A trending DIY post shows a long sequence of nail holes alongside a wall-mounted TV with a caption that says, “I knew that stud was in there somewhere.” Meant to be a humorous poke at the times when we’ve attempted new projects, it reveals how sometimes we might not have been as skilled as we believed. We are all guilty of trying to do projects that go horribly wrong. Often these projects cost us far more than if we had just listened to a professional.
The past few years have been a tremendous boon for the building industry. This type of success can easily cause a perception of ourselves that can be unrealistic when we are on top of the proverbial success hill. We tell ourselves that when the money flows like a river, we must be the unqualified expert. I am witnessing hidden mistakes that will cost so many component manufacturers (CM-wood truss and wall panel manufacturers) hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars with the decisions being made today. As I explain in my January article, “Don’t be Blind to Simple Truths for the 2023 Build Season,” maintaining sales and margins will become more challenging in the coming months and years.
The tight labor market is causing many to make expensive bad decisions. In a rush to provide equipment to lower labor costs, some vendors are losing sight, or are blind, to the basic tenets of lean and time and motion principles. By far, the Just-In-Time tool in the lean manufacturing toolbox is the most misunderstood one. In an effort to lower labor costs, expensive equipment is being sold to CMs that, in the end, will cost the CMs millions of lost sales. The latest example is a floor truss assembly table made by a reputable truss equipment vendor which is the most ergonomically poor design I have witnessed in twenty years of professional consulting. My recommendation to my client, when I saw this brand new table, was to sell it and purchase a used or new floor truss table for better results. The cost of lost sales from the poorly designed table will be substantially higher than the cost of the table itself. Numbers do not lie, and the end results will clearly show that the overall output will be dramatically lower.
New equipment installs and new manufacturing facilities are being built with preventable constraint costs that can never be removed. In other words, they would have been able to produce far greater output with the same equipment had it not been designed with seriously flawed bottlenecks in their overall systems. I cannot emphasize enough how poorly some new manufacturing buildings are being designed with no future expansion capabilities. Also, very expensive new truss tables are being positioned and combined with equipment that will forever constrain the total capabilities that would be possible. Even when a vendor is very successful with their sales, and is honorable in their advisement, they may be mistaken as to their recommendations of what is best for your needs. I cannot emphasize the importance of properly understood lean principles and industrial engineering practices in all areas of your operation, not just manufacturing.
When a company truly understands and follows lean manufacturing principles, one can find areas that need improvement, and the barriers that block improvement cannot be an excuse for a needed change.
Another example is that so many LBMs and CMs are struggling with their company’s existing communication and tracking enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems provided by plate and accounting vendors. The most common statement by most is that it is “good enough” or “just takes a little bit more training and investment” to get their system to where all their sales teams will use it. Too often, their systems do not connect all the information from every division within the company. The apps are too complicated for many sales team members, and not all the information is updated or available. Suppose your salespeople cannot find all of an order’s need-it-right-now information, such as all relevant emails, documents, schedules, automated reminders, all various departments information beyond the CM operations, and detailed status of every stage via a web browser on the cellphone without calling someone. What kind of time-wasting events do you think are happening within your company in every department every day? When a salesperson has to interrupt someone else’s work to get an answer to 95% of the repeated typical questions being asked, why in the world does your company feel this is acceptable? If your current vendors are not resolving this never-ending time-wasting problem, perhaps it is time to look for another solution.
Current success is not a guarantee of future success. Properly understood lean principles combined with industrial engineering practices can prevent many current and future potentially costly errors within your company’s system. It applies in every area, not just manufacturing.