Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When Will Horton Hear a Modular Who?

On Monday I posted a request for people in our industry to make suggestions about improving it. As I suspected most of the suggestions centered on what the modular home factory folks should do and only a couple of suggestions for builders.

Getting everyone on the same page is tough in this industry.

Here are some of the suggestions and for what it’s comments.

1. Eliminate the HUD mentality from the modular production: "On the floor and out the door."

Modcoach: Since our industry was founded by HUD oriented owners, that still follows us today. This is not a bad thing overall but it does make innovation in modular housing confined to what we have always done.

2. Eliminate the lack of promotion. Get out of your chair and out in the field. Make the phone ring instead of waiting for a sales call to come in.

Modcoach: In years past this was all we had. Today social media reaches millions of potential customers faster than any regional print, radio or TV marketing effort ever could. If you don’t have a social media person on board doing blogs, video and social media marketing, you will never reach the tech-connected new home buyer. You are “the who that Horton” needs to hear.

3. Eliminate the "It's a mobile home" mentality. Talk to your local municipalities and introduce them to the modular world that is great for vacant lots, in-fill projects and multi-family housing. If need be, invite them for a plant tour, including the Council, development services, inspectors, and zoning personnel. Yes, I work for a municipality. Yes, I came from the modular world. Yes, I have promoted and permitted 3 modular in 9 months, while previous administrations permitted none in 10 years.

Modcoach: This is exactly what needs to happen especially in the East. Between the media pushing ‘modular’ as the future and you introducing local building and zoning officials to the factory we can begin making vast headway to total acceptance.

4. Factories need to join the BSC and the MHBA

Modcoach: While currently focusing mostly on the East Coast and New England regions, both of these organizations need everyone’s help. If you don’t belong to at least one of them, you are missing something whose time has come

5. Builders need to stop expecting the factories to be the source of leads and marketing for them

Modcoach: I can’t believe builders are still looking to factories for all their leads. That ship has sailed. Today it’s the builder’s responsibility to generate their own leads. I can still remember the good old days when factories would send out leads galore to every builder and weeks later nobody had even reached out to them.

6. Factories need to improve their service departments right now

Modcoach: Builders have been complaining about service since the first modular home was delivered over 50 years ago. Jesus was a carpenter and I would bet that even he got complaints about shoddy work once in a while. It happens.

7. I have been involved in almost every aspect of this business -- finance, running factories, wholesale sales, retail sales and as a builder. The greatest need is for proper coordination and alignment between factory and builder, including:
1. Clear and unambiguous delineation of scope. 2. Rapid (or automatic) estimating, even if a fee is required. 3. Rapid drawings and engineering, even if a fee is required. (3D drawings are becoming the new standard.) 4. Factory assistance to the level desired, and paid for, by the builder.

Modcoach: What you’re talking about here is what should have happened years ago. Asking builders for a fee to do work at the factory is tantamount to heresy. That said, it really should happen if builders want to be more involved with the factory processes.

8. There is way too much customization to get the drawings done any faster.

Modcoach: Word to the wise. Watch for some, if not most, to begin cutting back on the ever expanding demand for more difficult and expensive custom work. The factories want to do it and can do it but the builder and their customers are demanding low cost and fast turnaround and that simply cannot continue to happen without some very serious conversations between all parties.

9. I'm a multiFamily guy in Modular. I can think of a couple of things that would help us out. AIA contracts specifically designed to include, not exclude, modular construction. Developer adoption of Design-Build, not Design - Bid - Build. It just makes sense and realizes savings for everyone. Do your "do-diligence" and pick your team before you hire an Architect. Project Management - Project Management - Project Management. It's not just overhead.

Modcoach: Rough truth- As long as single family modular home factories enter into contracts to build large commercial projects on a part time basis you will not see the dedicated staff or effort put in place to make all the things happen you mention above.

I suspect that there are a couple of modular home factories in the East that have already made the decision to do commercial right and even open a second line or a second factory to produce commercial. It has to happen.

10. Order Entry Software that is as customized as our product is. Software that is modular friendly, instead of software created for a similar industry that really can't be tweaked properly for our industry. Software that is NOT an ERP software.

Modcoach: Installing a BIM program into the mix is really expensive and time consuming to get installed properly. The current ordering system from factories range from paper and pencil entry (Yes, there are more of these than you think) to semi automated where manual entry is required for special order items and procedures to fully automated entry systems that is used more in the ‘plan book’ factory side of the modular industry.

If Horton is ever going to hear a Who, the Who needs to get working on taking the current modular home industry on a trip to “Innovation World”.


Modmentor said...

I have been in this industry for a long time. I think the most positive step the industry can take is to develop comprehensive training/orientation seminar that gives our best potential customer (current site builders ) a complete understanding or at least a better understanding of ow our industry works. In reading through the comments above the industry does much of what builders are looking for. The problem is that all factories are not alike. Customization is not the norm in some factories and a builder that is expecting better results when doing business with a factory that does not customize to the extent the prospective builder wants will be disappointed. Service is a subjective issues as well. There are all different levels of service given based on the factory the builder is doing business with. But these are subjects that should be discussed with a prospective factory during the builder's selection process. Factories are no different than the builders that are looking to modular to solve their problems or improve their business. Not every builder is a custom builder and not every builder is a spec builder. In many cases their product/features needs are different and those differences are what should be driving the prospective builders decision making process. But someone needs to develops a process or orientation seminar to put all of the issues on the table. And until we do we, as an industry will not raise builders satisfaction levels with using this alternate system of building. The industry has all the tools to satisfy today's home buyers. Each factory has certain processes that will help a builder in his/her business. Making the buying decisions based on a understanding of what to expect is to me the key to our future success and growth in market share. There are many builders out there right now doing a great job with the product and getting market share. But those successful builders got to know their factories well and came to understand each factory's capabilities and how they do business.

Anonymous said...

Real quality control, backed up with factory set crews or factory trained and authorized set crews, so the factory bears the brunt of their sloppy building practices.