Building history facts: Before the 2008 financial crash, there were about 2,100 wood truss and wall panel component manufacturing (CM) companies across North America. The vast majority of the locations were independently owned and operated. When the worst of the effects of the recession finally hit bottom, approximately 750 CM remained in operation. Since the 2008 crash, the building industry has grown and recovered quite well with one distinction: mergers and acquisitions have created a market where multi-location LBM and CM operations are a far more significant portion of the overall market.

Multi-location companies may be more prevalent now, but you would be mistaken if you thought job security was better with multi-location companies. I witnessed a phone conversation when a VP of a large multi-location LBM/CM company informed an area GM that the location would be shut down Monday. This conversation occurred on the Thursday before Monday’s closing, and it was the first the GM knew their site would be closed. Multi-location area operations are shut off like a light switch during market recessions, and the remaining locations pick up the previously served market. In contrast, independently owned operations normally will fight tooth and nail to remain in business and only shut down when their finances dry up.

As stated in previous articles, tough times are coming, and companies must prepare for them. All the capital expenditure on new buildings and automated equipment will not be enough. (See Don't be Blind to Simple Truths for the 2023 Build Season.) Sales of new homes are already slowing in many markets. With all the expansion of component manufacturing, it will add enormous pressure to reduce margins to maintain sales volume to keep the never-ending manufacturing capacity beast fed. Only real positive process improvement based on lean manufacturing continuous improvement will help a company weather the coming storm.

The number one excuse for meaningful process improvement is the claim of a shortage of time. It will be too late for meaningful process improvements when tough times come. As Stephen Covey and Shigeo Shingo have stated, one must spend time on prevention and making improvements, or the problems will eventually overwhelm your group.

More often than not, protecting one’s perceived power and influence is a huge barrier to meaningful process improvement. Change may require responsibility shifts and realignment, and therefore, people will perceive it as a threat to their area of authority. Why would anyone allow themselves, and what they believe to be true, to be contradicted by someone else’s ideas that do not align with their perceived truth? This mindset is a significant cause of willful blindness.

Willful Blindness – Knowing there is something that needs changing or correcting, yet doing nothing because the person feels powerless

Why can't people correct the known problems or, at the very least, speak up and tell others about them? There are multiple reasons, but fear of retaliation and feelings of futility because such behavior is a part of corporate culture are the two biggest reasons. When people speak up about these problems, they are seen as troublemakers. In other words, in doing so, these people are butting into someone else’s area of responsibility and authority, which leads them to be perceived as a threat in some way which again will cause willful blindness.

Sadly, most deceive themselves, believing that not having enough time or protection of one’s perceived power is the true reason for avoiding making fundamental positive changes. The real issue for most is their pride. Each of us is guilty of the very human aspect of our personalities. Pride prevents us from seeing the true causes of our problems. We cannot see that change is needed, or if we recognize that the changes are necessary, our pride prevents us from admitting it.

“Modern cognitive theory states that people tend to perceive reality in light of pre-existing expectations and will ignore large amounts of contrary data before finally changing their minds.”

Psychology Studies - Author & Source Unknown

Some boastfully claim their group is not allowing themselves to be deceived by any particular ego or pride. If this is true among your group, why do so many claim board foot (BF) measurements is a practical and useful unit of measurement for roof truss manufacturing efficiency measurement, scheduling, or pricing? Those who are using BF for roof truss pricing are costing their company hundreds, if not millions, in lost profits. The numbers don’t lie, and yet so many insist that BF is the industry standard and it is good enough for them. But don’t take my word for it. Read about A-1 Industries - How One Wood Truss Industry Leader Uses Industrial Engineering Practices of Work Minutes to Excel.

Don’t let the phrase “too little, too late” describe your company when tough times come. Pride or ego is the actual barrier for most companies making meaningful improvements. An honest assessment and a review of all current practices are always warranted. Maybe your group should try a different approach to learning improved processes instead of using the same methods your group has grown accustomed to. The time for improvement is always now, so embrace continuous improvement in meaningful ways before it is too little too late.