How is your communication with your customers? 

How is your communication with your customers?  It’s probably pretty good.  If we aren’t keeping our customers happy then they will go someplace else.  However, how is your communication with the building designers, architects, and engineers whose plans you are given?  We all know there are different levels of skills among the design professionals out there.  From the old architect who draws all his plans by hand, and they’re always accurate, to the draftsman who can’t figure out how roof planes should look to save his life.

One time as a truss designer, I received a set of plans for a large senior living center.  My instructions were to follow the engineer’s layout exactly.  It was a large hip roof, with the hip master at the peak.  Of course, to get it to work required special hangers and the hip masters ended up being 5-ply girders.  If I had been allowed to communicate with the engineers, we would have designed the hips with a 6-ft. or 8-ft. setback using 2-ply hip masters and standard hangers.  This would have saved the builder at least a couple of thousand dollars in material, labor, and crane time.

    Fast forward a few years later to a different truss plant, where we had a large, complicated residential house, the personal home of the owner of one of our largest builders.  It took two meetings with the engineers, but together we were able to come up with an economical solution to the roof that would solve the look the architect had envisioned.  At the same plant we regularly would work with an architect, who knew he couldn’t envision how roof planes should be cut.  We developed a great working relationship with him where he would bring us his plans and we would fix his roof planes.  We sent him an electronic copy of the planes and layout and he would incorporate them into his plans.  As a result, usually the builder ordered our trusses.

As the electronic media becomes more readily used, the need for closer collaboration will increase.  We live in a world where plans may be shared more easily and quickly.  Builders are demanding fewer mistakes and fewer problems.  Eventually, the days where the plans the components were built from are three revisions older from the plans on the jobsite are coming to an end.  Closer collaboration will be the future.  This should be a welcome change for all of us, as it will give us all a better structure that we can be proud of in the end.

As has been spoken of before in this blog, it’s the relationships that we build that will bring success to our businesses.  And it’s not just the relationships with our customers but the other professionals that we work with.  As we build those relationships, often they will value our expertise and when their clients need a recommendation for a component manufacturer; these design professionals will recommend those with the skills they trust.

Rick Wills, P.E. – Gould Design Inc.