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Who is Ultimately Your Customer?

Customer-Focus1

As design professionals we answer to a number of sources. A majority of our work is related truss design, acting as an extension of the manufacturer’s team. With the changing codes and software updates, we must always be on top of our game, ready for the phone call from a number of sources. While we usually only receive payment from one source, who is ultimately our customer?

  • We start with the general contractor who supplies us with a set of plans to prepare a bid from and a deadline for consideration. This could be a small local builder, or it could be a national chain. Depending on their requirements, the end result can vary greatly.
  • This brings us to the next set of professionals we answer to; the architect and engineer. As we all know, not every set of plans is perfect. There are several times when we need to contact the architect or engineer and either confirm or try to modify a detail or condition for various reasons. This can sometimes be a daunting task as egos can collide. This underlines the importance for the need for good communication skills.
  • Afterwards we have the shop. Every company (hopefully) has a set of design criteria in place to make the shop as proficient as possible. If they don’t, then they are producing inconsistent product, leaving money on the table. When this is the case, we MUST create it FOR them. These standards must be implemented into the design of the trusses, from splice lengths to shipping heights, web length to jig sets. Hand-in-hand with the shop considerations are those of the company. There are pricing schemes in place to make an adequate profit on each job. This can be tried if the market is highly competitive. The designer then has to walk a fine line between cost-effective and structurally sound designing. We all know that there are sometimes several ways to frame the same design. But what is the determining factor of the “right” way?
  • The “correct” way should be considered by how it impacts you ultimate customer: the framer.  A framer can make or break your reputation in the local industry. Though typically small, an understanding of framing practices and challenges in certain truss framing applications is invaluable to making a better truss design professional. Communication skills come into play at this stage as well as field questions may need to be addressed. Adding to the challenges faced here are terminology issues. Heels might be referred to as a bird’s mouth, the pitch is a rake, etc. If these terms are not understood in the office, a framer might think the designer is not knowledgeable. Losing the framer’s faith can lead to an unwillingness in their working with you to resolve an issue, back charges, and, ultimately, future work.

The moral to this post is this: For truss manufacturers, embrace your framer as your true customer. Consider their feelings when deciding on a tricky framing condition. Seek their advice in framing at the design phase. I have seen framers make quick work of field repairs with little or no back charges due to good relationships. The framer will specifically suggest a truss company, even if their bid is not the lowest.

Jim Turner

Design Manager

Gould Design, Inc.