Monday, August 20, 2018

It’s Your Turn to Change the Modular Housing Industry

For the past few years a lot of highly educated people recognized by their peers in the modular construction industry have brought forth a lot of unique and groundbreaking ideas of what could be the “next big thing” in affordable modular housing and commercial projects.

A few of these ideas have garnered people’s interest and have been advanced by leading websites like Dwell. Some have even gone as far as receiving funding from investors like Kasita.

We all remember the huge amounts of investment dollars showered on Blu Homes a few years back to help them become the next big thing in modular housing only to see them shrink their national housing efforts to a small area of California and several top management changes.

The modular construction industry always seems to be on the verge of becoming the answer to many of today’s housing problems but even with all the good press and wonderful intentions our industry continues to be a very small niche in the affordable and custom housing industry.

Commercial modular on the other hand is kicking butt. Articles are being written every day about all the projects being built and planned around the world.

Many of you have been in the modular housing industry for decades and even if you are relatively new to it you all share one thing in common - you want modular to grow faster and become a real driving force in new home construction.

Well, now’s your chance. I want to hear from you as to how you would improve what we are already doing, what you see as opportunities missed and what ideas, both realistic and ‘outside the box’ you have been thinking could be that ‘next big thing.’ Time to let everyone know about your ‘disruptive’ idea.

You are the actual “boots on the ground” in this industry and seldom does anyone actually ask you for your thoughts and ideas.

Now I’m asking you to “Anonymously” leave a comment about your ideas. Nobody will know who you are and that’s a good thing as we might get some really off the wall thinking brought to the attention of our industry.

It really doesn’t matter is you are in modular sales, work on the production line, set the modules at the job site or a member of management, you’ve got to have at least one idea how to improve our industry. (This is not a “complain about your factory” article and if one appears I will quickly remove it.)

Start writing those comments and let’s see what real insiders in the modular industry have to say about its future possibilities.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Vetting New Hires is Essential to Your Company’s Success

Your modular home business is booming and hiring employees is essential for all the new work you’ve contracted. But what if you hire the wrong person?

The vast majority of small modular home builders and almost a quarter of modular factories are guilty of not performing sufficient pre-employment checks and have instead relied on their instincts alone. While you might trust your gut, some candidates can use this lack of screening to their advantage to pull the wool over your eyes.

Their resume and/or application could look great on the surface but could be hiding a criminal record or have no proper ID.

Or they could be lying on their application and providing false information in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market. Unfortunately, without being vetted beforehand, these issues won’t come to light until it’s too late.

A bad hire can cause havoc for your business, ranging from lost productivity to internal disruption in your existing team. There is also a chance they may take part in illegal activities while working for you and this can ruin your reputation with your clients and prospective customers.

Once again, I know you are busier this year than any year in recent memory and there is a shortage of good labor but not vetting a new hire can cause you major problems.

It’s no secret that finding the ideal candidate for a role can take time. From organizing interviews to reading through countless applications, it’s not something that can be rushed. But did you know that a vetting process can actually save you time? Announcing on the job advertisement that you are going to carry out extensive background, criminal and credit checks can discourage high risk candidates from applying, therefore saving you both time and money.

Now that most of the criminal prone candidates have been discouraged from applying in the first place, that leaves the ones that have flat out lied about what skills they have or who they worked for.

Employee related threats such as theft and fraud are understandably a big concern for any builder. Thankfully, vetting potential candidates can give you some additional protection against this. This is particularly important if the candidates you are hiring will have access to higher priced materials, your vehicles and your checkbook.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe working environment for all your employees. By vetting each of your candidates beforehand you’re making the safety of your employees a priority. After all, your team should feel safe and comfortable when they are at work.

Having a structured vetting process in place isn’t that hard today. The Internet is your first stop in the Vetting process and Google becomes your first stop in the process. Public records are more public and easier to find than ever. Checking a candidate’s social media accounts could reveal activities that aren’t acceptable in normal business.

With access to endless information at our fingertips, there is no excuse to not find out more about prospective employees before getting them to sign on the dotted line.

There is always an element of risk when you decide to hire a new employee and sometimes there is no way of completely avoid hiring the wrong person. But by using a vetting process, at least you can reduce the chances of this happening considerably.

So, next time you find a candidate that performs extremely well during an interview and has a glowing resume, remember that if they seem too good to be true, they just might be.

Vetting is your key to a smooth running team.

Autodesk’s Wyatt Should Get a “Thank You” From the Modular Industry

I have been reporting on all things modular for over a decade and have seen reporters write stories confusing manufactured homes with modular homes, Realtors stating that modular homes are not real homes and just about every other type of untruth about modular you can think of but when I read this excerpt from an article on I said to myself, “Now here is a guy that really understands the future of modular.”

What Gary Wyatt from Autodesk said about the people on the production line at modular home factories is so true. I have been in the construction industry for over 30 years and compared to the labor on site built homes, the labor found in a modular factory is much superior. Many production line people are long term employees having been on the job for decades while their equivalent in the field tend to view pounding nails in the heat, rain and cold as a laborer a temporary job at best.

Gary Wyatt, Autodesk director of building design, cited several factors that have made modular more popular. The primary one is the skilled labor shortage that has hit construction markets worldwide in the past few years, making it difficult for contractors to hire enough workers.

According to Wyatt, modular home construction means that more of the skilled work is done at the beginning of the building process, allowing designers to leave detailed instructions on how the modules should be put together.

“By using offsite fabrication processes, you can have much lower-skilled people be able to actually construct these buildings,” he said. “It’s almost like an Ikea or Lego-like approach where the designer can specify what the building is going to look like and how it should be put together.”

His equating the building process to that of Ikea or Lego is completely understandable. By producing the volumetric module in a factory using skilled and trained people and then having it shipped to the jobsite where lower skilled labor can assemble it on the jobsite, although not something new, means that the labor shortage normally found in an entire site built home or hotel project can be shifted to the end of the project.

Mr Wyatt, you’ve said more in a shorter amount of words about the value and promise of modular than anyone I know. Thank you!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Oregon First State to Approve Mass Timber High Rises

Thanks to a recent addendum to Oregon’s building code, the state is the first in the country to allow timber buildings to rise higher than six stories without special consideration.

Portland has become something of a hotbed for timber innovation as of late. Carbon12, PATH Architecture’s eight-story glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) tower with a steel core, recently became the country’s tallest timber building and was set to be surpassed by LEVER Architecture’s 12-story Framework. Alas, that project was put on hold due to mounting financial difficulties last month, but it seems the precedent that the project achieved in securing a building permit from the State of Oregon and City of Portland will live on.

CLICK HERE to read the entire ArchitectsNewspaper article

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Vote for Your MHBA Favorite "Modular Home of Year"

Each year, the Modular Home Builders Association asks for the public’s help in selecting our Home of the Year. Anyone can vote by selecting one of the past 12 Home of the Month winners. This year, we are excited about the diversity in sizes and styles and it should be a very competitive contest. From a very small 452 home to a 4,600 sf estate, the modular home industry can help you build your dream home.

To vote, go here: and select the home that you feel deserves to be named our Home of the Year.
Note that under each image, there is a link that will take you to more pictures and information about that home. The winner will be announced on October 10th at our annual meeting in Hershey, PA.
Thank you! Tom Hardiman, Executive Director Modular Home Builders Association

Don’t Publish Pictures You Don’t Want OSHA to See

Once again I was trolling through the myriad of articles about all things modular and offsite and once again I am seeing a lot of pictures on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and news articles that blatantly show OSHA violations.

If you are a new home builder or a commercial developer taking these photos of your subcontractors on the job and think you are doing a great job of PR for your company, think again.
Just yesterday I saw pictures (which I will not publish for obvious reasons) of roofers on a 10/12 pitch roof installing shingles. Neither of the two men had any type of safety gear on and if fact one of them was sitting on the crown of the roof which had to be about 25 feet high. The other was installing shingles in a valley while trying to hold onto a rope that went down, not up.
You might find this a good photo op but OSHA will call this evidence, especially if one of them later fell to their death.
“But they’re subcontractors”, you say. They might be but YOU ARE the GC! Do you really think that OSHA would miss an opportunity to bring you into the lawsuit and fine the heck out of everyone.
The picture you took would prove you not only allowed OSHA violations on your site but actually posted pictures on the Internet to help promote your business.
Here are just a couple of construction OSHA violations the last week in July and the first week of August, 2018:
Georgia Wooden Post Manufacturer Cited for Failing to Protect Workers in Partial Amputation Case - $109,546 fine
Missouri Trenching Co Facing Hefty Fine for Unsafe Work Conditions - $189,221 fine
WA Asbestos Removal Contractor Cited for Unsafe Practices - $229,700 fine
WI Roofing Company Cited for Repeat Fall Hazard Violations - $48,777 fine
Fatal Fall at Dallas Apartment Complex - The court ordered the company to pay a $150,000 criminal fine, $100,000 civil penalty, admit to eight willful violations, and to undergo monitoring by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for four years.
Maryland Contractor Cited for Dozens of Electrical and Machine Guarding Violations - Maryland OSHA has issued 26 citations and $82,800 in penalties
TN Contractor Fined for Exposing Workers to Fall Hazards - $51,200 fine
What will it take for you to react to obvious violations when you visit one of your jobsites and tell the offenders to stop work right now and do things correctly or they can’t work on your job?
Or will you take a few pictures of how work is progressing and happily post it on the Internet?

Academic Programs Lag Behind Off-Site Construction’s Rapid Growth

Institute, ASC, ACSA Release Results of Latest Survey on
Off-Site Construction Education

The National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute) Off-Site Construction Council (OSCC), Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) have released the results of a survey to understand how institutions of higher education are teaching about off-site construction methods. This joint effort, investigated by researchers from Washington State University, University of Nebraska and Colorado State University, follows on an initial survey conducted in 2014.
Survey respondents came from architecture and construction management programs in academic institutions across the country. The compiled data compares the 2017 responses to the 2014 academic survey results, as well as responses from concurrent 2014 and 2017 OSCC surveys that looked at how the industry is using off-site construction methods.
Here are some of the key findings from the Results of a Survey of Prefabrication in Design and Construction Academics: Comparing 2014 & 2017 Data:
  • There still is a disconnect between how frequently the industry is using off-site construction (88%) and how many architecture (40%) and construction (33%) schools are teaching it.
  • Architecture schools have increased their focus on hands-on learning of off-site techniques, using more design studios (59%) and design/build (54%) formats.
  • Construction management schools continue to favor lecture formats as the main avenues for teaching off-site construction, with nearly 80% utilizing this method in 2017.
  • The off-site construction topics taught in each setting continue to track with the overall emphasis and expertise of their related disciplines. The architecture programs focused on materials and products; design and engineering; and automation. The construction management programs focused on accelerated scheduling; lean manufacturing; project management and commercial construction.
  • Industry responded that its primary construction type is commercial construction. Meanwhile, the most addressed topic of architecture programs is single-family housing, and multi-family housing is the most addressed topic of construction management programs. 
  • Construction management programs tracked well with teaching about the types of products the industry was using in 2014. However, the industry shifted its focus in 2017 and both the architecture and construction management programs have not yet made a corresponding shift in their teaching.
  • Architecture programs are researching a number of topics, with the top areas in 2017 continuing to be new products and design optimization. Construction management programs continue to research building information modeling (BIM) integration, but have seen an increase in research related to supply chain integration.

A total of 92 institutions participated in the survey, with 59 from architecture programs and 33 from construction management programs. 181 participants from industry responded to the concurrent industry survey.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Major Component of Residential Modular Housing Disappearing

Everyone in manufacturing knows that business hasn’t been this good in years, even decades for some. They also know that it is getting harder to find labor for their assembly lines, office staffing and middle management. Good people to fill these positions are disappearing faster than a cold beer on a hot day.

Something that is unique to the residential modular housing industry is also disappearing; “new to modular” home builders. In fact even new site builders are a disappearing entity these days.

A Beracah Modular Home Being Set in Delaware

Is it the cost to enter the business or the skill sets needed? Or is it that not many young people are stepping up to enter the business that for years had been crippled by the 2008 housing recession?

Another big reason for the lack of new builders coming into the modular housing business is the older modular builder has never thought of putting a succession plan in place.

Harris Woodward, Owner of FinishWerks in Savage, MD

Many small modular home builders have their identities wrapped up in their business. That makes sense because building a small business is often the fulfillment of a dream -- a very personal kind of success.

Because a small business owner often built their company from the ground up it can be hard for him or her to discuss succession. In fact, 58% of all small business owners have no succession plan.

Many modular home builders never envision retiring and definitely do not enjoy discussing their own potential demise. Their family members, especially sons and daughters, were not brought up swinging a hammer and really don’t understand what is involved in running a successful modular home building company. Actually the builder wants more for their kids than enduring the ups and downs home construction is known for. They want their little tykes to go to college and “make something of themselves.”

But when the modular home builder is ready to retire, lessen their involvement in their business or God forbid, dies, there is nobody ready to step in and take over. That happens to almost 70% of the modular home builders in this country.

“I'm not planning on dying any time soon” is the mantra of modular home builders.
Everyone dies and many people retire to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Succession is not an easy topic for a variety of reasons. It's hard to confront your own mortality and not fun to tell a family member or trusted employee that they won't be taking the reins as your replacement.

The best way to control what happens to your home building business; in many cases your life's work; is to take the proper steps to execute your plan. Even if what you want may anger your family or employees, it's always better to handle it now when it can be discussed than to leave it for lawyers after you're gone.

There is one other approach to the disappearing modular home builder. Maybe it’s time for both the BSC and the MHBA along with the modular home factories to begin a recruitment program for young people to become modular home builders.
If these associations and their member factories would like to begin working on such a program, I would excited to help promote it and host another Round Table to bring this to the attention of our entire industry. Just ask and I’ll make it happen.

Modcoach Updates His Profile

Saturday, August 11, 2018

August Job Listings From LGA Recruiters

The Active Candidates section below represents candidates looking for new career opportunities.
The Open Positions section represents companies, who are looking for candidates to fill their open positions.
Contact Lynn Gromann at 888-831-0327 or if you would like further information on an available candidate or on an open position.

Active Candidates: Plant Controller - Some MOD experience, wants Houston, TX or nearby General Manager / VP Sales - 20 + years HUD / MOD, prefer South SALES Sales Rep - 8 years Commercial MOD - Northeast only Sales Rep - 16 years MOD - New England only Sales Rep - 27 years MOD - New England only Sales Rep - 21 years MOD and Commercial - New England only Sales Rep - 20 years HUD / MOD - only PA Sales Rep - 16+ years Commercial MOD / Rocky Mountain area, West Sales Rep - 8+ years Commercial MOD - prefers SE or West Sales Rep - 27+ years Residential MOD - wants northeast Regional Sales Manager - HUD / MOD, wants IN Sales Manager - 25 years MOD / HUD / wants SE or close Director of Sales & Marketing - 28 years MOD experience, wants SE, S, SW PRODUCTION / OPERATIONS / PURCHASING Production Manager - 26 years HUD / MOD - Northeast Production Manager - 17+ years HUD / MOD, wants SE, South, SW ENGINEERING / QUALITY Engineering Manager - 17+ years HUD / MOD - wants DFW area only Engineering Manager - 12+ years HUD / MOD experience, IN, MI only Manufacturing Engineer - 13+ years MOD / HUD experience, AZ, CA Engineering Manager - 20 years MOD experience, NE and wants Mid-Atlantic SERVICE Service Manager - 29 years HUD / MOD experience, PA, possible relo

Open Positions:

EXECUTIVE Division Controller - MOD / HUD - Southeast Plant Controller - MOD / HUD - Northeast General Manager - Commercial Modular - South COO - Commercial MOD / Multi-family - Rocky Mountain Region CFO - Commercial MOD / Multi-family - Rocky Mountain Region CFO - Commercial MOD - West COO - Commercial MOD - West MATERIALS / PURCHASING Estimator - Multi-Family MOD - Rocky Mountain Region PRODUCTION / OPERATIONS Production Manager - Commercial MOD - New England Plant Manager - Residential MOD - Upper Midwest Production Supervisor - Commercial MOD - Northeast Production Supervisor - HUD / MOD - Southeast ENGINEERING / QUALITY Quality Assurance Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast Quality Assurance Manager - Commercial MOD - South Drafter - Commercial MOD - South Designer - Commercial MOD - West Asst. Structural Engineer (EIT or PE) - Northeast Team Lead Drafter - HUD / MOD - Northeast SALES Sales Manager - Commercial MOD - Northeast Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - NYC Business Development - Commercial MOD - West Sales Rep - Residential MOD - Pacific NW Sales Coordinator - HUD / MOD - Midwest Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - Northeast Sales Rep - Commercial MOD - New England