I have heard the same thing many times over and over. People want a better method of understanding truss manufacturing labor efficiencies, but they use the same flawed units of measurement they have always used.


“Todd, I’ve been in this industry for decades as a ‘fill in the blank,’ and we have always used board foot per man-hour.” My reply: “So how does that work out for a low-board-foot project (hip roof) with many setups compared to a high-board-foot (AG trusses), low-setup project?” The response is never enlightening because BF/Man-Hour simply does not work consistently for every project.

A somewhat newer trend is to use piece count, but this works only for run or assembly time, not setup time estimations. To apply an average setup time to every piece would skew the labor too high or low depending on the piece count.

Piece Count Example: Setup saw time = 1 man-minute for a crew of 2

Cut rate time per 2x4x8 piece = 0.17 minute for a crew of 2

Quantity 2 = (1 setup minute) + (0.17 * 2) = 1.34 minutes total = 0.67 each

Quantity 20 = (1 setup minute) + (0.17 * 20) = 4.4 minutes total = 0.22 each

A difference of 3 times! (0.22 * 3.05 = 0.67)

Some managers feel that a more consistent method is to use some form of dollars. This dollar method can take the form of material cost, sales dollars, or margin dollars, but then this, too, is flawed. If the material cost fluctuates, or if the project has a discount, does that mean the actual labor to complete the project will coincide with these changes? Of course not! So instead of banging your head against the proverbial wall, why not try something different?


I had been told more than once that the MiTek MVP™ program is not very good at the labor configuration. (estimating) Recently I have been able to review the labor configuration in MVP™, all I can say is, “WOW, MiTek, you did it and made a fantastic program that every MiTek customer should be using!” To everyone who has MVP™, your labor-tracking program is far more powerful and flexible than you may know. The labor-estimation configuration is marvelous and should be utilized for what it was designed to do. MVP™ can estimate the proper labor required to process an order by using the proper types of time units. It is quite simple, folks; it is called man-minutes.

So if you have a labor tracking program, such as MVP™, why not use time units that are more reliable than BF, piece count, or dollar units? Using time units shown as man-minutes is a far more effective way of estimating expected labor time when they are properly set up and applied correctly. (R.E. or S.U. are also time elements) However, unless you are like most people who have never had industrial engineering training and understand how to develop and apply proper time units, you are likely quite unfamiliar with how effective they are. I do have training in proper industrial engineering practices, and since 2003, I have been developing labor standards using man-minutes defined for different equipment and material types for truss labor estimation programs (not just MiTek).


So my message is that if you have MiTek MVP™ for truss manufacturing but have failed to create reliable labor estimation, and if you want to use it for scheduling, efficiency ratings, and an effective incentive program based on actual productivity efficiencies, allow Todd Drummond Consulting, LLC (TDC) to help you! TDC can either provide you with the proper time (labor) standards while at your location during a consultation or can simply email them to you for you to input yourself. TDC time standards have been created and refined over the past 12 years to adjust for most manufacturing equipment types and lumber material sizes. There are more than 120 factors from which to choose that can be inputted into MiTek MVP™ and MBA™ for truss labor estimations. Other truss labor-estimating programs can also use these same factors.


Todd Drummond Consulting, LLC is an independent consulting service and is not affiliated with the MiTek Corporation (no referral or commission fees go to TDC). MiTek MVP and MBA are registered trademarks of the MiTek Corporation.

Don’t let this build season pass you by without your knowing exactly what is being done, when it is being done, and how it is being done in your truss manufacturing. If you are a MiTek customer, you should be using MVP™ in your facility, so tell your sales representative to install it at once if you don’t have it! Give TDC a call and I will be more than happy to help you to become far more effective in using proper labor-time units.