Truss Manufacturing: How To Be More Profitable

How does your truss manufacturing company measure profitability? New orders? New clients? Minimizing errors? No doubt, there are different answers for each company, based on their business model and target market. What if I were to tell you that there was one single tool that is very simple to implement, that would facilitate increased profit for any company that used it, in any market?

If you have read this far, then I am certain that your skepticism has taken over. Kindly put that aside for a moment and open your perspective a bit. Fact is, as a building component manufacturer, the biggest expense you have is material costs, with payroll coming in second. What if you could reduce the cost of both at the same time and make the “black a little blacker”, would you give it a try?

Truss designers are largely responsible for how dark that black becomes. No matter how hard you try to encourage them to be efficient and consistent, without a uniform tool for consistency, it just will not happen. I have seen more times than not when compiling new client criteria there are literally designers sitting next to each other doing things differently. Until the consistency meter is aligned, the profit margin will fluctuate.

Here are 5 common examples:

  • Setback placements – Consider shifting the setback to be specific to the job to avoid an odd space or to eliminate hanger connections that could be avoided by a slight deviation from the norm. How many companies out there use a certain setback, regardless of the individual house design? Why? A jack is a jack is a jack…well until it requires a hanger that is.
  • Splice lengths – Many designers “Auto-splice” that may use, for example, a length of 12’4” instead of 12’0” (Or even 11’11”). This requires the board used to be costed out of a longer length and leaves excessive waste left over. This waste must then be hauled away, thus adding another expense. Designers are convinced it saves time, but at the expense of material? How long does it really take to reduce that board length? 5 seconds? How long does it take the shop to handle a different board length on every chord?
  • Web lengths – Many designers “Auto-web” to lengths of 7’1” instead of 6’11”7/8. Again, this requires the board used to be costed out of a longer length and leaves waste. Has anyone ever heard of the “match webbing” tool?
  • Lumber grade – Using 2×4 SS/2400/MSR instead of 2×6 #2. Does everyone not know that 2×6 #2 is cheaper than machine rated lumber? Ask this question to your staff and be prepared for some surprises.
  • Optimization – Failure to optimize webs not only in one profile, but throughout the entire job. Many times, the webs & splices in the common peak truss can be carried down into the first several hip trusses. This makes the shop much happier when building. This makes your customer ecstatic when applying bracing. Why isn’t this a priority?

Now there may be a legitimate excuse in some cases such as a deadline, client preference or stocked inventory. We are humans, we can find many more excuses if we look hard enough or are defending an offensive attack. No one likes to be told they could have done a job better when they pour out their heart and soul into a project. We much prefer the “Atta-Boy” or some type of recognition.

In my 8 years in business, only one client in 100+ has provided a comprehensive design criterion for use in consistent design practices when beginning the relationship. Only half a dozen others had anything at all on paper TO provide. The rest was all in someone’s head. This is quite a terrifying thought. Does the VP or GM not realize how dangerous that is? What if that person left the company? What is the reason all of these things are not on paper?

Chances are, the person in charge will say “We don’t have time for that”, or something similar. How can you not have time to increase your profit margin? Is there another reason we are in business? Or am I missing something?

What if I told you there was a tool that you can use that will cover nearly every situation you encounter in design. Would you believe me? My company has spent nearly $10,000.00 developing the excel sheet used to contain the information for this tool. It has evolved over time and we have a separate version for U.S.A. and Canadian design practices. The sheet is interactive and very simple to use. Here is a sample of a blank sheet converted into Microsoft Word format:


What if I also told you that this tool in Word is given away for free? As a company that believes in “Pay It Forward”, I encourage you to email me if you would like to receive this at no cost to you. Simply mention this blog post and it is yours. No strings attached.

Can you think of another way you can increase your profit margins by 10%, 20% 30% or more? If so, I applaud you. If not, what have you got to lose?

Christopher Gould – President

Gould Design, Inc.