A new home is a collection of thousands of products and material components. Producing quality homes at competitive prices is a daunting task, because virtually every one of those products reaches the building site through a different supply chain, many with multiple steps in the distribution process. Houston-based giant David Weekley Homes  (No. 19 in Professional Builder’s Giant 400, with $1.3 billion in 2007 housing revenues) has come up with a unique approach to motivating distributors: an awards program that identifies manufacturers who manage their supply chains to make raving fans of the customers who matter most to Weekley: the builder’s employees.
Weekley calls it “channel alignment.” “The cornerstone of this is a quarterly survey of all 1,000 of our team members,” explains Bill Justus, Weekley’s vice president of supply chain services, who came up with the idea in 2003. Any employee who works with a trade partner rates quality and service on a scale of 1 to 10. They also answer 10 feedback questions for the trade partner that guide how to do business with the builder.
Weekley averages all those survey scores for a year (running from the beginning of the second quarter to the end of the first quarter of the following year), to reach a number grade it sends to each of its 150 trading partners.
The survey is transparent. “We ask the trading partners to contact any of our employees who rate them at 7 or under,” says Justus, “then we ask the manufacturer to write a report, letting us know how that conversation went, and if any further action is required. Our goal is to open communication. Good things happen when smart people talk.”
Weekley also gives each trading partner what it calls an “alpha ranking”— a letter grade, A to F — in 20 percent increments to show how each partner compares to the others. This allows Weekley to compare truss manufacturers with faucet makers in how each affects Weekley’s business. The Partners of Choice awards go to those manufacturers and suppliers achieving an A ranking in quality, service or both. “We don’t define quality or service,” Justus says, “because those terms have different meanings in various areas of the company.”
A Google search for “David Weekley Homes Partners of Choice award” lists dozens of manufacturer and supplier press releases boasting their accolades.
The awards are presented at Weekley’s annual national accounts meeting in Houston each August. “A,A” is the highest award, for firms achieving A rank in both quality and service. Eight companies reached that level this year: Boise Cascade  (for engineered wood products), Dow  (insulation products), Honeywell  (structured wiring, thermostats, indoor air quality products), James Hardie  (fiber-cement siding), Seacoast Supply  (a Florida distributor of roofing and drywall), Simpson Strong-Tie  (structural connectors), Suncoast Post-Tension (a service company providing post-tensioning of foundation slabs) and Trane (heating, ventilating and cooling equipment).
Five firms won the top award for a fourth straight year —Dow, Honeywell, James Hardie, Simpson Strong Tie and Trane.
Eight other firms won A awards, for an A rank in quality or service, but not both: GAF-Elk  (roof shingles), Hunter Douglas  (window coverings) and Home Depot  for quality. And BMC (lumber), Eaton  (electrical products), iLevel by Weyerhaeuser  (engineered wood products), Lennox (HVAC equipment) and Moen  (faucets) won for service.
“It’s an interesting blend of large and small firms, some repeat winners and some new,” Justus says. “We think those that have won for four straight years are especially noteworthy. They’ve shown they can manage their supply chains in both expanding and contracting markets. They’ve got what we’re looking for: world class excellence.”