The Efficiency Edge


The Efficiency Edge

Finding the best, fastest, most efficient process has always
been part of the culture for this component manufacturer. 

That means collecting a lot of data to determine what works and what doesn’t. “Real production data can really help your business,” BJ Louws of Louws Truss explained. “We have data from the last 12 years on how long it’s taken us to build each truss.”

With all that historical data, Louws knows where to focus process improvement efforts, and it’s easy to see progress. “It’s not just, ‘oh, it looks like we’re going faster,’” he said. “We actually know.”

For example, Louws is confident he’s seen real efficiency gains in his plant from improving workflows rather than investing in new equipment. At Louws Truss, customer satisfaction is up and Lean Six Sigma efforts are helping attract and retain staff.

A detailed tracking system means Louws can follow up on any issue discovered in the field by tracing the truss back to its origin on the production floor. Tracking produces data that Louws uses to identify processes that need improvement. That data also mean staff receive timely and specific feedback when things don’t go smoothly.

The benefits of robust data go even further: Louws has found that precise numbers on job-by-job profit margins mean he’s been able to protect the bottom line when times are tough. He uses his data to bid competitively on projects he knows his company can complete efficiently and to price his company out of projects that would have minimal profit margins. As cash flow decreased and companies scraped by on less work and slimmer profit margins during the recession, knowing how to make efficient use of every dollar helped companies like Louws Truss survive.

The housing market is now rebounding, but efficiency is no less critical—because even though work is increasing, labor is still scarce. “You can increase your volume by being more efficient,” Louws argued. With good data to drive effective efficiency improvements, companies scrambling to meet increases in demand can sometimes do so without additional facilities and staff.

Also, companies that are riding the market back up and have resources to spare can put their efforts into process optimization before the next market shift. Efficiency can lead to and leave room for innovation, which the component manufacturing industry needs to do, Louws says, “to continue to push the envelope forward to provide value to our customers.”

About the Author: Dale Erlandson joined SBCA staff last fall as the assistant editor of SBC Magazine. She has written for a variety of publications over the last decade and thrives on the challenge of learning something new and passing that knowledge along through the written word.