The Ride in to BCMC 2012

Originally published by: BCMC

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Again this year during BCMC week, get day-by-day updates from our man-in-the-field, Jess Lohse, President of Rocky Mountain Truss Co. in Havre MT:

Leaving work for the week is stressful. Employees and customers come up with all sorts of questions five minutes before you leave, and even more questions the first few hours after you've gone. That ding-ding-ding noise isn't the airport loudspeaker or the check engine function on your car, it's your smart phone blowing up. That's why my favorite part of airplane travel is turning off my phone, sitting back and relaxing. After ignoring the flight attendants' demonstration of seatbelt functionality (they typically go around and make sure everyone's seatbelt is fastened before the demonstration anyway) I break out a magazine.

Work has been busy the past few months, which cuts into my reading time, so I have a few back issues of Inc. to catch up on. Flipping through the pages, I see Jason Fried's monthly column. He's the guy who started 37 Signals, which produces Basecamp, a web-based project management program. In his article, Fried talks about meeting a Harvard marketing professor who shared this quote from Henry Ford:

If you need a machine and don't buy it, you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don't have it.

BOOM, I'm in BCMC mode, thinking about equipment and the productivity of our production lines. Is there a piece of equipment we should implement but have been blind to its potential contribution? Is there something we've mothballed that would be better used in a different part of our operation? These are the questions I usually ask myself at the end of BCMC, not the start. I have a feeling this is going to be a productive and successful BCMC for me.

Now for a few ideas that may make it a successful BCMC for you ...

The project management program we use at our company has moved our business from a chaotic <four letter word> to an organized and capable component manufacturer. It allows me to set production start and end dates, delivery dates, to-dos for the various portions of our production lifecycle, and upload files for sealed drawings, layouts and even build paperwork that would otherwise find its way to a black hole. Now our guys can check off which individual trusses they've cut and pressed, look up a cut sheet, and see deadlines for today and the rest of the week. Anyone in our organization who takes a call from the customer can log the details from that call into the job. I know a few of our industry's plate suppliers have also created software to do exactly this. No matter which program a company chooses, the point remains: project management software can make your business much more efficient and organized, saving you time and money. I'm looking for feedback on this topic as a potential session for BCMC 2013. If you see me on the floor, please let me know your thoughts, which program(s) you use and why, or if you're still scratching your head on the definition of project management software.

After the epiphany that led to this blog, I continued reading Mr. Fried's article. He went on to compare emerging start-ups to established companies in the tech/software world. Smaller companies will side with the tools (software, equipment, etc.) that are most functional and cost effective in the current marketplace, whereas established businesses will use what they know with marginal gains and less risk of the unknown. That got me thinking again about Henry Ford's quote. If there is something that will make you more efficient in the near term and you elect not to employ it, someone else will come along and exploit your inefficiency.

Apply this concept to the component market. Over the last few years, those of us in the industry have been holding on for dear life. Others have perished and gone on to different, if not bigger and better, things. Now the market is at a critical juncture. If housing starts increase and the market improves, new component manufacturers will enter the CM business. What machinery, software and techniques will they employ? Will they be inherently more efficient and more competitive than you based on technically advanced equipment they can purchase on the used market for less than you purchased your equipment 10-15 years ago? What is your strategy if everyone and their dog begins manufacturing wall panels and trusses, and they figure out how to do so at current pricing levels?  Wouldn't you like to know what others in the industry are doing to prepare for such scenarios? These are just a few of my questions leading into BCMC, and I bet I will find some insight into them at the show.

Monday's Blog: It's Time  to Get Excited

Wednesday's Blog: A Sunny BCMC Build

Thursday's Blog: Hail to the Chief...

Friday's Blog: The Buzz on the Show Floor

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