Every business can benefit from adopting new, collaborative strategies for improving productivity; construction businesses are no exception. One way for builders to identify new strategies worth trying is through Process Mapping.
Simply put, Process Mapping is a collaborative effort in which stakeholders from different parts of a business visually map out how things are done and consider how to do them better. It's something that should be in every builder's business toolbox.
Process Mapping is standard practice among manufacturers. "Mapping out the steps in a business process, including handoffs and decisions, makes it easy to see opportunities for improvement," says Bonnie Davis, Director of JELD-WEN’s Excellence Model. "It helps you identify things like repetitive or unneeded steps, missed handoffs and delays.”
Today, relatively few builders have undertaken Process Mapping as a regular practice, but Michael Dickens considers it a secret weapon. Dickens learned Process Mapping in the 1990s at GE. Now, as a partner at quality assurance firm IBACOS and Vice Chair of the Housing Innovation Alliance, Dickens helps builders learn and implement Process Mapping. "It's at the base of any innovation," he says. "That includes efforts to improve quality, learn to do things faster or reduce costs."
A good start is to tackle something specific, such as the options selection process. Once the team gets the hang of how the process works, they can start looking at the business as a whole.
Making a Positive Impact
George Casey of Stockbridge Associates, an industry consultant and former builder executive, says he used Process Mapping to help one Florida builder grow annual volume from 800 to 1500 units over the course of four years using roughly the same workforce. "We helped them reduce cycle time from 240 days to less than half of that, while increasing gross profit from 22% to 36%," he says.
Thrive Home Builders in Denver reports similar gains. With the IBACOS team acting as facilitators, Thrive analyzed all areas of the business with an eye to eliminating wasted effort. "We had one community with cycle time in 300s," says Elitia Schwaderer, Thrive’s director of sales. We were able to reduce that to less than 200."
In fact, much of Process Mapping's power is that by putting people in the same room who don't normally interact—sales, design, purchasing, construction, warranty—the builder receives fresh perspectives on every issue. A job supervisor looking at the sales process can see opportunities for improvement that someone closer to it might not.
Schwaderer says that, over time, such collaboration has changed Thrive’s company culture. "It has helped us break down silos in the company."
The Housing Innovation Alliance recently hosted a webinar outlining how a builder can structure a Process Mapping effort and where to go for more information. You can find it here.
For assistance with your projects, visit JELD-WEN’s professional portal.