Brilliant technological innovations arrive right on time. They converge to create something functionally different but practical to use. “Structure precedes function,” as inventors like to say.
Robert Moor explains this in his book, “On Trails.” Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile within a year of each other, Moor says, precisely because road networks, the horse-drawn carriage, the internal combustion engine and gasoline were ready to be synthesized and become the motorcar.
“Once there is a use for a technology and the right conditions exist,” Moor says, “inventors simply need to make the right connections.”
I believe this is happening right now in wall and ceiling construction. But it’s not so much a matter of invention as it is adoption—the adoption of preconstruction planning processes, modeling systems and prefabrication technologies. Making the right connections means lining up technology platforms and acquiring expertise in manufacturing, industrial engineering and inventory management.
Are you ready to become a building component and assembly manufacturer (in addition to building structures on site)? What is your goal?
Efficiency? Quality? Market Share?
Goal setting is an interesting subject for a manufacturer. It involves more than just “being efficient” or “providing quality products” or “delivering on time.”
Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox wrote a book, a novel, about manufacturing entitled “The Goal.” The story is about Alex Rogo, a plant manager who must readjust his view of productivity. He is on a career path to the C-suite and thinks he’s an expert. But he isn’t.
“The goal is to produce products as efficiently as we can,” says Alex.
“Wrong,” says Jonah, a consultant. “That’s not it. What is the real goal?”
Alex looks at him blankly. His plant uses robots, which Alex believes have boosted productivity by 36%. But Jonah disagrees. The plant employs the same number of workers and inventories have risen.
So, Alex wonders how to define his goal. Should the goal be about product quality. No. Purchasing? No. Labor content, delivery dates, market share? No, no and no.
I won’t give away the story. The point is that to understand manufacturing, one needs to think differently about productivity and productivity measurements.
The World of Manufacturing
If you are like most contractors, you’re used to measuring the productivity of crews as they perform at the face of the wall—one job, one floor at a time. But new technologies are available that call for new means and methods and, therefore, new productivity measurements.
“We believe that how walls and ceilings are built is changing,” says The Foundation Research Series report, “Technology Impact on the Means and Methods of Wall and Ceiling Construction.”
“Technology Impact” says some AWCI member contractors have invested in prefabrication machinery, 3D printing and robotic/automation manufacturing technologies. Some track this data, analyze their shop workflows and improve their manufacturing processes.
“We can harvest data, see where we are, see trends as we do the job—where we are making money and where we are losing money,” says Travis Vap, CEO of South Valley Drywall in Colorado and president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. “We can see a job being fractured because of poor planning, or a trade not staffing up, and let the client know [how] that impacts their schedule.”
That’s what I call making the right connections. It’s important to not waste time or money.
Time to “Make Connections”
So, what is your goal? And do your metrics support what you aim to achieve?
I don’t want to say what your goal should be. But rather like “The Goal,” where the authors tell a story to teach the reader, I’d like you to reflect on the points made here, jot down an all-encompassing goal and figure out how you can measure it. “The Goal” is not about goal setting anyway. It’s about education through deductive reasoning.
But you better hurry. A confluence of technologies and new processes is at hand. It’s time to make the right connections.
Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via linkedin.com/in/markjohnsoncommunications.