Did you know that, even though setting wall panels saves an average of eleven days compared to traditional stick-framing of walls, the overall home completion can have an average savings of 30 days when wall panels have been used? For the home builders, every day a home is completed sooner can be a savings of $250 to $1,000 per day. This faster completion rate can mean more home sales with the additional cost savings for the home builders. However, too many new and existing wall panel manufacturers are making too many overall project process errors to garner these gains.
If you are a wood truss component manufacturer (CM), wall panels can certainly help grow your sales while helping the home builder control the overall home building costs and shorten the home completion time. The simple fact is that wall panels can offer far more margin dollars than selling units of lumber while creating a dependency relationship with the builders for your services. This definitely can be a win-win for both the CM and the home builder.
Historically, wall panels have had a cyclical boom and bust as the availability of labor coincided with the building economy. Because of the current and future declining labor demographics for construction and other industries, factory assembly, which includes wall panels, seems to have reached critical momentum and has gained market acceptance in most regions of the country that appears to be enduring for the foreseeable future. Most of the market acceptance is being driven by necessity to manage field framing labor constraints. If you are a home developer with multiple projects being built each month, wall panels can be far more valuable to growing sales and reducing costs than you possibly could have imagined.
At first glance, it seems evident that framing walls inside a manufacturing building either on wood tables or some automation should be straightforward. As a wood truss and wall panel operations guru, I can attest that wall panel manufacturing is not merely moving standard wall framing practices indoors to garner the gains you are hoping to achieve. Approximately 80% of the wall panel manufacturers in the North American market are not achieving the overall project gains for their customers that they could be realizing, nor are they reaching the potential sales they should be with their existing customers. Most wall panel manufacturers are missing critical components they should be providing to their customers to achieve overall project time savings and also garner more substantial sales.
Both new and existing wall panel component manufacturers are relying too much on what they perceive as common perceptions and also equipment vendor suggestions. Effectively processing the wall panel projects is far more complicated than meets the eye.
The common perceptions are derived by the perceived simplicity of framing walls that any framer can do, but just applying those same principles in a factory setting, which is a mistaken concept. This perceived simplicity conceptually blinds far too many CMs to all of the potential product offerings and especially to the overall project process to garner a better outcome both for the builders and the CM.
Too many rely on the advisement of the equipment vendor recommendations without genuinely understanding the entire aspect of the manufacturing process and the demands it will require on the overall operations of the company. Most touted equipment vendor productivity numbers are best-case only. So many factors affecting the output need to be considered that, too often, many feel the equipment vendor salesperson has deceived them.
Some examples of pitfalls that new or existing wall panel component manufacturers may experience are:
- Do not expect to view the manufacturing division as something that can be flipped on and off like a light switch. If sales have large swings, do not be surprised by appalling production inefficiencies, poor quality, and unacceptable operating costs.
- For the CM owned and operated by LBMs, merely applying the management practices that you have refined over many years to a new and different manufacturing division is a recipe for disaster. Not only for the actual manufacturing process in the shop but also throughout the entire project process from sales to delivery, the different division needs different management practices.
- TDC has witnessed more than a few wall panel manufacturers who invested in costly automated wall panel equipment only to realize their output was barely better than wood tables. It was not always the equipment they had invested in that was the problem, but numerous company and project processing issues that were causing all kinds of hurdles that slowed the entire process.
As stated at the very beginning of this article, wall panels can save the average home builder eleven days of field framing, which, when the overall processes are aligned correctly, the wall panel building process can result in a thirty days savings for the average home building completion. Just because framing wall panels appear to be simple does not mean it is simple. When your company is ready to invest in this type of endeavor, or you have an existing wall or truss division that you would like real improvements that could be realized in weeks and months, instead of years, give Todd Drummond Consulting (TDC) a call. If you plan on making an equipment investment, please be aware that TDC does not receive referral fees from any equipment or plate vendors, so that you can trust TDC for unbiased vendor and equipment recommendations shaped only by customer experiences. For best results, most clients require a blend of different equipment and vendors to meet their needs. With TDC, your company will save tens of thousands of dollars with TDC advisement for both new equipment and practices.
When you want more than hype, TDC is your best source for learning about the very best and latest practices to keep your company competitive. TDC has proven real-world 30+ years expertise that goes far beyond what many expect and has provided consulting services for well over a hundred clients. Whether you are a new or longtime operation, save your company a great deal of time and money by getting professional lean manufacturing help and training to improve all of your processes, not just in the manufacturing areas. Providing full-time consulting services for more than 15 years, TDC uses proven and practical lean manufacturing best practices combined with industrial engineering principles that include refined time standard man-minutes for truss manufacturing. Please don’t take my word about TDC’s services though. Read the public testimonials many current and past clients with decades of expertise and experience have been willing to give: https://todd-drummond.com/testimonials/.
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