Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MHBA Announces Modular "Home of the Year"

Virginia Building Solutions and Ritz-Craft Custom Homes have created a masterpiece 2-story on the waterfront, with beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay from the Northern Neck of Virginia. 

The Scott Home is custom designed to appreciate the beautiful Bay view right outside. The 3,200 s.f. home features a vaulted great room in which a wall of windows and two triple doors face the water. The focal point of the room is a 20-foot floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace with custom bookshelves on each side. The floor plan also features a master suite on the first floor with a view of the Bay and a tray ceiling with crown moldings and recessed lighting. The master bath includes a large walk-in “infinity” shower. 

The eat-in kitchen opens to the family and dining rooms and is accented by a generous center island with granite countertops, providing a pleasing contrast to the custom raised panel cherry cabinets. The switchback staircase is open on two sides with custom railings and iron spindles leading to the loft/balcony overlooking the vaulted great room. The exterior of the home features a blend of craftsman and waterfront cottage features, including shake siding accents and pvc trim to complete the finishing touches on this idyllic home. 

The Scott Home best represents the pinnacle of the modular home industry for the year, and we are happy that Virginia Building Solutions was able to feature their home and this award during a recent tour of the company given to Congressman Rob Wittman. 

On receiving this award, John Garrett, President of Virginia Building Solutions, said, “I am honored and humbled to receive this award, and greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent the industry.” 

The Modular Home of the Year contenders are selected from the twelve prior Home of the Month winners and then voted on by the general public. For more information on these awards and previous winners, check out: 

A Fireproof Modular Home Begins Production in California

A unique new factory has started up in the eastern Coachella Valley near Indio, CA building modular homes that can withstand natural disasters like devastating wildfires and floods. 

At a recent open house for Quadrow Specialty Environments, a blow torch burning at more than 800 degrees for more than an hour was not able to burn through the material the company uses to build homes. 

Walls are made of magnesium oxide and are supported with steel. 

With homes burning in wildfires across Southern California, engineers at Quadrow said people could turn to the latest technology to rebuild. 

Their design, while not the prettiest in town, has one unique feature that could make this ideal for wildfire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, insect and mold protection. The outer skin could be covered with a variety of exterior products including vinyl siding and the core of the house would remain protected. 

I predict this new startup will find a small but eager market for its homes mostly in wildfire prone areas but don’t expect much customization in their design. 

"Nothing is going to break and nothing is going to crack. It has all been designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes, all these natural forces, including floods," said Guy Assif, CEO of Quadrow Specialty Environments.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Three Warning Signs for Modular Home Factory Management

Everyone waits until the last minute to make New Year resolutions. Many of us vow to lose weight, be nicer to others or something that improve our lives. But what happens to a modular home factory if 2018 is the same as 2017, 2016, 2015, etc.

If you own a modular home factory, work for one, sell to one and most importantly buy from one, ask yourself if your factory needs a New Year resolution of change for 2018.

Here are three warning signs every failed factory has had in the past that should be addressed in your resolutions for 2018.

The earliest sign your modular home factory is failing is when there have been no new builders added for six to 12 months. Add to that an exodus of current builders to another factory. This early warning should tell management that something is wrong somewhere in the organization.

Areas that might be of major concern in this situation are:
* The Sales Manager and/or the Sales staff
* Quality Control on the Production Line
* Design and Engineering department
* Service Department

If none of these has changed over the past year, then special attention should be given to new hires in the chain of command. There could be a power struggle going on within the company that is effecting how builders are treated and served.

Deep price cutting and discounting is another warning sign that a major problem is happening.

These deep discounts keep eroding away the profit margins every modular home factory needs to survive. Stop competing solely on price, increase prices to a fair market price and add value where possible. 

Expert and excellent service goes a long way to appeasing builders querying a price rise. Most builders would love to simply have a fair price and outstanding quality and service in lieu of deep discounts, poor quality and service. 

A high staff turnover is the third warning sign that things are taking a turn for the worse. Every time an employee leaves it is an intellectual capital loss, and often the loss of their builders as well. 

A factory in any industry won’t survive without loyal sales reps and staff. Builders being shifted from one new sales rep to another will probably send them looking for their old sales rep and the factory they joined. 

With the exception of Deep Discounting, the early warning signs of a dwindling pool of authorized builders and the loss of sales and support staff could be slowed down significantly with just a couple of changes. 

Begin training and teaching events for all your builders. There is so much they need to know about what happens within your factory. Be transparent. An educated builder is a happy builder. Have your builders help each other. Encourage them to network. 

Your sales reps have probably had very little actual sales training. Most of the time it’s simply ‘on the job’ training at their first modular home factory. There is nobody to set training guidelines and schedules. Only the sales manager, in most cases, reviews what each sales person is doing and if, God forbid, your factory has a lazy or incompetent one, the sales rep will suffer but more importantly, the factory suffers. 

Three warning signs that your modular home factory may be on the verge of failure. There are many other signs but these always seem to be present in every failed factory. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Confusion Still Surrounds Small Business Health Insurance Costs

As small business owners including modular home builders learn what their 2018 health insurance costs will be, some are considering providing different types of coverage for their employees.

Companies are receiving notices of premium and coverage changes for 2018. The changes vary, depending on factors including the state where a company is located, how many employees it has and how comprehensive its insurance is. But many owners are seeing rate increases of double-digit percentages, finding dramatically reduced coverage, or both. Health insurance consultants expect more owners to rethink their strategies beyond 2018 and choose alternatives like paying for claims themselves or adding health services that can lower costs.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required to offer insurance, but many do because they feel it’s right or because it helps them compete for and retain top workers. Fifty percent of companies with three to 49 workers have offered health benefits this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care trends. That compares with 53 percent of all employers, and is little changed from the previous three years.

Republicans, as part of the tax overhaul legislation are considering repealing the individual mandate, which requires most people to buy health insurance or pay a fine. All the uncertainty makes decisions about health insurance for next year even more complicated.

If the mandate stays in place, a single person like you would have to pay a penalty of $695 a year or up to 2.5 percent of your income (but no more than the total annual premiums you'd pay on a Bronze plan), whichever is higher.

When you rarely go to the doctor, going without pricey health insurance is pretty enticing. Premiums alone will cost you more than $6,000 a year for something you're not using much. So, the penalty may seem like a small price to pay.

But keep in mind that if you go without health insurance, you could rack up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills if you have a major health issue.

If you have insurance that meets the standards for coverage set by the Affordable Care Act, the total amount of money you are required to pay for in-network care in a single year is capped at $7,350 as a single individual. That doesn't include the premiums that you pay.

But if you don’t have health insurance, there is no limit on your out-of-pocket costs for your medical care.

Before you decide to go without insurance, check out these options for ways to make health insurance more affordable for you.

Most modular home builders have a lot less than 50 employees which might help the builder avoid having to up home prices in 2018. However, almost every modular home factory falls under the ACA mandates and with rising health insurance costs in 2018, the cost of modular homes will probably see an increase unrelated to material costs.

Word to the wise: If you haven’t begun to shop for health insurance for 2018, Run, don’t walk to your health insurance agent and learn where you and your employees stand.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

KBS Builders Plant in Waterford, Maine is for Sale

Paris, Maine-based KBS Builders has put its Waterford plant on the market for close to $1 million.

KBS Builders' Waterford, Maine factory

The Dunham Group in Portland is marketing the 61,850 square-foot manufacturing plant at 947 Waterford Road for KBS Builders for $995,000, according to the Dunham Group’s webpage.

A “For Sale” sign has been placed at the site.

Established in 2001, the modular home company was formed as KBS Building Systems, offering a diverse line of housing and commercial and industrial buildings. The main office and factory are in Paris.

In late 2007, KBS Building Systems purchased the former Waterford Homes property in Waterford from a Massachusetts firm. Waterford Homes had defaulted on mortgage and loan payments and closed in 2006.

The Waterford manufacturing plant was reopened early the following year with some 20 new workers, boosting KBS’ production by as much as a third.

It is unclear what effect this sale has on the operation of the KBS Builders or its employees. Efforts to get a comment from KBS officials were unsuccessful Thursday.

In recent years, the plant has traditionally closed in the winter and laid off from 20 to 60 employees, or moved them to the Paris plant. Officials have said in previous years that the lack of commercial building work in Maine and overhead costs in the Waterford facility were the major reasons they shut the plant down each winter.

In April 2014, Minnesota-based manufacturer Aetrium purchased KBS Building Systems from Robert Farnum in a deal reportedly worth $10.5 million. Aetrium is part of the semiconductor industry.

The buyer retained the approximately 200 employees and changed the name to KBS Builders Inc.

The property is currently assessed at $814,200, according to town records. That includes $50,600 for the land and $763,600 for the building. A tax payment was made last month for a total of $12,416.55 paid in property taxes for this year. The taxes are paid through Dec. 31, 2017, the town clerk’s office said.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Britain Starting New Modular Factories at an Increasing Rate to Meet Demand

Berkeley Group ,a large housing and neighborhood developer in England, has submitted a planning application for a 160,000 square foot facility in Gravesham in Kent. It bought the site from the Homes & Communities Agency.

“We have assembled a team of specialists who are working with the group's construction teams to design the factory space with the first components undergoing testing,” said Berkeley chief executive Rob Perrins.

Berkeley has already put a toe in the water with 22 prototype modular homes at its Kidbrooke Village.

The British Government is helping with the push to use modular construction which they have found faster, greener and less expensive than conventional site building.

If only our state and Federal governments would put this much trust into our modular industry by making it easier to get projects approved and financed, we might start building new and reopening modular factories.

Just a thought.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Two of the World’s Tallest Modular Buildings Coming Soon to London

Croydon, England, the leading commercial district of London, has given the green light for a twin-tower scheme of build-to-rent flats that will become the world’s tallest offsite scheme.

Tide Construction will deliver the project using its off-site manufacturing system, Vision Modular Systems.

Tide Construction, with funding from investor Greystar, is planning to build the 44 and 38-storey scheme on the former Essex House site near to East Croydon station.

The 546-flat towers scheme, drawn up by HT Design, will be worth over US$200 Million and will be a trailblazer for modular construction methods.

Presently, the tallest prefabricated building in the world is a 32-storey block in New York.

Tide is both a development and contracting company, and has delivered several projects in recent years using its off-site manufacturing system, Vision Modular Systems.

Tide claims its modular based building program often results in a 60% time saving, compared with conventional construction schemes.

Christy Hayes, chief executive of Tide Construction said: “This project is a huge milestone for both us as a company and for modular developments as an innovative, modern method of construction.

“This development emphasises the true potential of modular construction as a genuine solution to the UK’s housing crisis, where high-quality homes can be delivered at pace in sought after urban areas. Both the government and industry are realising the benefits of modular construction, with 101 George Street being a pivotal moment for modular construction in the UK.”

Tide developed the 28-storey Apex House, featuring 558 rooms, in less than a year. That development, in Wembley, is currently the tallest modular tower in London.

The $29.95 Device That Will Forever Change the Way You Do Business

Alexa, is my house in production?

Alexa, tell Anthony I want that change order added to the kitchen.

Alexa, has the set crew confirmed the date for the Johnson house?”

In years past Alexa would have been your secretary or personal assistant. A real live person that tried to efficiently juggle all the balls you kept throwing at them. Today Alexa is not a living, breathing person. Instead it is Amazon’s answer to not dropping any of those balls you’ve been juggling on your own.

If you think that nobody could ever take over the duties of your assistant and do a better job, think again. Your human “Alexa” is about to become as obsolete as telephone operators or AOL dial-up.

It’s here already and will soon take over our lives. ECHO from Amazon and it’s $29.95 offspring DOT will probably be the #1 selling item for Christmas this year. Amazon’s little helpers set on your desk, living room, workshop and even resides in your phone ready for you to communicate with your modular home factory, your sales reps, modular home builder, the factory’s engineering department and your customers and prospective home buyers.

The latest ads and video tutorials for Echo are an obvious signal of intent: Amazon is on the march for (even) more user terrain. After Prime and dash buttons gained significant ground, Alexa and the possibilities of hands-free everything, could very well be the final step to Amazon’s absolute commercial dominance. A world in which you can read the news, recite recipes, manage your calendar, control your home’s smart devices and play music—all without hands—is a world that Amazon dominates hands down.

The device opens up a new realm of marketing opportunities for companies through voice-automated apps called “Skills,” which anyone can develop and distribute on the mother platform.

To increase Alexa’s attractiveness to users, Amazon is enticing a slew of companies to join the platform as developers of the aforementioned voice-activated Skills. Unsurprisingly, many companies jumped at the chance to hop on Amazon’s new platform.

Currently, there are over 10,000 Skills available in the US Skills store which is pretty good considering that it only launched last year.  Companies around the world seem to be more than happy to bet on Alexa being a major success—and thus reaping the lucrative potential rewards.

The big question every modular home factory and modular home builder has to ask themselves is what does Alexa ‘tell’ someone that asks about your business or your modular home?

What you think will make a great Christmas or Birthday present for you kids will soon begin moving into every phase of your personal and business lives.

Here are just some of Alexa’s 'Business Skills’ currently in use:

Email Management
Managing emails can be time consuming. The ‘Astrobot’ skill lets you manage your Gmail or Office 365 email from your Amazon Echo. With this skill, Alexa can read, reply and manage your emails, as well as help you prioritize new ones.
Additional functions include delete, archive, quick replies and more.

Website Monitoring
With the Vigil website monitoring skill, you can ask Alexa to report on the status of your websites. As more small businesses add more sites, knowing they are up and running at all times will ensure your customers can access your services.
When a site is down, Vigil automatically sends a push notification so you can fix the problem.

Managing Schedules
Staying on top of your schedule when you have one too many things to do can get overwhelming. FreeBusy Scheduling Assistant uses Alexa to coordinate meetings so you never miss your appointments. You can check the availability of individuals using contacts and syncing with Microsoft Outlook and Office 365, Google Calendar, and iCloud.

Finding Your Business
As a modular home builder, you never know when someone is beginning the search for a new home. The skill brings together more than 1 million service providers which could just as easily include you. All your customer will soon have to do is ask Alexa “Find me a modular home builder near me” , and it will connect them hopefully with you within minutes.

Providing Reminders
The combination of Alexa and Remember The Milk, a proven reminder app is a marriage made in digital heaven. Using this skill, you can hear what is due on a particular date. You can also add tasks for meetings, pay invoices and other tasks you might forget because of your busy schedule. You can also give tasks to your contacts on RememberTheMilk, such as reminding one of your employees to deliver something.

Tracking Factory Shipments
I understand that a Skill being developed for Jones Trucking will soon be available to let the company know where each of their trucks are, ETA, fuel consumption, average speed and will access the truck driver’s eLog all with a simple verbal question to Alexa. The idea that a modular home builder can know instantly where the trucks carrying their customer is and the ETA should make life a little less stressful.

Keeping Track of Business Travel
Small business owners usually make their own travel arrangements. The Expedia for Alexa skill provides information about the entire itinerary, make reservations and reminds you what to pack. This includes details about your upcoming trips, check your flight status, book you a rental car, and even check your loyalty points.

Managing Conferences
Audio and video conferences play a great role in today’s collaborative workforce environment. The Conference Manager skill from Vonage interfaces with Google Calendar to detect your next conference and dial it for you. By simply saying “start my call” to Alexa, it will extract the conference information, dial the bridge number, meeting number, participant code and make the call.The platform also supports WebEx, Goto Meeting, BlueJeans and Vonage Business conferencing solutions.
Connecting With Wunderlist
Wunderlist is popular task manager app, and Task Master is a skill linking it directly to the app. Once it is linked, you can access lists to add tasks, find out what is due, view your inbox and more.

Staying in Touch With Your Team
SoftServe’s VoiceMyBot  helps you stay in touch with your team. With a simple command to Alexa, this skill lets you listen to a user feed or a notification feed.
You can listen to recent messages and check on the status of projects.
Providing Business Intelligence
As small businesses increase their presence digitally, being able to monitor sales, unit sales, and best or worst sales with reports provides valuable information for making informed decisions. With SalesTalk, which combines customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) you can use Alexa to ask for these reports.

Keeping up With Google Analytics
Having a website for ecommerce means using analytics to measure different metrics. Unofficial Google Analytics links with your Google analytics account and lets you get the information by asking Alexa. You can ask for the number of page views for a single day, between two dates and more.

Sending SMS Texts
Created by Convessa, Mastermind uses Alexa so you can send and read SMS text messages, make and answer phone calls, caller ID, find your phone, get notifications and launch apps on your mobile device and television. This skill can be used for business and personal communications.
Using Slack With Alexa
Slack is a collaboration tool used by businesses of all sizes. The Alexa skill from PromptWorks called Chat Bot for Slack is not created, affiliated with, or supported by Slack Technologies, Inc. However, you can link Alexa to your Slack account and post messages to communicate with your team.

What is the Downside of Using Alexa?
Amazon is doing all the right things to create a platform in which developers can easily create skills. This of course has led to a dramatic rise of available skills for consumers and businesses. The downside of using Alexa for businesses at this very moment is the technology is going through some growing pains. And for businesses, they can ill afford to have system in place that can be prone mistakes, no matter how few they are.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Clayton Builds New Employee Centric Factory

Clayton home building group, a national home builder, unveiled its newest home building facility in Athens, Texas designed to transform industry standards with focus on team member experience, sustainability and innovation.

After listening to the needs and wants of Clayton team members through an in-depth survey, the company analyzed how best to support their team members throughout the off-site construction process in their home building facilities. The response was a 160,000-plus square foot facility that has since surpassed those needs, which started with simply making team member jobs easier and more enjoyable.

From incorporating a healthy dining environment to eliminating large amounts of dust commonly found in home building facilities, Clayton Athens team members also enjoy modern amenities including:
  • An expansive dining area featuring a complimentary salad bar with a "restaurant feel" to give team members a place to relax.
  • Open office floor plans in a casual, informal environment to inspire creativity.
  • Automated processes creating a more efficient, less labor-intensive work environment.
  • Air conditioned areas dubbed "cool zones," that provide a space for team members to cool off and also improve air quality within the facility.
  • Interactive touch-screen monitors and tablets to eliminate paper waste.

"This building facility sets the new standard for all of our national locations and elevates the manufactured housing industry," Clayton home building group president, Keith Holdbrooks said. "Our people are our most valuable asset and we want to provide them with a world-class team member experience.  Clayton Athens was designed to exemplify our continued dedication to our Clayton team."

Building off-site with advanced technology features and automated equipment aid in the movement of materials and puts less physical strain on team members. This helps facilities maintain exceptional product quality by minimizing potential errors.

Promoting environmental sustainability, Clayton Athens is implementing measures to become the first paperless home building facility in the company. Large touch screen monitors and tablets replace posters and paper handouts to display important production information and company news. Following the standard set by Clayton's other home building facilities, Clayton Athens is also in the process of becoming ISO 14001 registered by following sustainability guidelines and implementing green building practices.

"Reducing waste and energy consumption is a top priority of ours," Holdbrooks said. "We're implementing technology and procedures at our Athens facility that will help us increase efficiency while diminishing our waste.  We want this incredible facility to represent the next step to a smarter, more forward-thinking home building process for our industry."

Clayton is currently upgrading nine other home building facilities nationwide, providing renovations that mirror the standards of a world-class team member experience continuing to elevate the manufactured housing industry through innovation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

MHBA Announces “Home of the Month” Winner

The devil is in the details and Dreamline Modular Homes has partnered with Durabuilt Custom Homes on a home that showcases exquisite craftsmanship with an attention for detail.

With hardwood flooring throughout, the Wellesley 8’s floor plan features five bedrooms, four baths, all with tiled shower systems, and a three-car garage. The foyer creates an immediately inviting space for the family, leading to a central staircase and spacious living room. Hanging light fixtures in the kitchen complement the granite accents to create a contemporary feel.

The exterior is a classic vision with custom trim work, copper bay roofs, and Andersen Windows while sophistication belies the interior, detailed with coffered and tray ceilings, crown molding, and granite countertops.

By being selected as MHBA’s home of the month, this 4,500 s.f. home is now eligible to win the modular home industry’s Home of the Year honors next September. The MHBA is a national non-profit trade association serving builders and manufacturers of modular homes. Each month the association selects a home from its members to highlight the advantages of modular construction.

For more information on MHBA, modular homes, and the monthly contest, please visit