A discussion erupted this month on the LeanBuilding Group on Linked In about how do you define value to the customer? One of our members was assailing builders who go cheap, installing ubiquitous “builder grade” products. I replied that there are fine lines sometimes. One person's better value can be another's substandard. Not so long ago, vinyl siding was considered almost universally a cheap product. That is rarely the case now though.
I took a detour the last two years in my consulting career in residential home building by leading one of the largest real estate brokerage firms in the US.  It was an interesting assignment but offered very similar challenges as what I have seen in the home building arena for the last 25 years.
We just caught wind of some big news on the customer satisfaction front: J.D. Power and Associates has canceled its 2011 U.S. New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study.
It might not be exciting, it might be work, but a key to a successful builder and home is a strong set of Scopes of Work. Scopes ensure clear communication of what is needed by each trade. In the best cases Scopes use diagrams, photos, links to websites, and clear step by step instructions on what material to use, the stages of construction and installation. This can become the company Bible, every discussion leads back to the Scope. There are no arguments on site, rather it’s, what does the Scope say?
I am not a car nor am I a piece of meat, so please don’t service or process me, I am a customer! But those terms and attitudes still exist. I recently walked into a business and was greeted with, ‘name?’ To which I replied, ‘yes, it is a lovely day!’ Well that wouldn’t happen with your company I hear you say. Ok.
Twenty years ago, there was a project in Denver where the foundations began moving, to the point that several new homes had to be taken completely down. In the milder cases, the builder had to sink caissons next to the foundation as deep as 40 feet to stabilize them. The problem was expansive soils.
Plans, plans, plans, it’s sometimes difficult to know what they should include and what they shouldn’t. After spending the last two years with Scott Sedam and TrueNorth working with builders, suppliers, and trades all over the country we have developed a number of plan dos and don’ts regardless of geography, here are just a few: Have:
How well are your values, policies and strategic drivers deployed within your organization? To consider this let use quality management as an example. So you have buy in from your management team about implementing or continuing quality management. You have connected quality focused strategic goals to tools for achievement and assigned leaders, timelines and metrics. Everything is rolling out! But just how well is this deployed and just what level of understanding and buy in is there really? There are 5 profiles of deployment success.
There are 4 key areas that make up the Quality Management Environment. Core Values Corporate Strategy Quality Performance Excellence Models Tools & Techniques There is a core of values and culture, surrounded by the other 3 areas. The core is where the mission and values of an organization are formed. Therefore, related issues like a focus on green building would be developed.
If you are a home builder or residential designer/architect using mobile devices and other technology for business applications, we want to hear from you. Take Professional Builder's 18-question Technology survey and you'll be entered in a drawing to win one of three $50 Visa gift cards. TAKE THE SURVEY NOW Thanks! -David Barista, Editor-in-Chief, Professional Builder 
As more organizations are being pushed to reduce costs while improving the quality of products so the management of change becomes more and more important. Kotter proposes eight steps to leading organizational change and avoiding key mistakes.  Step one is establishing a sense of urgency by examining the market, competitors, and identifying potential problems and major opportunities. 
Monday morning 6:30 a.m. Jeff the lead carpenter rolls out the latest set of prints for the new Thornberry model. He sighs as he scans the plans and elevations knowing it is going to be a long week piecing together his latest framing puzzle. He has worked for this builder for 3 years so he recognizes what he calls the Architects “greatest hits”, overly complex dormers, overhangs, and gingerbread details. He knows he will be framing this home at a loss in hopes that the next time he frames it he will realize a profit.
As new technologies and methodologies help us to improve our sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings, we should not forget that how we manage the process of developing, designing. Constructing, maintaining, updating and ultimately decommissioning these buildings are equally important. Managing this process with strong environmental stewardship through the support of integrated management systems will ensure that we actually have the capacity to produce more of these sustainable buildings.
We're collecting information about how remodelers use technology for an upcoming issue of Professional Remodeler magazine. As a special incentive, respondents to the survey will be entered in a drawing to win one of three American Express Visa gift cards. You can fill out the survey here.
One of the key difficulties any builder has in managing quality is deciding which quality tools to use at which point in time and more broadly how to manage an improvement team and project.
The EPA’s LRRP lead paint rules put us, as an industry, in an awkward place. We have a rule that is, by all accounts, increasing the cost of doing business; driving work toward unlicensed, fly-by-night contractors; and is being infrequently enforced. It’s also a rule we can all agree stems from a noble goal: protecting children from the quite-real dangers of lead-based paint in older homes during remodeling.
The NHQA application document is not simply the method of applying for the NHQA, it is an excellent overview of your business and a key method for conducting organizational wide self-assessment to the NHQA Criteria. The application is also a great support document to add to a business plan, as a key component of your strategic planning and a wonderful document for new employees to quickly understand your business and the organizations history.
Receiving a NHQA feedback report can result in a freeze due the amount of Opportunities for Improvement (OFI’s) reported, but remember even award winners receive OFI’s!  They are after all the real benefits of the process it is through these that an improvement plan can be developed.  However, the number of OFI’s can be overwhelming and result in the OFI’s being sidelined and no action plan being put into place.  In addition many organizations take offense at the OFI’s and regress as a result.
Making the cut for a National Housing Quality Award (NHQA) site visit is a major achievement, however, quite naturally many are anxious about the process and view the arrival of a team of Judges as a stressful experience.    This stress often arises from the perception that absolutely no mistakes should be made during the site visit and as a response some applicants actually avoid the Judges as much as possible during the visit.  While it is natural to be nervous about a visit it should be seen as an opportunity.  The Judges are not visiting to tear apart the organi
  A Quality Management System or QMS refers to what an organization does to manage its processes, or activities, so that its products or services meet the objectives it has set itself or the requirements and standards set by other groups or standards. ISO9001 is an international standard used by all industrial sectors including construction. This focuses on the customer, leadership, involvement of people, processes, systems approaches, continual improvement, factual decision making and supplier relationships. The aim is to build on consistency and communication.


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