Monday, February 6, 2017

Innovation in the Modular Housing Industry

When you look inside the typical modular home manufacturer’s boardroom, you will see the board asking at least once a year, “What is our next big thing?” Tiny Houses? Flatpack? CNC cutters? Total wall automation?

You are trying to come up with the next big idea to jump-start innovation in their company because you’ve have been told that innovation is the key to future success. But is it?

Taking a deeper look into it we find that innovation starts with an idea by someone in management or ownership. This idea must see the light of day simply because everyone expects it. Owners and managers don’t want to look like they lack imagination. So an idea is born.

Here is why innovation should never start with an idea.

An idea makes you blind. Once you got your idea you will probably fall in love with it. That’s a great feeling indeed. But love makes blind. It will make you see only the positive points of the idea and only listen to people who are supporting you.

It’s also very difficult to convince others. What happens when you tell your idea to someone else? Their first reaction starts often with a ‘but……….’. Others within your company will start criticising the idea the moment it is told to them. An important reason is that the idea is not theirs.

Let’s face it. Modular home factories are organised to get a grip on the current operational processes and to give account of the results produced. That is why Sales Managers hold meetings. Not to innovate but to review current sales.

So, how should you start innovation?

Our industry would love to be innovative however most good ideas come from the builders and/or their customers. Does anyone think that High Performance construction on the production line would occur without builders demanding it. Many innovations in our industry were implemented simply because new codes required it. If these things were never asked for from outside, most factories would be quite happy building the same product, the same way every day of the year.

Innovation is painful. It is expensive and it is time consuming. You should never start an innovation expedition unprepared.

If someone in our industry says they have the next “Big Thing”, you should ask these questions:

Why?  Why do we want or need to innovate?
Who?  Who will it benefit?
Where?  Will it just be for one state or the entire industry?
What?  What will it accomplish for the factory or the builder?
When? How soon do you need it?

I am all for new procedures, new equipment, new ideas and new thinking for the modular home industry but sometimes you simply have to sit back and ask “Why” your idea is something your factory or our industry needs. The answer may surprise you.

1 comment:

Builder Bob said...

Modular home manufacturers have never been known as hotbeds of innovation and never will be. I agree with Coach that innovation occurs when a builder(s) demanding something and the factory finally finding a way to do it. Or a new regulation like sprinklers is forced upon us and the factory has to figure out how to put it into the production process.