The Lean Builder

The Lean Builder



During Operation Desert Storm in the early 90s, France’s decision to not support the U.S. intervention revived an old joke from the World War II era.  

It has been long been said that “homebuilding is a local business” and as much as I’d like to think that Lean always transcends locality, that is not always the case. Last week during one of our LeanWeek events in Austin, the head of a drywall installation company asked about using 54” width drywall—aka “stretch board”—in lieu of standard 48” widths for 9’ ceilings. Nine foot ceilings are rampant in Austin and so many other markets these days—unless of course they are 10’.

I wrote my first article on the coming trade shortages last October about the perils and politics of immigration policy. I wrote the second one in December providing a 10-step immunization plan to protect a builder from the effects of trade shortages. I receive so much mail, pro and con, that for February I published two of the best letters and commented on them.

When I travel with my wife, or sometimes just run to the grocery, cleaners or hardware store, she frequently has to remind me, “Scott, remember, you are NOT in charge here.” Many of you fellow Leanistas know the drill. You hardly ever see a restaurant, a checkout, a meat counter at the supermarket, a parking lot or God help us a TSA line at the airport – in our out – that we could not spend 5 minutes rearranging and save folks a ton of time and money.

My December column just came out on HousingZone.com and you can read it here: http://www.housingzone.com/scott-sedam-how-do-you-lead-leader or in the Professional Builder magazine.

I travel this country meeting with builders virtually every week and between my monthly Professional Builder article, my weekly blog on HouzingZone.com and our Lean Building Group on Linkedin.com, I hear from many more. As housing is picking up in most parts of the nation, I am beginning to hear a lot about labor shortages. Just last week I received a note from a builder lamenting how in central Florida there is a bidding war for framers and drywall contractors. I have also heard it coming out of Texas.

Todd Hallett and I are running a LeanPlan Workout session this week in Tennessee with one of my favorite builders. In the years I have known them they have grown from #11 in their market to #2 last year and this year there’s a good chance they will be #1. They are beating all the nationals. These guys truly “get it” and accomplished all this during the worst housing recession in history. As good as they are, they wanted to take it deeper, so this they engaged a total of 24 of their suppliers & trades to generate more than 300 ideas to improve plans, using our highly-structured process.

The 5th article in my series on Quality Management was just published by Professional Builder Magazine and appears concurrently on www.HousingZone.com. It is titled “10 Steps to Mastering Field Quality” and at the end of the piece I offered a PDF with all 5 of the articles in a single document. I have since been deluged with more than 30 requests sitting in my mailbox just this morning. In my 15 years writing monthly for the building industry, this is the most requested article or series I have ever done with more than 100 requests to date.

I have spoken at PCBC, the big West Coast building conference most of the past 15 years and I always enjoy it. The event has been very well-run, quality of programming is excellent, the staff is great and you can do a lot worse than hang out in downtown San Francisco for a few days. I have been there so many times that I know all of the streets and how to get around, walking or driving. I even have my favorite hotel and off-the-beaten-path restaurants. Yet as PCBC begins later this month, I will be on the other side of the country.

My son Tyler (second of 4 children), age 29, is taking a new position with a homebuilder after having two good building industry jobs in the past, both of which vanished in the housing recession. Despite the previous disappointments, he sees this as a great opportunity with a real chance to grow with a good company. It got me thinking about all the work I have done in my career, where I did well, where I screwed up, who I have hired, who I have fired, and all the people I have watched soar and those I have seen flame out.

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