Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Novel Idea for Solving One of Modular Construction’s Oldest Problems

One of the areas of the modular factory/modular builder relationship that continues to have more problems than solutions is the set and finish of the modular house or project.

Modular factories have improved a lot over the years in both production and capacity. BIM and automation have been added new high tech approaches to production and sales have begun entering into the process.

But once the modules reach the home or commercial site and begin being put into place, a lot of things can go wrong. It happens in modular construction just as it does in on-site building. The big difference is if something isn’t built right by the on-site builder it is corrected and the build goes on. 

If something goes wrong on a modular construction site the problem takes on a different look. Was the problem with the module built in the factory, caused by the set crew or the builder?

The factory management and the builder have always had a difference of opinion as to who is responsible for problems after the modules are delivered and to be quite honest, it’s one part of the modular process that has given both sides headaches.

That problem is compounded by the number of modules a factory can produce a week. Producing enough modules for one house a week and it quickly becomes apparent which side has the problem. Producing 15 or more modules a week and the line becomes blurred.

When a problem arises at the jobsite, either on the day of delivery and set or found later, the builder has few options but to call the Service Manager or their Sales Rep, both of whom usually go on the defensive because the builder is upset and angry.

With all the new tech stuff available for solving many of today's construction problems, here is one that might work for some modular home factories and win over builders.

We’ve all heard of and probably used Zoom and Skype. Now let’s put them to work on the modular job to help solve builder problems.

But simply having the builder use either of these programs and talk to the same people they always have is not any improvement. They only thing that’s new is the factory people can actually see how angry the builder or developer is. Oops, we just made things worse.

If, however, those Zoom or Skype calls would go to one impartial person working at the factory that had full authority to get answers from exactly the person that could quickly review the problem, that would have to be something the builder would like.

In a typical scenario, a problem such as a dormer opening being the wrong size, a shortage of cabinets, a quality or missing component situation would see the builder call the factory “Hot Line” using interactive video.

They would talk with someone that has both production and builder experience and have the authority to get answers from the right person or department while still connected to the builder or able to return a live video back to the builder while the situation is still happening.

There are many retired builders that would love to have a shot at doing this on a part time basis, especially if they could do it from home. They would learn what happens in the factory, meet all the people that can actually solve problems or answer questions on the spot and if management gets a buy-in from all parties, the finger pointing as to who is or had the problem just might be solved rarely quickly.

If a factory is delivering more than 3 homes or 15 modules a week, a part time “Hot Line” operator may prove invaluable for factory/builder relationships, especially if that person really is impartial and not judgemental.

Builders send an email requesting a video link, get a call back within an acceptable time frame, state and show why they needed to contact the “Hot Line” and either get an immediate answer or a callback within an hour with an answer.

If a modular home factory were to implement this system, especially if all parties “Buy-In”, should begin to see positive results with the first home delivery. 

Sure, sometimes the factory will take the hit, sometimes the set crew will and sometimes the builder but at least it would be answered and a complete recording of the video call would be archived and available at any time.

If your factory is already using this or a similar system, let me know but I’m fairly certain I won’t get any calls.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the, blogs and the ‘coming soon’, Construction Consultant’s Directory. 


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