CM Perspective: Your Customers Want Wall Panels (whether they know it or not)


CM Perspective: Your Customers Want Wall Panels (whether they know it or not)

Gene Frogale is president of Annandale Millwork and Allied Systems in Winchester, Virgina. He serves as secretary on SBCA’s executive committee and is also chair of the membership committee.

Annandale Millwork & Allied Systems ventured into the components industry differently from most manufacturers as our original business centered on doors and millwork. We diversified into wall panels in the early 1980s and eventually into roof trusses. From the beginning, we’ve always looked to use innovative processes to solve common construction problems. Initially, it was “pre-hanging” interior doors that reduced installation times by 75 percent. Today, we offer similar labor-saving solutions to builders with custom and stock millwork along with component packages, I-joists, and windows, among other products. Through our process, we have always had great relationships with our customers and responded to their needs through continuous dialogue. 

That communication continues today with our customers, both builders and framers in our market. Through this engagement we have seen great gains in our wall panel business from production builders, multifamily projects, and now increasingly in single-family custom work. Downstream labor constraints have opened the door for builders to consider wall panels who wouldn’t have considered them to be a viable alternative as recently as two or three years ago. Our long-term commitment to promoting wall panels and leveraging tools produced by SBCA, like the Framing the American Dream content, has made conversations about wall panels much easier. 

Wall panel constructionAdditionally, relationships with framers in our market have significantly improved through interactions with the National Framers Council (NFC). NFC has given framers an avenue to communicate their pain points and how panel manufacturers like us can make alternations to our products and processes to help framers better install panels and become more efficient as a result. I now feel like we have partners we can trust when we team up on large projects to offer a more complete solution to builders, as opposed to a potentially adversarial relationship when expectations are not aligned on a panel project. 

Everyone in the construction industry has had issues finding and hanging on to quality employees over the last several years. Wall panels allow us to make our customers more efficient in the field, leveraging time-saving installation processes but also maximizing the value of less skilled or inexperienced labor on the jobsite, all while taking advantage of the cutting-edge wall panel software our suppliers offer. Utilizing technology, solving problems on the computer screen before they’re real problems in the field, and optimizing materials all contribute to the value proposition of wall panels. If you’re not currently building wall panels, you may want to seriously consider it in the near future to take advantage of unique market challenges to solve problems for your customers.