Quality Is Job One…As Well As Jobs Two, Three, Four…

President's Message

Quality Is Job One…As Well As Jobs Two, Three, Four…

A reputation for quality is something your
truss plant can’t afford to be without.

No matter how much time goes by, there are certain things about this industry that it pays to revisit. In the November 1999 issue of Woodwords Magazine (this publication’s predecessor), I wrote a column entitled, “Why Use WTCA QC? Reason #5: Cost Savings.” As the production supervisor of my family’s business, I oversaw the implementation of this program in our plant, pushed us to be one of the first In-Plant WTCA QC-certified plants in the country, and was blown away by the results.

Truth is, I still am blown away. More than 13 years after I wrote that story, I find myself reflecting on all the work we have put into implementing the program and the dramatic, positive effect it has on our manufacturing process. With regards to quality control, our industry has a lot at stake. We put in a good amount of time and capital toward ensuring our truss designs meet our customers’ needs in a structurally accurate, efficient and cost-effective manner. It’s all a waste though, if the product we ultimately ship to the jobsite has no quality control applied. Our bottom lines are tight enough as it is, without having to deal with customer call-backs, rebuilding or repairing trusses, or raw material waste.

While it is easy to identify why QC is important at a conversational level, it’s just as easy to lose track of it in the manufacturing process when you are consumed by everything that goes into getting products out the door and meeting customer demands. Successfully managing a truss plant is hard work. The needs of our customers are constantly changing, and balancing the costs of overhead and volatile raw material prices is enough to make you tear your hair out (fortunately, I don’t have any).

With all that other stuff to worry about, I didn’t want to worry about how to do proper QC in the plant back in 1999, and I still don’t want to worry about it today. Fortunately, the In-Plant WTCA QC program helps us monitor quality, while providing an easy-to-use truss manufacturing data management system. In order to evaluate quality, you really need good data. The QC program helps us with that, but you also need employee commitment and good training.

As far as data is concerned, the program requires regular inspection of trusses and data entry into the software program, and our production guys are checked hourly for percentages and periodically for QC purposes. We then analyze that data to spot trends so we can target the aspects of our manufacturing that may impact quality. In other words, we can make a well-informed decision to change a production procedure or arrange additional training opportunities in a timely manner, which increases our chance to maintain and improve the quality of our products.

Fortunately, we’ve now been doing the In-Plant WTCA QC program long enough that our employees have bought in to the concept. They’ve embraced it so well that they now repair their own mistakes (admittedly, part of their motivation is that they know it will catch up with them later). Having this system in place allows us to put most of our efforts into the most important aspect of quality control: training.

Training new employees is something we struggle with on a daily basis. We show videos, use SBCA’s In-Plant Basic Training and train on the job, but there are still large hurdles to overcome. Sometimes it’s a language barrier, sometimes it’s bad technique (i.e., guys beating up plates with their hammers), other times it’s learning proper crowning of wood and placement of plates. All of these topics are a subject to address at a later date, but it’s important to recognize that having a good QC program helps you identify more effectively where to target your training efforts.

In this issue, Mike Cassidy, Executive Director of the Truss Plate Institute (TPI), begins a series of articles outlining their approach to third-party quality control audits. That program is one of the best ways that TPI supports our industry, and it is something I encourage all component manufacturers to learn more about, if you aren’t already relying on it.

Something I pointed out in my 1999 article still rings true with me as I write this, “You need to think about whether there is a price too high to pay to either maintain or improve your company’s reputation in your market. Remember that, in the long run, a reputation for quality is something your truss plant can’t afford to be without.” Our industry has only become more competitive since then, making the sentiment all the more true today. SBC

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