Faces of the Industry: Jasper Diederiks

Column

Faces of the Industry: Jasper Diederiks

Sales Manager – Heartland Truss
President of the Missouri Truss Fabricators Association

“To do what we do, you’ve got to have a passion for it...that I do have.”
 

How did you get into the component manufacturing industry?

“I started with PG Lumber in a country that was then called Rhodesia.” Jasper says that was around 1970, and when PG bought a truss plant, his career “just grew from there.”

“When everything went south in Rhodesia and it became Zimbabwe, we basically packed up and moved to South Africa, where Louis Joubert and I started Selati Roof Trusses.” The company grew, Jasper says, and soon had branches in four different cities, including Tzaneen where he ran the plant. In the late 1980s, he started his own truss company and lumber yard. In the early 2000s, he sold the business, moved to the US and joined Heartland. “So I’ve been around in the truss industry for a while!”

What is different between building trusses in Africa and building trusses in North America?

“Basically, trusses are trusses.” They’re “triangulated frames that we use to sustain loads in the air,” Jasper explains. “Is there a difference between here and anywhere else in the world? Not really.”

Truss design has changed (“I go back to the old Texas Instruments days,” Jasper says, when everything was done by hand with calculators, plastic slide rules and printed catalogs listing design values), but it’s remarkably similar across continents. Some truss designers worry most about snow loads while others are more concerned with the impact of thunderstorms, “but the same criteria apply wherever you’re making trusses. It’s all about how you put the triangles together.”

Jasper points out that, “whether you’re sitting on a computer in South Africa or in Australia or in England, you’re basically using very similar programs.” The expertise that the industry has developed has, for the most part, been shared all over the world.

Where is the industry headed?

“The good news is we’re growing! We’re making much more progress now than five years ago. Slowly but surely, the framers are getting used to using components instead stick framing.” Jasper notes that turnover among framers has been a challenge for the construction industry, but has had some benefit for component manufacturers. Because many experienced framers retired or left the industry during the downturn, some markets now suffer from “very little framing knowledge.” Components are an ideal solution: a pre-assembled, engineered product that lets framers thrive without extensive academic knowledge of or practical experience with building design.

“Stick framing is slowly disappearing—which is great. Framed components and trusses make it easier for everybody in the industry to put things together in a quicker time and in a more professional way so that the end user is better protected by an engineered product.”

What’s your favorite part about being in this industry?

“My passion in the industry is to teach young people and to be a mentor. There’s quite a few youngsters that I’ve helped, and they’ve been quite successful.” He goes to high schools and trade schools and partners with the local home builders’ association to talk with students about an alternative to the low-wage service sector on the one hand and the university degree path on the other. In between, says Jasper, lies
“a beautiful gap” and “a wonderful industry.”

“There’s a wonderful opportunity for young people in this,” Jasper says. He worries about those who commit time and money to college degrees that they don’t end up needing. “A lot of young people,” Jasper says, spend time at a university only to realize “I can do much better working with my hands. This is what gives me satisfaction. This is what I want.”

What’s the focus—for you, your company, or your chapter—in maintaining a thriving industry?

“We, as members, do give a lot of our own private time—and our company injects a lot of time, effort and money—into whatever it takes to make us all better and to share the knowledge that we have and that we develop from day to day.” Sharing knowledge and helping build enthusiasm is part of everything Jasper does: he’s spent a decade or more leading his local SBCA chapter, he’s set up an ongoing workshop series to teach building inspectors in his county how to read truss placement diagrams and layouts, and he’s taking steps to reach even further. “We’re trying to get more people doing apprenticeships,” he says, so that the next generation in the framing industry will start with a good understanding of components.