Production

Ep.58: The Inspector’s View with Aaron Wingert

Building codes and inspection systems can vary greatly from one place to another, but every remodeler has some experience with inspections — good or bad.

In this episode, we get the other side of the story, from a former inspector. Aaron Wingert joins Tim and Steve to talk about how important it is to establish trust with your local inspectors and embrace the whole process.

Aaron has been a market development manager for Louisiana Pacific for two and a half years, and lives in the Kansas City area. Prior to working for LP, he spent nearly 16 years as a building codes inspector, chief inspector, and plans examiner in two jurisdictions in the Kansas City area. In that time, he did inspections of all phases of work, by all trades, in remodels, new construction, residential, multi-family, and commercial construction.

Aaron talks about being hired as an inspector out of the construction industry, and what kind of training inspectors may — or may not — get. When they’re on a job site, there’s a lot of pressure on them too. To work well together, he says, you have to own the work you do, and it’s critical to be at your inspections. Aaron talks about how to develop a good working relationship with local building departments, including:

  • Working with a new inspector
  • Staying on top of code changes
  • When to call the supervisor
  • Developing the ability to eat crow
  • Why playing games with your inspector is a bad idea
  • Being open to conversations and differences in interpretations
  • Why the burden of proof is on you
  • Getting scheduling straight
  • Participating in code review sessions
  • Knowing how your inspectors work
  • What worries keep inspectors up at night
  • Who’s to blame when something goes horribly wrong
  • And more …

Overall, just be human, approachable, and friendly — inspectors do want to help you, Aaron says. Get to know each other, try not to be combative, and everything will run more smoothly.

Ep.57: Checklist Implementation with Wesley Yoder

Problems in Production can be hard to fix — even identifying chronic mistakes and hurdles takes time. Too often, remodelers stop there, shrug, and say, “it is what it is.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Checklists are a great tool to use in the next step, when you solve the problems and prevent them from happening again and again.

In this episode, Wesley Yoder talks to Tim and Steve about how he took control of the Production process after reading The Checklist Manifesto, and how you can, too.

Wesley has been the Production Manager at West Chester Design Build in West Chester, PA, since January 2018. He joined WCDB nine years ago as a Lead Carpenter. After three years, he moved into the Project Manager role.

When Wesley read the book, he was surprised at how useful it is for remodeling processes. It covers the use of checklists in diverse industries, describing how they can significantly reduce errors, save money, and prevent accidents. In Production, checklists can also reduce slippage and keep the job running smoothly. As your processes and jobs become more complex and involve more people on site, checklists can help you run your jobs more efficiently. Wesley talks about how to create and use your checklists to be effective, including:

  • Getting feedback and buy in
  • Why checklists are always evolving
  • Keeping it simple
  • Building on past experience
  • Boulder-drop moments
  • Using them as training tools
  • Discussing the checklists with clients
  • Where to keep them so they’re used
  • How to know what to add
  • The power of paper
  • And more …

Wesley also uses personal checklists for his own job functions, and says it’s a great way to get started with using them on a larger scale with the rest of your team.

What Do You Want to Hear About?

We’ve gotten some fantastic suggestions for topics and guests, so keep them coming! Send your ideas for topics or guests to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com. Thanks!

Ep.56: The Ins and Outs of Off-Site Construction with David Cooper

Remodelers and custom-home builders are used to being on a job site, building from the outside in, whatever the weather. Modular or prefab homes are built in a controlled factory environment, from the inside out, and have made strides in quality, architectural complexity, and production processes.

In this episode, David Cooper talks to Tim and Steve about modular homes, their history, what the future holds, and some of the misconceptions about prefab homes.

David is the managing director of Connecticut Valley Homes of East Lyme, CT, with design studios in Fairfield and Westerly, CT. David is an award-winning modular home expert. CVH has been in business for 40 years, building more than 1,600 custom homes, and specializes in teardowns, rebuilds, and coastal construction.

Modular home building is a growing industry, spurred by technology — especially AutoCAD — which allows modular builders to create custom homes. Modular builders can construct essentially the same homes as on-site and stick-built homes. They build to the same codes using the same materials, but the process is different. David says his company can have a homeowner move in 120 days (or less) from the time they put the house on the foundation, and he talks about other facets of off-site construction, including:

  • How they compete on quality
  • The five types of modular homes
  • Building in a controlled environment
  • Energy benefits of modular construction
  • Sustainable building processes
  • Having lower liability on site
  • What the building process looks like
  • Using robots to frame walls
  • Getting all the clients’ decisions up front
  • The differences in inspections
  • The ballet of coordination in the factory and on site
  • How the money works out
  • The beauty of no change orders
  • And more …

It’s an insightful look at another part of the home building business and the different production processes they use.
 

Super Early Bird Discount for The 2019 Production Conference Ends Friday, June 7th

PRODUCTION CONFERENCE ’19: BIGGER & BETTER!
After two outstanding years, we are excited to host the 3rd Annual Production Conference, held alongside the 2019 Remodelers Summit at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida. In addition to hosting the event in the same hotel as the Summit, we’ve made even easier to register for BOTH events at the same time!

 
 

Ep.52: Growing Through Team Engagement with Michael Sauri

We’ve talked about getting your Production team engaged in refining your systems and processes by encouraging them to make decisions and look for problems.

But have you considered involving Production in the Design process?   

In this episode, Michael Sauri talks about how and why he did just that with Tim and Steve. Through this change, Michael sped the growth of his company.

Michael and his wife Deborah started TriVistaUSA in 2005 and the company’s grown to four times the size in as many years — with decreased overhead and increased take-home for their family and employees. Michael received the 2018 Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year.

Engaging Production in Design started with Michael working with an architect on a project, and being frustrated — he wanted to offer more options for his client. Michael asked his Production Manager to offer his ideas. Now, everyone involved in a job is involved in the Design process. He tells you how you can do it, and why:

  • What a charette is
  • Employing a charette concept in other areas
  • Work with your team’s strengths
  • Looking back to other projects for inspiration
  • Using creativity in problem-solving
  • Why input spurs engagement
  • Reducing on-site problems before they can start
  • Changing processes as you grow
  • Why it saves time overall
  • Who to involve and when
  • How to get started
  • And more …

Tapping into your team’s experiences and insights is the first step to getting to the best outcomes and solutions. It’s a continuous process, but can pay dividends in your bottom line, and in employee loyalty.

Ep.51: Getting a Trade Show Education with Lauren Moore

We’ve talked about trade schools and skills training, but today we focus on what you can learn at trade events. Attending and sending your team can broaden everyone’s skill sets and knowledge bases.

In this episode, Lauren Moore discusses what goes on behind the scenes at shows and events with Tim and Steve, why you should consider attending, and why sending your team is great idea.

Lauren has been in the conference planning and continuing education industry for almost 10 years. She started out working within medical education and is now concentrating on construction professionals. Lauren’s goal is to curate the best, most timely, and well-rounded education programs possible for her attendees. Working with industry professionals, she organizes and manage over 150 sessions and 75 speakers annually at the JLC Live events as well as the Remodeling Show co-located with Deck Expo. Each education program takes up to 10 months to plan and produce, forcing her to become a master in organization.

If you’ve never been to a trade show or conference, Lauren says you should just start on the show floor, and maybe one session in the conference program. Then look at it from your team’s perspective — what do they need to know? She stresses the importance of:

  • Live demonstrations for technical education
  • What you can learn from distributors
  • Why networking is a huge education component
  • Why the admission and other fees can turn into savings on the job
  • Getting continuing education credits
  • How to set it up for your team
  • And more …

Including where to find the free beer. Every little bit of knowledge gained can save time and money on the job site, paying dividends on your investment.

Keep It Up!

We’ve gotten some great suggestions so far for topics and guests — share your ideas with Tim: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.50: Choosing Estimating Software with Jef Forward

Estimating accurately is critical to the success of any remodeling business. As you grow your business or hand off estimating to an employee, having the right system in place is paramount. It can feel like an overwhelming decision — there’s so much software available. The wrong decision will cost you lost revenue, but even worse — lost time.

Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy to help you navigate this very important decision.

In this episode, Jef Forward talks about estimating software with Tim and Steve. He’s worked with several estimating software packages and systems over the years, and shares what he’s learned.

Jef Forward is the founder — and co-owner with his wife Monica — of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. For more than 20 years, Jef has performed every role within the company, including designer, laborer, carpenter, bookkeeper and estimator — you name it, he’s done it. Now with 24 employees, Jef has two full-time estimators.

Start your decision-making by looking at two factors — getting the estimate itself right and how the program’s output will be presented to someone other than the estimator — especially your clients. The first step is to not look at any software, Jef says. You can get distracted by all the bells and whistles of new programs and miss whether it will really work for you. He talks about the vetting process, what it can do for your estimating, and some of his favorite software choices, including:

  • How to create a Process & Needs document
  • Integrations with other programs
  • Deciding on must-haves and nice-to-haves
  • Mixing and matching vs. all-inclusive systems
  • Not looking for quick fixes
  • Evaluating and testing
  • Who to involve in making choices
  • The fine art of guessing
  • What to do by hand vs. what’s automatic
  • Slicing and dicing information
  • Client presentations and reports
  • And more …

Choosing the right estimating software for your company depends on many factors, but the work done up front will ensure you’re not saddled with a system that doesn’t fit. Taking the time and involving the team will help you make the right pick.

Tell Us More!

Do you have a suggestion for a topic or guest for an upcoming episode? Send Tim an email: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Ep.49: The Numbers that Matter Most with Judith Miller

For many people, the actual building of the project is what Production is all about. Looking at the bigger picture, Production has a great deal of responsibility to keep profit up. Production is a huge contributor to the financial health of the company.

It’s about the numbers — but what numbers are critical for the Production team to know and track?

In this episode, Judith Miller talks about the critical numbers for Production with Tim and Steve.

Judith is the resident financial expert at Remodelers Advantage, and says the numbers tell the story of your company. In college she studied architecture — but failed physics — and switched majors, graduating with a degree in economics. She has combined her love of architecture and building with economics to become a high-level strategist in the remodeling industry. Judith has been a facilitator for Remodelers Advantage Roundtables for more than 15 years, is a featured speaker at industry events, and frequently published in Remodeling Magazine.

If you can lay out a roof, which can be complicated, you can understand the numbers if you put your mind to it, she says. Looking at what numbers are trending, Judith says she’s seeing over-billing numbers decreasing, indicating a drop in sales from last year to this year. The economy may be slowing, Judith says, which makes understanding the numbers from the production side even more important. She talks about:

  • How field labor efficiency affects the bottom line
  • Indirect costs
  • Controlling slippage to protect from slowing sales
  • Job costs to look at in Production
  • Acceptable gross margin levels
  • Profit, loss, and overhead
  • Why the little stuff matters in job costing
  • The 80/20 rule
  • Why to estimate hours over dollars for labor
  • The most important things to hit in your budgets
  • Solving problems together

The most important factor in your bottom line isn’t a number, Judith says, customer satisfaction is. And that’s driven by employee satisfaction. So as you dive into the numbers together, avoid finger-pointing, and work as a team to figure out how to make your company more profitable.

Here are the links to Judith’s webinar about the Labor Burden Calculator:

 

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Every month Tim shares some great tips and advice about the world of production and then adds some personal notes about his travels to the mix… Click Here to subscribe to Tim’s “From the Field” Newsletter >>

 
 

Ep.47: An Introduction to LEAN with Doug Howard

Today we’re talking about LEAN in Production. Doug Howard has been helping remodeling companies see how they can make their processes better, cut wasted effort, and streamline their systems for better profits.

In this episode, Doug talks to Tim and Steve about what it can do for your company — especially in Production.

Doug Howard, RA’s director of consulting services, is an entrepreneur, government official and small business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in leading organizations and assisting his client companies.

LEAN is the idea of having principles and practices to fuel continuous improvement.

One of the best things about LEAN is how clear and simple the concepts are to understand — it works as well for small- to medium-sized companies as it does for huge global enterprises. Doug talks about getting from your current state to your future state with fewer steps in your processes, and where to start, including:

  • The Eight Wastes, and how to eliminate them
  • How to apply the Five Whys to Production to find the root cause
  • Addressing the workplace with the Five Ss
  • How LEAN works with the Zero Punch List concept
  • How it improves the customer experience
  • Why LEAN is like a GPS
  • Involving your subs in the process
  • Conditioning your thought process for the long haul
  • And more …

Including Tim’s interpretation of what LEAN stands for. You’ll learn how to build a system that fits your business.

 

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What’s on Your Mind?

If you have an idea for a guest or topic for the show, let Tim know at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.
 
 

Ep.46: Working with Architects with Jason Stearns

There are many different ways to work with architects in the remodeling industry, whether you’re working in the design/build model or as a builder using plans developed outside your company. Regardless of the work model, most remodelers agree the architectural plans they get at the beginning of the production process are only half done. So communication is paramount during the build phase.

In this episode, Jason Stearns discusses the ins and outs of working with different architectural firms from the Production standpoint with Tim and Steve.

Jason has been working in high-end residential market in San Francisco for almost 30 years. He joined Jeff King & Co. as Director of Production in 2017. Since then, he’s helped implement the use of Procore for their production teams, standardized the project scheduling formats, and started a weighted numeric skills assessment system for the evaluating the carpentry and labor staff to identify needed training for advancement.

In each of their projects, there are two clients — the homeowner and the architect, Jason says. He and his team want to deliver the project that realizes the original vision for both parties. To make everyone happy takes clear communication and rigorous documentation of every email, phone call, and design change. Jason tells you how to make that happen, including:

  • Getting information when you need it
  • Establishing good working relationships
  • Creating schedules that work off the budget
  • Looking at the schedule as a living document
  • Identifying milestones for the architect
  • Making objective arguments
  • Staying ahead on change orders
  • And more …

Keeping track of all communications is a major challenge, but it’s the best way to ensure that the completed project is a success for all parties.

Keep the Suggestions Coming!

This topic was suggested by one of our listeners. If you have an idea for a subject or guest, send it to Tim at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

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Ep.45: The Strength of a Technical Education with Paul Lewandowski

Technical education at the high school level seems to be fading, but it’s growing at the college level. There are more programs turning out skilled workers that can start producing for home remodeling and construction companies on Day One.

In this episode, Paul Lewandowski of Fox Valley Technical College talks to Tim and Steve about the benefits of a technical education for students and their employers.

Paul has taught residential building construction at FVTC in Oshkosh, WI, for 18 years. The program started in the late 1990s, when members of the local home builders association and the local NARI chapter approached the college hoping to start a program to train carpenters primarily for the residential market.

Every year, students build a nearly custom 2,000-sq.-ft. house for the college’s foundation, which is sold at market-rate to fund future home-building projects and scholarships. The scholarships can be used by students throughout the college, not just the building students.

Paul talks about the program, what his students learn — and how. Half of their time is spent in the shop at the school, the other half building the house. He discusses how you can take steps to get organized and help build trade programs at schools near you, as well as:

  • Where FVTC finds students
  • How he teaches quality carpentry
  • The paper test for trimwork
  • The tools required of students
  • Where they get jobs after graduation
  • What remodelers can expect from the students
  • Getting more women into the programs and industry
  • Finding trade colleges near you
  • Dealing with unions
  • And more…

The best thing you can do to solve your labor shortage and promote the industry as a great place to work is to get involved and be persistent at the local level.

Keep Talking To Us

We asked for suggestions for guests and topics, and you’re coming through — thanks! If you’ve got an idea for us, drop Tim an email at tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

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