After recently upgrading to a newer vehicle, I have been amazed at the new safety features. While it’s not self-driving, the features are definitely approaching an autonomous car. The basic functions are things like active cruise control with the “stop&go” function, which independently adjusts the distance to the car in front of you. And then there is the collision and pedestrian warning with city brake activation, which prevents collisions via automatic braking. The steering and lane control assistant, including the traffic jam assistant with integrated Waze software, make my driving much easier. The use of this updated vehicle has made me a better driver, a safer driver, and maybe even a more attentive driver because all my communications are done through the driver console with no need to move a finger to click a key board. Yes, my Honda CRV is definitely worth the few extra bucks.
Flash forward to a trip into town driving my 2003 Silverado. I immediately realize I am not in my Honda. It’s twice the weight and size, but the bigger difference is my change in awareness. I have more decisions to make. The vehicle functions much differently. As I begin heading into some traffic, I realize that I am going to have to start braking earlier. In one situation, I ran up onto traffic very quickly. The mechanism that I used to rely on during my previous two million miles of driving is gone. I have to quickly adjust. I guess it’s like the old joke, “manual transmissions are millennial anti-theft devices.” Maybe one day I won’t be able to drive a vehicle that is not autonomous. I may have already lost the ability to use a printed road map thanks to GPS devices.
So what does this have to do with the truss industry? Let’s think about the parallels. Today with lasers on our tables and linear saws cutting and marking plate locations, with accuracy that rivals furniture making, we have become dependent on this technology. Some of our crews are unable to cope when these improvements malfunction or are not available. On a recent plant tour, we were critiquing some production when it became apparent that some of the problems we were seeing should have been eliminated with a very basic understanding. In this particular situation, it was a splice that should have been centered over the top chord splice, but because of adjustments and lumber lengths varying from the actual design, the splice was shifted to ¼ of its proper position. The builder, after some discussion, didn’t really understand plate placement. He couldn’t tell if the laser projection system was giving him the correct information. Twelve of his last trusses with 2 x 6 chord splices had to be reworked. A little later in the day at another plant, the automatic puck system was not working. The crew could not, to save their lives, set up a truss without the equipment.
Is this where we are heading? Are the advancements keeping people from learning the basics, so we should forgo the benefits of automation? Absolutely not. In the Honda comparison, my Honda makes be a better driver, but I still need to keep honed on the skills I have developed over the years driving. In the truss plant, we can’t just explain to the new employee, “follow the green laser.” We need to teach them the basics. They need to understand the key principles of building trusses. It can be valuable to train using manual methods. Heel to peak measurements have not gone out of fashion. They are still necessary. Overlooking these basics can create an undesired result.
There will always be principles of truss construction that need to be passed onto the next generation. This may keep us from following blindly and making a left turn onto a railroad track by mistake.
Glenn Traylor is an independent consultant with almost four decades of experience in the structural building components industry. While he is a TPI 3rd Party In-Plant Quality Assurance Authorized Agent covering the Southeastern United States and performs 3rd party safety auditor services, these articles represent his personal views, knowledge, and experience. Glenn serves as a trainer-evaluator-auditor covering sales, design, PM, QA, customer service, and production elements of the truss industry. He also provides project management specifically pertaining to structural building components, including on-site inspections and ANSI/TPI 1 compliance assessments. Glenn provides new plant and retrofit designs, equipment evaluations, ROI, capacity analysis, and CPM analysis.