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 Lean Builder
The Lean Builder
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.
During an orientation recently with a room full of suppliers and trades for one of our “LeanPlan Workout” implementations, I was interrupted by a woman who clearly did not appreciate my message. Despite my saying it 6 different ways and illustrating with numerous pictures, she was not buying my story that Lean is not about “dumbing down” the houses.
Today, a sharp young guy named Ryan wrote to me after seeing a Keynote Presentation I did at the recent BuilderExchange meeting in Las Vegas. Two-hundred fifty people attended from 60 suppliers and a like number of builders.
Last fall the president of one of America’s “Top 10” builders who I have known for years corralled me at a conference. Because I travel this industry about as much as anyone, he likes to pump me for intelligence – as I do him. He wondered, what did I see out there? Who was making it? Who wasn’t? Which cities were ready to emerge and which were not? I gave him my take on things and then he asked a series of bombshell questions, “Who really impresses you? Who truly has the best practices?
The NAHB in conjunction with Professional Builder Magazine launched the National Housing Quality Award (NHQA) in 1993 to encourage and recognize best practices and best builders in the continual improvement of product and process. Modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, over time the NHQA has become the gold standard of awards in homebuilding.
Our business picked up in late 2011, started the New Year off well, and we were deluged at the IBS show, beginning with a standing-room-only presentation on Lean Design. Our first quarter is strong and 2nd quarter looks even better. Builders seem to now have sufficient confidence that they want to get their processes “Leaned-up” to meet current and projected growth. We have a long list of clients who are reporting sales being up way above the national average of 8% reported for January and on into February. Yet the question persists … is this recovery for real?
There is nothing in homebuilding that makes less sense than purchasing by the square foot and it is a big obstacle in Lean implementation. Other than the fact that it makes things easy I suppose, there is very little to be said for it. It damn sure makes purchasing inaccurate and confusing, at best. Not much of a tradeoff. Imagine, for a moment, buying an automobile by the pound. Do you think you could do any meaningful price/value comparisons?