Byline: Jo Milne-Rowe, Chair of IAI and National Sales Manager at Codelocks
Since Jo Milne-Rowe was appointed as the new national chair of the Institute of Architectural Ironmongers (IAI) and in conjunction with her current role at Codelocks, she has helped to take the institute from strength to strength. After a year in the role and encouraging the next generation to seek a career in ironmongery, Jo shares what has happened over the last 12-months and what she believes the future of access control looks like.
What has given you most satisfaction during the last 12 months in the role?
Being involved in changing the direction of the IAI and helping to ensure that the ironmongery sector remains relevant through the One Future Vision project, has been an exciting challenge.
I’ve really enjoyed attending the branch meetings and sharing experiences with other people in the industry on a much bigger scale. It’s been great meeting more IAI members who I didn’t have contact with before and this has allowed me to build my network of ironmongers and manufacturers, which has benefitted my business development role at Codelocks too.
When you were appointed you were excited about the opportunity the role gave you to encourage the next generation of talent to seek a career in the sector. What has been achieved so far to engage new talent?
This year, we decided to change the Annual General Meeting (AGM) into more of a learning experience. To help encourage both new members and previous students, we held six CPD training workshops each presented by different industry experts. We wanted people to walk away feeling that they benefitted from the AGM by learning something new and not simply deem the event an opportunity to network.
We also focussed on making the AGM more available to everyone, as we experienced low attendance from younger audiences due to the financial commitment. It is important that the AGM is recognised as a learning experience so that employers realise the value and fund their employees’ attendance.
Knowledge gathered has helped to enhance the Codelocks free training programme for locksmiths and installers too.
What measures have been implemented to ensure that professionals are encouraged and supported to stay in the sector and develop their careers?
To help align and make membership renewables more affordable and achievable, we have also changed the renewal of the membership date. There is now a twelve-month calendar to collect and submit points for RegAI accreditation.
We have changed some of the rules around the presentations at the AGM. After listening to the members, it became clear that they were quite happy to hear about products and actually hear from the manufacturers. We focus more meetings around products so members can see a range of new products in one evening, and this gives them more exposure to the industry.
The role has enabled you to engage with people from around the world including Hong Kong, Dubai and China. Is there anything you learnt from your experience in Asia?
The way they specify and supply their projects is completely different to the UK. Manufactures in Asia supply everything on a project and they work much more closely with the architects. Over here, we have an ironmonger who will take products from various different manufacturers and put them together for a project.
In oversea branches I noticed there was a lot of motivation to top-up knowledge and a real keenness to hear from different industry experts. In Asia, the people have to adhere to a mixture of European and American standards, so they take every opportunity they can to learn about European standards.
When visiting China, I was impressed to see so many young women in well-respected roles and a fair mix of both men and women in good positions.
What do customers really want to see in the next generation of access control?
Businesses are interested in the future of connected products and tracking. For example, Codelocks has provided an access control solution for an innovative start-up that embraced the self-serviced model by offering 24/7 access to its facility. The company integrated smart lock products with a cloud-based system allowing people to book online and obtain a unique code to gain timed entry. This innovative approach to hiring out space significantly reduced overheads and there is now no need to staff the site 24 hours a day. This business model has been incredibly successful increasing business growth.
What are the key challenges facing the sector in the next 5 years?
Fire rating and testing will always be an issue and I would like to see more standards and regulations around installation and the maintenance of door hardware products.
New integrated technology will be a massive challenge, so it is essential that the industry has the knowledge to satisfy smart, connected products.
It is extremely apparent that Asia are not standing still and are looking at the next generation of innovative projects. Whilst I was there, I saw innovative use of finger print readers and retina scanners, which were all very aesthetically pleasing too – something that we perhaps don’t consider enough over here.
What should individual businesses do to prepare for developments in technology?
It’s important that businesses recognise how people are living today, as well as what products they currently have and how these may or may not fit in the future.
It’s not just about door locks anymore, especially not for Codelocks, lots of multi-occupancy offices use hot desks, so businesses need a solution where employees can lock up their personal belongings when they go for lunch etc. Particularly in towns and cities where parking restrictions and low emission zones are active, people need bicycle storage solutions where they can use an app to store their bike for the day.
I think businesses, installers and manufacturers should learn as much as they can, whether it means reading industry articles, attending events or investing in training and innovation.
What are you looking forward to in your remaining few months as IAI chair?
I have made many key relationships via the institute, so I am looking to establish more connections and share my knowledge with IAI members, the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) and Codelocks customers.
I am also excited to see more changes in the IAI that will occur over the next 12 months through The One Future Vision work that is gathering momentum.
I am sad that this role will come to end, I have really enjoyed it and now I don’t want to give it up!