Construction industry leaders strive for precision in all we do: exact construction plans, accurate estimating, detailed scheduling and meticulous project management. But there is always the unexpected, the unforeseen and the unanticipated.
These competing dynamics set up an epic battle during the past few weeks for our company (www.FLAMEDXX.com), pitting our commitment to just-in-time delivery versus heavy snow and ice.
Music City = Boomtown
As many of you know, Nashville is a booming city. The NY Times recently reported that, “More than 100 new projects, together valued at more than $2 billion, are underway in Nashville or planned to start next year, according to city figures. Most of the big projects – four hotels, five office buildings and eight high-rise residential towers with a total value of $1.5 billion – are in the downtown core.”
With our headquarters in Nashville, we’ve been lucky enough to supply our fire retardant OSB panels to many of these new developments. Because several of these projects are downtown, there is not a lot of area to store and stage materials, equipment and other gear. Our “just-in-time” delivery of lumber has been a big help to customers.
Benefits of Just-in-Time Deliveries
The benefits for just-in-time deliveries for builders are fairly obvious, including:
- Reducing the amount of space needed to store materials (lessening storage costs)
- Lowering the risk of damage during storage
- Freeing up of capital (depending on contract and invoice demands)
- Cutting security and insurance costs
Some might guess that just-in-time delivery is a bother for the manufacturer, but we consider it a help. This is for 2 main reasons:
1. Better customer service (and maybe some extra income). Just-in-time delivery does add an added transportation burden to us and requires another layer of logistics on our part, but we do it because it’s part of having great customer service. And it has worked out well so far. Luckily, we’ve organized our manufacturing facility in such a way to facilitate just-in-time deliveries, and our employees have bought in to the concept.
2. The “pull” of products through the manufacturing process. Because products are “pulled’ through our plant, i.e., ordered by the customer, rather than “pushed” through, i.e., created based on expected sales, we reduce waste and overhead. We increase our manufacturing precision.
We are big fans of just-in-time delivery because it helps our organization reduce waste, whether by cutting overproduction, decreasing unnecessary stock on hand, or just by lessening the number of people standing around.
Back to the Story: Snow and Ice Stop the Construction Boom
A recent a recent snow and ice storm taxed our system. Some delivery dates were pushed up. Some start dates were pushed back. Product in route needed to return to our storage. It was, frankly, a bit of a mess. I guess what they say is true, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.”
Looking Back: Why we survived
But we came through it all ok. And, in retrospect, the reason that we were able to keep our commitments revolved around some key decisions:
- We keep our scheduling very simple. We’ve found the use of overly complex scheduling or difficult-to-deal with travel brokers doesn’t work for us. When the going got tough, our simple scheduling procedure turned out to be incredibly flexible.
- Clearly communicating our time management strategy to customers. When things go wrong, people tend to be understanding … as long as you’re honest with them. We called our customers, shot straight with them, and they understood. It probably helped that they were dealing with many of the same issues that we were dealing with.
- Cloud-based data and remote work sites. Some employees couldn’t get to work. We had prepared for this by utilizing technology so that they could work from home with access to all of the client information they needed as well as key documents. Most of our folks didn’t miss a beat.
If you have questions about this or other topics, please send me an email or visit our website www.FLAMEDXX.com.