To fully appreciate the need for contractor training in the residential construction industry, it sometimes requires some thinking outside the box. Take Dublin, Calif.–based Simpson Strong-Tie, which this January was the first company in what is hoped to be a long line of manufacturers to have their training materials certified by the National Housing Quality (NHQ) arm of the NAHB. “We had to change our mentality with respect to training,” explains Mike Moran, Simpson's national manager of builder programs. “We used to think of Simpson as a metal bender, but in reality we are a home builder, too—a builder of things and a component in a system where the end product is a house. So we need to understand the ramifications of our product in that process.”
Designed to improve product installation and reduce callbacks, Simpson's training program includes self-training booklets, videos, and CDs in both English and Spanish covering the essential information on the correct installation of connectors and other structural systems. Information is presented concisely, with straightforward instructions accompanied by diagrams and photos. Simpson supplements the kit with jobsite assessments and on-site training.
According to Moran, the plan is to keep the presentation of training materials consistent and standardized as more manufacturers partner with the NHQ program. “If you have one standard of training materials that all the manufacturers have to meet, then the trade contractor or builder who wants to implement training is not learning new training methods every time the content changes; [instead,] the product type changes, but the format stays the same.”
That's a plus for the lumber dealers and wholesalers that Simpson is in part relying on to get the training materials out into the field, as well. “We're fairly progressive in how we like to train our customers,” says Jeff Leyden, sales manager for Manahawkin, N.J.–based Woodhaven Lumber, which has already rolled out Simpson's training materials through box-lunch sessions with Woodhaven salespeople, general contractors, framers, and masons. “We want to be the go-to guys for our contractors, the tech guys, the install experts, and the simplicity of this type of training initiative helps us to quickly gain more ownership of the contractor's project as opposed to merely selling product.”
That philosophy of upping the ante from mere transaction-based sales to a supply chain partnership mentality is exactly the intent of the NHQ's training initiative. “The NAHB Research Center's NHQ program brings building partners together to establish and implement quality assurance principles in the home building industry,” said NHQ program director Frank Alexander in a statement announcing Simpson's certification.
Moran even suggests that embracing channel partnerships and standardizing product and install information could be part of a larger initiative to ultimately offer a three-year stud-to-stud warranty on a house. “We all have to start thinking about accomplishing the big goals of improving the whole building industry collectively,” he says. “Whether you are a contractor, a builder, a supplier, or a manufacturer, together we need to raise the standards of the industry. It's a lofty goal, but it's a worthy one.”