The Role of a Truss Design Professional

I have been in the truss industry for 15 years and have had and heard a lot of discussion about the role of a Truss Design Professional. It seems that everyone has a different opinion of what the role should be. Is it to design trusses? Or is it something more in-depth? Let’s take a look and see.

A lot of employers feel that the designer should be responsible for ALL aspects of the design process. They feel that the designer should:

  1. Meet with the customer and review the plans
  2. Outline expectations of what the customer expects their design to be
  3. Perform the actual truss design on the job
  4. Complete the CAD work for a finished layout product
  5. Take off materials
  6. Prepare the job for shop production

dw

Correct me if I am wrong, but that is 6 different jobs! Of which, only #3 demands the skill set of a Truss Design Professional. #1 & #2 should be the sales professional’s job. How many of your salespeople ask you to do this? If you are required to do this, then why aren’t you collecting commission instead of them? What exactly ARE they doing?

The CAD work for #4 could be done by a college student (or even a high-school student) looking to earn some money after school. #5 should be done by your Estimator/Bid Department. #6 is the shop’s responsibility! When your design time is stretched thin with so many duties to perform, you Design Department will fall behind. And when your Design Department is behind, the company’s profit shrinks. That means you are passing on bids, overtime or “shoddy” work that leads to errors.

I was brought up in the environment that the designer’s time is best-spent designing jobs and leave the other work for other personnel. I was taught this concept by a mentor with many more years of experience than me and completely agree with this process. A good CAD Operator can be hired for about one half of the price of a good designer and is a good training field for a future designer. And that CAD Operator has a school to attend to become more proficient. A Truss Design Professional does not. 100% of the learning & education for this role comes at the employer’s expense. How does this make sense for the bottom line? Why would you want to add more roles to your most expensive employee, that could be done by someone else at a lesser cost?

In addition, I also feel that having a Q/A person to look over the job once a designer is finished is extremely beneficial. If the Truss Design Professional missed something the first time chances are they will overlook it again and again. Your margins will rise when you require a fresh set of eyes to look over each design and get a second perspective. When managing, I sought to hire framers that were tired of being out in the heat and have a lot of hands on experience to be my Q/A team.

As a Design Manager overseeing 20+ designers I practiced all these ideals. I had designers doing only design and had four CAD operators doing the CAD work and shipping packages, and four Q/A team members double-checking the jobs. This increased the designer’s productivity by at least forty (40) percent. And by having a Q/A team do a second look at the work, design errors and back charges were greatly reduced. This also increased productivity because things were not being rebuilt a second time. In my eyes it is a win-win all the way around.

I am curious what others feelings are about this and if there is a better way to utilize designers to their maximum potential. I have heard that too many cooks spoil the broth but a lot of times more really is better. What do you think?

Doug Walter

Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.