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One of the most depressing/astounding/frustrating things about the current race for president has been the complete lack of attention to housing. The candidates aren’t talking about it. Visit their websites and you’d be hard pressed to find any prominent mention of the topic of housing, mortgage finance or residential investment.
The building industry, unfortunately, continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. Green building remains one of the most talked about and least understood aspects of the industry. I recently read an article about the response of the building industry to the ratcheting up of standards. That article only served to solidify my opinion that NOBODY has a universal solution nor understands how to make green building work long term.
Last week I nagged you about elevation renderings, this week the focus is on floor plan renderings. Floor plan renderings are an easy way to stand out from the crowd. The vast majority of builders present a simple black-and-white CAD blackline drawing of their floor plan selections. Some builders will add a little color to the background of the plan and fewer still show landscaping or furniture.
If asked, I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite author, but if forced to choose just one I would go with Antoine St. Exupery.
The idea of running a 100 mile race ten years ago was as inconceivable and foreign to me as the possibility of a 6 year real estate crash.  As it turned out, last month I got to experience both of these.
In the Wall Street Journal on 10/24 an article was published indicating that 52% of US companies were reporting major difficulty in filling jobs. 47 % blame the lack of hard job skills or technical skills and 35% state candidates just don’t have the experience.
Traveling around the country I see a lot of renderings - most of them leave a whole lot to be desired. The worst are the black and white CAD drawings with a computer generated tree or two to add some flavor. I also see a lot of 3D computer renderings that are cold and uninviting. Often 3D renderings leave very little to the imagination. Computer renderings can be effective if they are soft and inviting and the sketchy hand drawn look seems to be the most popular with buyers. Selling a vision of the home is far more effective than presenting a computerized "photo" of the house.
One of the greatest misconceptions about Lean process and methods is that they cheapen the product. Lean is first and always about value, and the customer perception of value at each price point is a critical component. It may surprise you that on a fairly regular basis I have to advise a client to put something back in a house rather than take it out.
November is World Quality Month and November 10th is World Quality Day !  This can be a great opportunity to leverage local and regional events. Perhaps a chance to tour a manufacturing facility, attend a presentation on quality improvement and get to see how other industries are using quality. A great chance to pick up on new ideas right on your doorstep! ASQ and other quality organizations around the world are celebrating this event.
Not a day goes by that I don’t experience multiple builders telling me why improvement in their business won’t happen. The economy, the lack of traffic, the longer cycle times, the bigger builder cost advantage, the lack of commitment from employees, the lack of subcontractors performance, etc…… I certainly know that we all have suffered greatly through this housing depression. I am not suggesting we ignore the obvious obstacles, just not let them be the bane of our existence.
Our lives are busy and getting busier. Some of the most popular new design trends focus on making life a bit easier. Simplifying access and flow to perform every day tasks is a hot topic in today's market. The photos below illustrate two trends that are rapidly becoming very popular:  
The accompanying picture was used recently with what was an otherwise good article on how to create profitable design. That article is much bigger in scope than simply the design of the house itself but still, the irony is palpable. What’s your first impression? Give it a good examination before you go on, in fact, gather some of your people around the monitor or print it out and ask if this is an intelligent, cost-effective design? Looks pretty good? Not if you have spent the past 5 years or perhaps just the past 5 weeks really dissecting plans and elevations from a Lean perspective.
In this economy these builders are growing sales, expanding into new markets and achieving 100% customer satisfaction! They are building production and custom homes, within communities and build on your lot. The homes range in price from $100k to over $1million and the market ranges from a focus on a single state to covering 14 states. Whatever market, climate or home type your business focuses on there are lessons to be learnt here about improving your bottom-line. This years winners of the National Housing Quality Award are:
The vast majority of what is written about management and business is about excellence, those people and organizations that excel. Little is written about the dysfunctional side, which frankly we see so much of in our daily work lives. A great reflection of this is the reason why Dilbert, the cult classic Office Space, The Office and the latest in the genre Horrible Bosses are so popular.
"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."--W. Edwards Deming    
Using Lean concepts can be very powerful; the trick is using them correctly. In an earlier blog I discussed ‘Lean and Six Sigma in Construction’ (available at the following link) where I described the different types of waste and key elements to focus on when using lean. http://www.housingzone.com/blog/lean-six-sigma-construction
Recently I was asked to present to a group of purchasing managers for a Top 20 builder, led by a Corporate VP who truly gets it when it comes to Lean. That is encouraging in itself, because what I see from so many of the Top 20 is either more of the same old “beat the snot out of the suppliers and trades” or misguided strategies under the name of Supply Chain Management and regrettably, even Lean. This VP and the Directors of Purchasing had no stars in their eyes, but were resolved to keep an open mind and find good ideas whatever the source.
"Baby step onto the elevator... baby step into the elevator... I'm in the elevator." If you have not seen Bill Murray in "What about Bob," make some time for it — very funny movie. Murray plays a whacky character (big stretch) named Bob who has difficulty doing even the smallest of tasks. The humor appears in the way he handles it: he breaks everything down into baby steps to make the tasks easier. This week I am going to look at baby steps toward advanced framing.
Building a home made entirely from American made products from the nails to the bathtub was achieved by Bozeman, Montana builder Anders Lewendal. There are more than 120 products from 33 states. Anders believes that if every builder bought just 5% more American materials this could create 220,000 jobs.  He does acknowledge that using American products can be more expensive, however, only 1 to 2 percent more than a foreign-sourced house. This link will take you to an ABC News video on the home
Henry Ford was a genius and if not father of the automobile per se, he was arguably father of the automotive industry. As usually accompanies genius, Ford was a little wacky in some regards and some of his beliefs about ethnic groups and how to control the behavior of workers not just on, but off the job, certainly give one pause.

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