Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Delays and Service Issues Force Modular Builder Back to Site Building

A builder just sent me this message from a modular home builder that has decided to go back to on-site construction.
"I'm not new to modular, I've done 15 of them. I just set one in August. The service stunk and I had to wait too long. I'm going back to framing"
That's something none of us in the modular housing industry ever wants to hear especially from one builder to another. 

But you have to wonder about the two things that he said are driving him back to framing.

First let's take a closer look at service. There are actually two types of service. The first is service before delivery. If he had problems working with the sales rep, the engineering department, the sales manager or the shipping department which caused the delays, that is one area the factory needs to work on. And quickly.

Sales reps that don't stay on top of things at the factory for their builder should be retrained to ensure the builder's questions are answered quickly, all changes are noted for the engineering department, special order items are listed and final reviews of the house are made with the builder.

The builder didn't mention how often these things occur but honestly, if a sales manager allows this happen on his/her watch, they better look into working with the sales rep one on one.

The second type of service is after the house is delivered. I know a lot of modular home builders take pictures of everything outside and inside the modules when the shipping wrap comes. Your smart phone will hold more than enough pictures to cover anything the factory service department needs to correct.

However if those modules are set in place before you start taking pictures the problem becomes suspect especially for missing or broken items. Were the appliances and trim taken during the first night on the jobsite? It could become a blame game at that point.

If the builder has legitimate problems that need to be corrected by the factory service department and the factory begins arguing about it, I wouldn't blame him at all for bailing on modular. 

But if the builder exasperates the problem beyond reason for the factory or wants the factory to make repairs for problems caused by the builder himself, the factory has every right to not service the home. Of course the builder will blame the factory and our industry then gets a bad name.

Now let's look at delays. Here we see four potential areas that may or may not be within the factory's area of responsibility.

First there is the delay because the sales rep or the engineering department simply can't get the work out fast enough to suit the builder. Nobody's fault...maybe.

Lately the modular housing industry has begun a love affair with big commercial projects like hotels, large condo and townhouse contracts and even dormitories. If a factory lands two or three of them, each 100 modules or more with definite completion dates attached, it's possible that a builder may see their customer's home delayed a month or more.

And lastly, it may be because a state's Plan Review Department is taking a month or more to have their plans approved for production. Since no factory wants to piss off those people everyone walks softly around this issue. 

And finally there are the "special order" items and options. Your customer wants Pella special order windows in their chalet. That adds time over normal delivery times. Then one is either broken on delivery or the wrong color. Reorder and wait another 3 weeks. Delay!

Builder wants factory to install customer's special ceramic tile ordered from Italy but he and his customer didn't order enough and the shower is only 3/4 installed. And who is to blame if the tile is stuck in customs for 3 weeks? Delay!

For a modular home builder to simply say delays and service are forcing him back to site building is way too broad a statement. Reading through the above list there are really only a couple that might not happen if he stick built it. Most or the problems are common to both.


Matthew Cooper said...

SERVICE is as you point out is the offender. Failure to follow through from any number of the contributors are come through to the builder as too many things outside of his/her control. resulting in the perception of poor service from them to their client. Site Building's "evil that you know" at least gives them the perception that they are in more control. Failure to deliver service will kill nearly any industry.

Jason Bos said...

Coach you have touched on the only real problem with modular construction but didn’t address it at the root cause. All too often modular factories started out as HUD home providers servicing a dealer network. The systems and processes that support dealer networks are fundamentally different than those that support modular builders and developers. Expecting sales teams to be project managers and “engineering” (really manufacturing design teams) to be project engineers is a stretch at best. Factories could avoid frustrating modular developers, builders, and customers by developing specific roles, systems, and processes that ensure requirements are met for the end product not just their own FOB factory requirements. Why hasn’t hashtag#modular / hashtag#offsite taken over the industry? Because the construction has been systematized but everything before and after has not yet been likewise systematized.

Bill Hart said...


Al Grust said...

Service or the lack of it is clearly a problem and always has been. We can add to that the mod company blaming the problems on the set crew, an easy place to dump the blame for any kind of structural problem. As I said before here set crews need to come from the plants or at very least be trained and qualified by the plants.
Good QC is also lacking badly you get homes with things wrong a blind man could see! Add a two man service crew and a service manager doesn't know a shingle from a door knob and it BYE-BYE builder!!!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that where you went with the service issue is completely different than where I went when I read this. But at the end of the day, service is not a problem unless you don't provide any. In any situation just do the right thing. No one will fault you if you do that. They may not like your answer, but if you are honest and fulfill your obligations, they will respect you.