Labor Pains

Editor's Message

Labor Pains

“All the builders and framers I talk to out there say the same thing: they can’t find enough guys to do what they want to do.” Those are the thoughts of Jason Blenker, president of Blenker Building Systems. If national surveys and media reports are accurate, the sentiment is shared by most of the construction industry across the country.

For this issue, staff talked with Blenker about floor systems and how his company helps builders frame homes faster using floor panels (p.10). This was one approach analyzed in the most recent Framing the American Dream (FAD) study. Blenker explained: “I tell my customers, whether they’re builders or framers, my products will help them do more with the crews they already have. In my opinion, floors may be where some of the greatest time savings can be realized.”

Walls also hold great potential for addressing builders’ and framers’ labor pains. Today, jobsite stick framing is the most common construction method for residential walls. According to a recent member study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 90 percent of all exterior walls are site built.

FAD data has proven twice (in 1995 and again in 2015) that there’s a better way to frame walls. It takes considerably more labor, and more skill, to stick-frame walls than to frame with wall panels. In the 2015 study, the stick-framed walls took a crew of six framers a total of 177 hours to complete. In contrast, the same-size crew needed only 36.5 hours to complete the same task with manufactured wall panels.

The labor shortage builders and framers are facing right now should make the FAD data, and the labor-savings potential of structural building components, music to their ears. Register today to attend the education sessions at BCMC where Blenker and SBCA President Jess Lohse (Rocky Mountain Truss) will demonstrate how to use the study data to persuade builders and framers to switch from stick framing to using your components.

Unfortunately, your customers aren’t the only ones struggling to find enough qualified workers. Most component manufacturers (CMs) are in the same boat. Over the past several issues, staff has been talking with CMs about their unique approaches to growing their prospective labor pool, assessing potential candidates, and retaining the employees they already have. Visit the SBCA Workforce Development site to access all the recruitment tools CMs have helped staff develop over the years, along with case studies on how to implement some of them. And join us at BCMC to share your stories and keep the conversation going.