Commonsense Manufactured Housing

Factories. Assembly Lines. Manufacturing Systems! Quality Control? Continuous Improvement? Feedback? Transportation Cost. Bulk Materials. Cookie Cutter Design. Lots of hot buttons and points to ponder when you talk about creating our dream home in a big old factory.

I used to run a company called Yankee Barn Homes, may it rest in peace, another casualty of Wall Street not Main Street stimulus. During my tenure there, literally rebuilding the facility from its ashes I discovered a few things about manufacturing and manufacturing homes:

  1. If you think about the sequence of construction and what materials will need to be where and when, you tend to minimize a lot of standing around time waiting for the GC to get back from the hardware (after stopping for the obligatory coffee and fixing the world’s problems) with those washers you need to keep the support rods from pulling through the sky bridge over the lobby. If you read Profit Beyond Measure: Extraordinary Results Through Attention to Work and People about the Toyota manufacturing process, you can learn lots that can be applied to any manufacturing process. Get the pieces to the right place at the right time, with the right people (electricians and plumbers don’t have to bore the holes for their wires and pipes) and you will profit.
  2. “When was the last time you saw a Volvo manufactured in a field in Sweden?” Weather ruins much, and has been know to preload materials with enough moisture to cause problems down the line; and the corollary, could you pick up a stick-built home and drive it down the Interstate at 75 m.p.h. and not have sticks all over the road?
  3. Waste is intolerable when you have to pay to truck it away. Any manufacturing line that accumulates piles of items that are usable somewhere else will be refined. It costs too much to dump things, especially construction materials. We used the plywood window cut-outs for the roof panels. Scrap is defined as smaller than the smallest necessary piece. Finger jointing is cheaper than the dump.
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