One the whole our UK KBB industry is a nice one to be part of and one I've been part of it for over 32 years. Back in the early eighties when I first left school I trained and worked a kitchen installer, I qualified as a cabinet maker which then lead into owning my own bespoke kitchen manufacturing company for 16 + years. When I was in my early teens my parents had our kitchen replaced, and I watched as the designer measured and designed the layout of the new kitchen. When we went back into the showroom to see the finished design a few days later I knew I wanted TO work in this industry and someday become a kitchen designer. Who would have thought that 32 years on that I would have been working in the software side of the industry for the last 13 years. Software design had not even been heard of then.
The fact is I was passionate then and I'm passionate now. Working in design and kitchen management software has taken me to work in America over a few years and to Australia where I worked and lived for a few years. The way that design is approached in other countries is different to how we do it in the UK. The CAD software in Australia and the USA for example is used as much for processing and producing working drawings for the workshop and the calculation of materials and labour as much as it is as a design sales tool. In Australia in particular the industry is made up of cabinet makers, installers, electricians and plumbers, and none of them overlap. The client usually sources their own appliances. They are very few companies who manufacture for the retail re-seller, and very few modular furniture ranges available except for those imported from the UK and Europe. Their approach is very custom made and more comparable to our bespoke kitchen manufacturers way of doing business.
In the UK there has always been distinguishable markets but in recent years the bottom end of the market has got better. You can see from national advertising that the large home improvement merchants offer kitchens with better components; soft close draws and pull out accessories as well as some nice door finishes. The traditional private retail market is feeling pushed out and unable to compete, the client is asking themselves what spending £13,000-£16,000 on their kitchen is going to give them compared to the £8000.00 they have been quoted from one of the merchants.
There should of course be many differences. Service and the creating the right buying experience has to be foremost , without this being right there will be nothing to follow. The quality of products have to be better but these quality features have to be sold as they might not stand out as being obvious. Where the independent will win if done right is through their experience and knowledge and focus at the design stage. Having a kitchen bathroom or bedroom designed should be made to be valued as a professional service and this is why in other countries and now in the UK more and more companies are offering a better design service but are charging for it. Some will charge up front and deduct it from the price later and some charge up front for the service full stop. If the client is willing to pay a design fee they are already pretty sure they will buy from that retailer.
Like everything else the design service should be marketed and sold as a professional service. The presentation should be better than they would get for free and so the software used should create better results. That's no cartoon quality images and more technical looking floor plans and elevations. The right design software will produce better results in a shorter time. Getting things wrong almost always takes longer and costs more than doing it right.
There are many great quality furniture ranges, appliances, accessories man-made and granite work surfaces, tiles and flooring and today quality really matters. This is evident as more and more bespoke manufacturers open and offer a manufacturing service to retailers so that they can offer their own brand of kitchen or bedroom and one that can't be so easily price compared.
I hope this insight into CAD software is useful whether you are buying your first design package or looking to change from the one you're using.
If comparing software packages be sure to take a look at Microcad software's products. There autokitchen STUDIO software for kitchen design only and their flagship autokitchen PRO software which is aimed at the higher end of the market for kitchens, bedroom and bathroom design.
If you're looking for an entry level package have a look at Quick 3D Plan its creates some amazing results quickly and is one of the cheapest design software's around.