CM Perspective: Be an Innovator in Off-Site Construction


CM Perspective: Be an Innovator in Off-Site Construction

Having just attended the ProSales 100 Conference in San Antonio this year, one thing is very evident: Builders are looking for off-site construction solutions (wall panels, floor panels, roof trusses, etc.) that will limit the number of tire tracks onsite and help address the skilled labor shortage. The national builders also understand the importance of reviewing their workflow and portfolio of plans to eliminate wasted steps and streamline designs.

Jeff Taake is vice president of manufacturing and commercial sales for Mead Lumber in Columbus, Nebraska. He serves on SBCA’s board of directors and is chair of the management committee.

For our industry, this is exciting and scary at the same time. As component manufacturers (CMs) it is critical that we are collaborating with our builders to help them understand component design and offer suggestions to their plans that have a positive impact on component production productivity and price. Another critical piece is working with the rough carpentry subcontractors to help them recognize the benefits of using components in their business model. 

As the component manufacturing industry continues to expand and LBMs look to acquire and/or build their own component plants, it is critical we don’t become complacent and fall back on our years of knowledge without acknowledging the fact that disrupters will push and require us to change our current business models over the next few years. Expertise and knowledge are important but they don’t replace innovation, which is why our industry is catching the interest of outsiders who see an opportunity to change the supply chain status quo. Amazon, Katerra, Entekra, and Unity Homes are a few of those who have raised significant capital and hope to disrupt our industry. 

While these are the media darlings, for those of us who are established CMs, we need to be cautious before we get caught up in the moment and invest hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading our facilities with new equipment. I would encourage all CMs to work with your preferred equipment provider and/or consultant to review your business plan and help you calculate an ROI that works for you financially. 

Lastly, while automation and artificial intelligence (AI) offer competitive advantages, people and processes often trump these. Take time to review your employee onboarding, training, and development programs. Also, work with your teams to refine and standardize as many processes as possible. Create a work environment in which your teams feel empowered.

New competition will continue to put pressure on margins and profitability. As such, knowing your numbers and how you can influence them is critical. SBCA’s Open Quarterly Meetings, webinars, magazine, and annual tradeshow are excellent resources to stay up to date on our industry, learn about best practices, and develop relationships with other leaders in our industry.