Sunday, March 11, 2018

Exporting Quality Control to the Builder

Everyone in the modular home industry has used this line: “You wouldn’t want your new Ford built in your driveway, would you?” The question doesn’t require an answer as nobody would want it built in their driveway in the rain, snow, etc.

Then the obvious conclusion our industry folks would have you draw is your next new home shouldn’t be built piece by piece on your lot in the rain, snow, etc.

Let’s take this comparison just a little further. When a new car is manufactured by Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Volvo, etc, etc etc……. the car is assembled using parts and assemblies from many other factories from around the world. Looking a new car’s window sticker reveals where the drivetrain is from, the country of origin for the body and lastly it shows in what country final assembly happened.

The car was driven off the production line, loaded into a boat, a railcar and/or a truck’s trailer to be delivered to a new car dealer near you.

When a modular home (not to be confused with a HUD manufactured home) is manufactured in a factory, the home is also assembled using parts, pieces and assemblies from other factories. Kitchen cabinets, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, etc.

When the modular home’s individual modules or floors are complete they are wrapped for weather protection, placed on special carriers and trucked directly to the customer’s lot where an authorized factory builder will connect the modules and finish both the interior and exterior of the new home quickly and expertly.

Sometimes however things go wrong with a new car very quickly after it’s sold to a customer. If the repairs are minor, the dealer takes the car into their shop and fixes the problem and charges the factory for the repairs. Other times the car has so many things wrong with it that can’t be fixed to the customer’s satisfaction and neither the dealer nor the factory is willing to stand behind those repairs. Hence we have “Lemon Laws.” Consumer protection laws forcing the dealer and/or the factory to make it right, replace the car or give the customer a complete refund of their money.

Buying a new modular home takes a different path than a new car once it is delivered to the customer. First, there are no Lemon Laws to protect the consumer. There are warranty programs in place for most new modular homes including the factory, third party warranty programs, the builder’s warranty and the warranty laws passed by state governments and these work effectively most of the time.

But there is a part of the modular home process that gets little notice unless you are one of a small number of new home owners unfortunate to encounter it.

It really doesn’t matter if the customer buys a custom modular home from a custom home builder or a home from a factory’s plan book through a dealer, things can go wrong when the house is delivered. In most cases those things are quickly repaired or replaced by the builder or the factory which is the way it works most of the time and to the customer’s complete satisfaction.

However, there are times when poor quality control by a factory results in the builder being the de facto “factory quality control.”

Here a some examples of problems encountered that give our industry a tarnished reputation and really make the builder angry:

Cape style homes shipped without the custom Trapezoid windows at the gable end because they had not arrived before the house went to the production line.

Stairways that are either missing parts or not built correctly and it's the first thing the customer sees upon entering their new home.

A customer’s red-lined changes that were acknowledged by the factory weren’t made on the production line and the house was built and shipped.

The house was shipped but the ‘parts’ carrier with the 3 dormers was delayed 3 days over the weekend waiting for the special order fireplace.

Rooflines don’t meet and there’s bad weather coming. Or it’s raining when the house arrives and the protective wrap was torn in transit and the rain is pouring into the house.

Standard windows were installed in a house where the customer had paid thousands extra for special order windows that were never ordered by the factory.

The house has upgraded custom kitchen cabinets but one of the key cabinets was delivered damaged and the house was delivered without several cabinets installed and no sign of replacement cabinet.

In every one these instances, the builder became the focal point of the customer’s rage simply because the problems originated at the factory where someone dropped the ball.

Ordering windows is not rocket science but letting the person that schedules the production line know that the windows will take an extra 3 weeks apparently is.

Checking the final set of plans from the customer just before the final shop drawings are done is once again not rocket science.

Having the house wrapped and ready to ship and not checking to see if the parts carrier that had the dormers will ship at the same time is, you guessed it!

Once this problem leaves the factory gate, the next person to take responsibility for it in the eyes of the customer is the builder. The customer doesn’t care that truck hit two road signs on the way to the jobsite. They don’t even care that the set and crane operator screwed up when setting one of the modules.

No, all those problems find their way to the builder’s butt where the customer is more than happy to shove them. There are no winners when the factory sends their lack of quality control along on the carrier to the builder.

This is not to say that builders don’t bring their own special set of hellish problems down on the factory which had no responsibility for them in the first place but we will save that for another day.


Jim L said...

This problem is rampant in not only house production but also in commercial and I am totally surprised to actually see someone speak out. Builders can all agree with it but won't comment as they are afraid they will be singled out for punishment. Factory reps won't comment either.
And that's the biggest problem we have. Nobody wants to acknowledge the problem of poor quality control at the factory.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with Jim L more I have been in the modular business since 1988 and same problems happened no matter who built the damn thing. Last year I told my crew no more mods, they always show up screwed up and cost me money. This summer a customer begged me to do a custom cape chalet----THE HOUSE FROM HELL!!! From a delivery that took 3 days to complete, to ill fitting doors, big ugly wood filler blotches on the clear pine woodwork, poorly built cabinets ( they build their own)oops we forgot the self closing hinges, the wrong stairway than instead of sending a complete set of stairs I get a pile of lumber, the list goes on and on and on. The final straw is when the poor guy moves in to find tv cables don't work some were crushed during manufacturing others rolled up in the walls. Oh I can't forget the humidistat switch in the bathroom installed in the linen closet and wired wrong the fan never turned on anyway. The service manager had to be called and emailed repeatedly to get him to respond to even the smallest request. In the end when I sent a email to the sales rep. and her boss about all these problem I received no reply. As far as I'm concerned NO MORE MODULARS EVER !!!!
Al Grust
Country Manor Homes
Oneonta, NY

Josh Margulies said...

You would think we were dealing with gypsies!