sector to understand why they should support this initiative, rather than let the government impose restrictions.”
Invest in your team
Director of James James Kitchens Maria Challis said some of the more pressing issues for the kbb industry will be staff retention, employee wellbeing and a healthy mindset.
She added: “The external pressures, in connection with Covid-19, and the additional strains of the virus send many into a spiral of worry and panic which is not great for staff morale.
“There has been a distinct shift in the public perception of a 9-5 job which, I believe stems, from having long periods of time on furlough and seeing family life closer to hand.
Maria Challis continued:“We operate a fully open discussion approach so that my colleagues feel heard and supported.
“We will also be running regular mindset and wellbeing workshops to aid the ongoing effects of this pandemic.”
Kitchens & Bathrooms News also asked industry leaders about their preditions for 2022 and advice for retailers.