CM Perspective: It's Time to Insist on Innovation


CM Perspective: It's Time to Insist on Innovation

Mike RuedeInnovation is a word that is currently criticized in the business world for being over utilized. However, I would argue its actual application is being seriously underutilized in our own industry. To be fair, our customers are not traditionally known for their swift adoption of leading-edge technologies. It’s hard, then, for us as their suppliers to adopt a mindset of seeking out and investing heavily in new ways of doing things.

But the labor shortage is quickly changing all of that. Our customers can’t find sufficient manpower to construct the buildings they want to build. As a result, they are being forced to look for new, yes innovative, ways to complete jobs using less people. That should be great news for our industry since one significant advantage our products have is that they require less labor, and less skill, to install. 

Market share of roof trusses, wall panels and floor trusses have all increased since 2012, but not nearly as much as they should have. One of the problems is that we also struggle to find enough qualified individuals to increase our production capacity to meet the demand from our customers. Extended lead times prompt our customers to consider other alternatives and that should concern every one of us.

The Europeans and Australians have been struggling with a similar labor shortage in manufacturing and construction for a long time, and as a consequence they are ahead of us when it comes to finding innovative, labor-efficient ways to get the job done. One needs to look no further than companies like Hundegger, Randek and Trussmatic to see some of the potential solutions to our labor constraints.

If our industry is going to effectively meet the future needs of our customers, we aren’t going to do it by throwing people at it. We are going to have to find innovative ways to increase production capacity (and potentially delivery capacity) with less people. Component manufacturers need to be pushing their current equipment providers to find better solutions to our overall throughput challenges. We also need to look beyond our industry and look at what other manufacturers are relying on to automate everything from batching to material handling.

I look forward to seeing what issues the SBCA Equipment Council takes up along these lines and what we can continue to push for individually with our suppliers. This is the year our industry needs to collectively insist on greater innovation in the plant or our customers may increasingly look elsewhere for solutions.

Mike Ruede is Executive Vice President & COO of A-1 Roof Trusses in Fort Pierce, Florida. He serves on SBCA’s Executive Committee and was the 2018 recipient of the SBC Industry Leadership Award.