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?
Each week as I think about this weekly blog, I try to find a topic that is not only green, but a universal opportunity. What I mean is no matter how important green is to your company, market or consumers, these green tips should help you save money whether you want to be green or not. One aspect of green is finding ways to avoid cost increases.
Recently I’ve seen a financial company misplace $30k, a health care organization twice have a patient end up back in ER and a manufacturer face a class action lawsuit. These are all the sorts of things that risk management and quality management tools and techniques are used to mitigate and avoid. However, each of these cases didn’t need such tools; they just needed to listen to the customer or rather not ignore them.
Recently while out to dinner my wife Katie talked me into ordering a skinny long island iced tea. It was actually pretty good. Nice taste, low calories, plenty of punch - what's not to like? Well there is one thing: I would never order a skinny anything in front of my buddies - that's just begging for trouble.
Peter Senge wrote one of the best business books of the 1990’s, The Learning Organization. It is one of those on my list to pull off the shelf and read again, if I ever catch up with the stack of unread volumes on my credenza now. I even attended his 4-day workshop in Boston in the mid-90’s and it made a considerable impact on everyone there. What Senge laid out was what constitutes the “Learning Organization” and why those companies invariably do better than those whose primary goal is to replicate and execute their existing business model.
Since the beginning of the Builders' Show in Orlando this month, I have learned more in two weeks than most will learn in a year. From the people I met, to new and evolving construction techniques and technologies that promise to have an impact on the construction community for years to come, the lessons are astounding. Last week, I shared some of the products that impressed me and continue to tell a green story. This week, we turn to techniques.
I am of two minds today. I have two entirely unrelated topics to discuss: A. Show Village at IBS B. Windows
The bottom of the market is clearly in and most builders know it, especially those that attended the International Builder Show (IBS) in Orlando, February 7-11th. At IBS 2012, there were scores of great programs on red hot topics like Social Media Strategies, Marketing Must Dos, Lean and Green best practices, and much more.
The NHQA is open to home builders, trade contractors and remodelers. Whether you are building production or custom homes, within communities or build on your lot, whether your homes are $100k or over $1million, if your market is within a city or covers 14 states. Whatever market, climate or home type your business focuses on, using the NHQA criteria and applying for the award is relevant to you and improving your business. Past winners have fitted into this wide range of categories of builders, so you will too.
As the building world concludes another International Builders’ Show, the sentiment shared by many of the attendees was one of hope for a better year. Many builders showed the promise of a better year as January orders seemed to be up among many of the smaller, regional builders. In light of that, there seems to be more room among the standard feature sheets for improvements in specifications, especially as it pertains to more sustainable products. Here are a couple of highlights from that show that seemed to take a top honor in my book for a sustainable future.
Typically I like to save my drama for my mama – not this time. This time I packed it all into this 2,800-square-foot Lean-designed home. This cost-efficient home is easy to build, value engineered, and developed on Lean standards.
We have all heard of ‘they’ or ‘them’! You know, ‘they’ never give us enough material to do the job. ‘They’ didn’t leave it ready for us again. It was ‘them’ in (fill in the blank) department that delayed it. The problem is we refer to ‘them’ as though they were some completely isolated group from the organization we work in. While in fact ‘they’ are usually just another group of colleagues in our own department, in another department or an organization we partner with such as a supplier. Some of whom we have lunch with or shoot the breeze with on a regular basis.
Employers have had it pretty good the last few years when it comes to managing employee turnover and keeping workers happy. The state of the economy has made it difficult for unhappy employees to find other opportunities. Many companies have taken advantage of this to see just how much work they can squeeze out of the few employees left.
In this free book, leaders of Baldrige Award winning, World Class, organizations from all sectors share their success stories and eye-opening results from their organization’s journey to excellence. (This includes the small business sector.)
Having arrived in Orlando for the International Builders Show and NAHB Winter Boards, a few quick updates and observations:
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?
The fall of 2010, I found myself working with some of the best and brightest minds I have ever met in the construction industry. I was working with a client in Alabama on a LeanBlitz with TrueNorth. At dinner, the second night of our weeklong engagement, the owner asked two of the attendees a simple question. After having spent the day hearing feedback and improvement ideas, what do I need to do to improve my organization?
Danger Will Robinson! Danger! The IBS plan review sessions are starting to get booked up. Professional Builder is hosting House Review Live with six different leading Architects and Designers (including yours truly) from across the country to help you review your existing plans and elevations. So bring your best plans, worst plans, any plans and I am sure we can help you improve them for 2012. Look for us at the Show Village demonstration homes Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. You can book time slots with the Architect of your choice at www.housingzone.com/housereviewlive.
This case study details the implementation of an extensive program of quality management at Wathen-Castanos, including training, the formation of Work Improvement Groups, benchmarking and the resulting impacts. It also discusses how quality was integrated to help support the building of green and energy efficient homes, all with limited resources. The NHQA criteria was used to coordinate and drive the improvement efforts. Wathen-Castanos won the EVHA Builder of the Year in 2011, NHQA Bronze in 2010 and Silver in 2011.
Recently I visited a host of builder sites in Florida. My objective was to have a direct comparison of many builders’ models, sales personnel, sales process and overall experience. It’s been a while that I actually walked dozens of builder models over a 300 mile geographic area in a relatively short period of time. I anticipated reviewing homes of builders that had survived our industry’s economic disaster and assumed that these same builders would all be demonstrating efficient and effective practices just too still be in the game.