The 6 Functions of Time Management in the Truss Industry
The definition of time management in a business setting is the systematic, priority-based structuring of time allocation and distribution among competing demands. Since time cannot be stored, and its availability can neither be increased beyond nor decreased from the 24 hours in a day, the term “time budgeting” is said to be more appropriate.
Let me refer to the premier expert in the fields of business and economics, Harvard Professor Michael E. Porter. His work is recognized globally in corporate, academic and government circles as being the leading authority on company strategy and the competitiveness of nations and regions. In his 1985 best seller, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, he recognizes the importance of utilizing the Value Reference Model (VRM) to test value chain management. A value chain is a physical representation of the various processes involved in producing goods from raw materials to delivered finished product.
The 6 business functions of the value chain as they relate to the truss manufacturing industry are:
- Research and Development
- Design of products
- Marketing and Sales
- Customer Service
Research and development are (thankfully) paid for and provided by the truss plate manufacturers. I will address the design of products in just a bit. There have been countless hours and dollars spent improving time and efficiency in the production facility. There are automated saws, automated table jigs, laser plate placement, roller tables, and software to account for ERGs (short for ergon, a Greek word meaning “work”) from picking the wood to bundling the finished product.
The sales team is managed by commissions and a slave to the construction industry and customer loyalty. Outside of helping to streamline any issues with the customer approval process, there is not really much that can be done to improve time management there, unless you look at them as “free labor” when they are not out pounding the pavement. But if they catch on to that they will certainly be out “drumming up more business.” The delivery process is another that is dictated by site room and the construction process. Not much wiggle room there either.
This reduces the areas of potential time budget savings to the bid and design departments. These are the areas that exhaust the most time and money in the typical truss design and production facility. There is little to be done in-house to improve time budgeting in the bid process. Some companies utilize their sales staff to complete bids. This can be a recipe for disaster if the salesman uses a square foot pricing system and misses key structural components. It can also over-inflate the price and allow for lost bids if the salesman is too conservative. The best system to use is a “design bid”. This allows for plan reading at the bid stage which can show the comprehension of the truss company compared to competitors if questions arise that are not addressed by other bidders.
A “design bid” can potentially win over customers by demonstrating a greater thoroughness and create a quote that carries through to the delivered product without any “surprise” pricing adjustments on the current or potential future jobs. While this is the recommended best industry practice for bid accuracy, it is also cost prohibitive in certain company structures. It requires an experienced designer, or team of designers, to accomplish. This mandates the need for a designer to do double duty as a bidder and designer or the need for additional highly experienced staff.
At the design phase there simply is no substitute for experience. The design staff needs to have the ability to timely and proficiently design the trusses in the most cost efficient, code compliant, framer friendly fashion possible. Cost efficiency is a tricky term as it may mean different design practices for different companies depending on the production facility and expertise. Have you done a true production cost analysis based on your specific shop configuration? Framer friendly may mean taking extra time to flip webs or align them to reduce the cost of bracing that is supplied by the framer. Have you followed up with your customer – your true customer (the framer) and received feedback to determine if they are happy with the product you are supplying them with? This could make or break the next bid award.
What if I were to tell you that there is a way to accomplish all of this without hiring any additional staff? You could have all of this at a fixed cost. As this cost is known at the bid stage, it could be paid by the customer, virtually eliminating the lost cost of bidding and the expense of a design staff. Would you be interested?
Bid and/or design outsourcing would give you that result. Outsourcing used to be a negative term. Outsourcing companies would employ design staffs in some foreign country where pre-manufactured wood trusses might not even be a common building practice. Then they would teach them the minimum requisite knowledge to produce an engineered drawing at a fraction of the cost of a new designer in the USA or Canada. The truss company would have to accept it as the standard business practice.
That is not the case today. With the economic downturn of 2006 outsourcing companies that performed in that fashion went out of business. There have been companies that have persevered, thrived even, during the recession. A company that was able to grow during the lean times would have the knowledge, expertise and customer service to handle your business in the manner you would expect of your top in-house designer. This is not a sales pitch, it is the honest truth.
Are you ready to give outsourcing a try? Or are you going to give in and pay that recruiter his enormous fee and hope for the best?
Jim Turner – Design Manager
Gould Design, Inc.