Sunday, April 12, 2020

Jumping Without a Parachute

For decades the modular housing industry, especially East of the Mississippi, has done business the same way it's always been done. Establish a builder network, sales reps take orders and the house is built on the factory's production line. Works quite well.

The only bumps in the road encountered are the cyclical nature of housing starts that have always been with us.

But this downturn in production was not caused by falling sales due to a down cycle. This was caused by a virus that without a doubt will change the very nature of business. Who can predict the changes that will follow and will they be positive for our industry or will that change bring a full reboot of what we have been doing the past 70 years?

Prognosticators are telling of changes in the way we'll live our everyday life Post-COVID-19. Handshakes will no longer be an accepted way to greet each other, standing away from each other in lines will be normal, many people will wear masks whenever they go outside their homes and businesses that used to count on customers walking into their stores will now find those same customers shopping online, hopefully at their stores.

Modular home factories will see production workers demanding safe distancing on the line, insurance companies or possibly the government requiring weekly or monthly wellness testing, supply chains may refuse to stock products from countries that had massive outbreaks of the virus and many staff and sales positions may become permanent “work from home”.

Online live video streaming, which can be saved for future reference, of each workstation will begin to be commonplace allowing off-site Quality Assurance inspectors a concise view of every procedure.

Software will be introduced to give factory owners, management, work from home employees, production people, builders, set crews, truck drivers and even customers a central real-time platform to connect with each other.

Labor shortages will continue to grow in the skilled trades including electricians, plumbers and finish work in the factories. Builders may find prospective new home buyers reluctant to meet at the builder’s office preferring to work with the builder first through the builder’s website and then through apps like Zoom for meetings and DocuSign for contracts, change orders and approvals.

Subcontractors will have to show builders a record of health inspections for all their employees before they can work on the customer’s home both before and after customer occupancy.

And these are just the ones that will almost certainly be added to the process of building a new home. Who knows what will come out of the woodwork over the months following this crisis from the Federal and State regulatory agencies.

Our industry and in fact every industry, is standing on the brink of major changes of how to do business in the future and when those changes take hold we’ll all be jumping without a parachute into a new business world.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of Modular Home Builder blog and industry speaker/consultant. 


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