One of the most vexing problems in home construction is that productivity isn’t rising fast enough – even though there are fabulous productivity tools everywhere you look.
Making a process lean and efficient isn’t always the answer, according to John Murphy from the consulting firm FMI. Sometimes a process can be scrapped entirely, which in turn causes productivity to soar. But it can only happen when all the key stakeholders – developers, designers, manufacturers and builders – tear down their respective silos and start collaborating more effectively.
At a recent HIVE workshop, Murphy encouraged attendees to take a wider look at the four cornerstones of project management: cost, schedule, performance and risk. “When a manufacturer first introduced sheetrock several decades ago, it completely eliminated the need for the plastering trade,” says Murphy. “Almost overnight, there was no need for special training – and jobs could be done much faster at a lower cost. It would have been silly to try to make old-style plastering ‘leaner’ or more efficient because the new material eliminated that process completely.”
Any time that one stakeholder reduces another’s risk – or helps cut cost and speed the schedule – the entire value chain benefits. This can happen through product innovation that removes steps from the process or quickens the application or installation. “Efficiency – in all of its forms – is a priority at LP,” says Marcelle Lacy, LP’s Senior Corporate Brand Manager for OSB and EWP. “With our new LP® WeatherLogic® Air & Water Barrier, builders install protection they can count on in less time while enhancing the home or building’s energy efficiency.”
Sometimes a tech breakthrough seems like a great idea, but may not be truly necessary. “A great example is whether or not to invest in augmented reality (AR) tools to aid workers with installation,” says Murphy. “If a builder isn’t thinking holistically, that probably makes a lot of sense. But what if the developer decides to build the homes in an off-site facility? That investment in AR training may not be needed because the crew isn’t framing the house on-site.”
Murphy acknowledges that most manufacturers and builders don’t wake up in the morning thinking “What can I do to help my partners in the value chain?” But empathy and collaboration can ultimately benefit everyone in homebuilding, from beginning to end. “Sometimes the shared interests are easy to identify,” he says. “In the case of off-site manufacturing, many municipalities have been slow to see the value in doing code approvals in the factory rather than on the job site. But all the stakeholders benefit if faster code approvals help shorten the schedule and make homes more affordable.”
What will the tipping point be for homebuilders to enthusiastically embrace off-site construction? When the labor force constricts even tighter and wages rise even more? Will it take more weather woes or neighborhood noise ordinances that further reduce the number of workable daylight hours? The number of progressive homebuilders using off-site construction methods are rising, but the industry in the U.S. as a whole continues to trail behind other countries.Continue Reading
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