Faces of the Industry: Justin Donecker
Faces of the Industry: Justin Donecker
General Manager • Engineered Truss Systems Inc. • Garden City, Kansas
How’d you get into this industry?
I have been around the lumberyard and trusses since I can remember. My dad, Dave Donecker, worked for a lumber yard since the late 1970’s here in my hometown until the company was purchased around 1995. I was able to go to work with him all the time, and I fondly remember the smell of lumber and sawdust. Being able to see so much of the industry, how the plant operated, and what went into designing a structure to the completion of hundreds of houses around the area sold me on a career in component manufacturing. I am in the truss industry thanks to my dad, and his enormous knowledge of the industry and passing it all on to me. I am so very lucky to be helping my dad and mom with the family truss plant today. My mom, when she is not coordinating work at the hospital or chasing grandkids, is helping the plant by designing projects and doing other facets of our business! It also blows my mind seeing how much has changed since following my dad around the yard. I wouldn’t be as excited about the industry as I am today if I had to hand draw each truss, mail it in, and wait for it to come back in order to send the drawings to the shop to be built. I really enjoy having the CAD and our suppliers, products, and software to help make us better!
What’s your favorite part about being in this industry?
We love challenging truss configurations and houses that make us think outside the box (or triangle in this case)! Meeting all of our customers and helping them through the design process, seeing their eyes light up with excitement, and knowing that we are responsible for important structural aspects of a family’s home makes this a rewarding and exciting part of this industry. Also, our commitment to SBCA and education and promotion of components is extremely important to our company. I absolutely love learning about new ways to inform, educate, design, build, sell, and deliver our products.
What could you do without?
Building officials and other regulators who feel that stick framing shouldn’t require engineering, drawings, or seals, yet believe our structural building components need more engineering, drawings, and seals than the rest of the materials on a project. Municipalities require so much information from us for a permit, but they don’t show up to the jobsite with the information. What we have run into is the building officials do not check the prints to make sure components are installed correctly. In the end, we can have all the engineering and drawings in the world but once it is installed backwards, flipped, girder plies are not plied together correctly, or in a floor’s case, installed upside down, it doesn’t really matter and it’s all for naught! Education is so important, which is why we focus on reaching out and educating our local builders’ association about truss bracing, jobsite packages, and other topics.
What’s your company, market, or SBCA chapter focused on right now?
Right now, we are focused on ways to improve the flow in our shop. This includes reducing how many times we touch a piece of lumber, plates, and tools that all go into the final product. We are working on moving equipment around to make the flow better. An ongoing project of ours is focused on informing and educating our general contractors, framers, lumberyards, other customers, and building officials about the importance of the ply-to-ply nailing/screwing of girders, the difference of individual truss bracing, and roof truss bracing as a whole system. We also continue to educate our market about TDDs (truss design drawings) and TPPs (truss placement plans), and why it is important to read the entire Jobsite Package and not throw it away. Jobsite Packages are even better thanks to SBCA and the electronic jobsite package, which allows us to offer job-specific packages, with our logo, in electronic and print form. Talk about awesome!
What challenges do you see for the industry in the future, and what should SBCA be working on now to meet those challenges?
I continue to see skilled labor, and labor in general, as one of the challenges now and into the future. This could change, however, as new technology is beginning to change how individuals are taught and trained. Understanding ways to communicate and educate with our workforce can always be a challenge, too. Also, as a small component manufacturer, we are constantly trying to differentiate ourselves from the big guys, so we can offer more value and care in our designs and products. We focus on providing layout documents in color, rather than black and white, and ensure they are labeled so that customers and builders can read them. Another way we achieve this is constantly having the latest software release from MiTek while utilizing Sapphire Viewer in the field. This creates better project flow and communication. We focus on social media to allow everyone to see what projects are being built. We also ensure our customers that when a truss is damaged or broken, regardless of whose fault it is, we will have it fixed the day they report it, or the very next day.
When you’re not thinking about trusses, what keeps you busy?
Spending time with my dogs and my family are most important in my life. I play a lot of golf and I am constantly trying to improve my game. I am an avid beer connoisseur and love to cook! I absolutely love to travel when I can do so. This year I am going to try and spend more time for myself and my family and not thinking I always have to be at the office. It is easy to get caught up in what we do, but at the end of the day, FAMILY is most important.