June 2, 2006
Manufactured Home Builders Get Lean
Techniques can be used to improve production times, quality
The Manufactured Housing Research Alliance (MHRA) held a training course for representatives from nine manufacturing plants to demonstrate Lean Production techniques, a method of making factory-built homes that eliminates waste and improves processes, in order to save time and money while improving quality.
"In the 10 years I have been in the industry, it was by far the best training course I've taken," said Ty Batchelor, assistant general manager for Southern Energy Homes in Addison, Ala. "The lean building techniques are phenomenal and have the potential to transform the industry."
During an intensive one-week training session, the advocates learned the basics of value stream mapping -- a process that helps identify operational inefficiencies in order to weed out wasteful steps in the building process. The goal of value stream mapping is to streamline plant operations in order to reduce the time and labor spent on manufacturing a home, while producing a product of higher and more consistent quality.
"I got a better understanding of what 'lean' is and realized that our industry was just dying to have it brought to bear," said trainee Robbie Davis, production manager for Palm Harbor Homes in Plant City, Fla.
The advocates, with the guidance of MHRA experts, will take what they learned and apply it in nine of the nation's leading home manufacturing plants. Their job is to transfer the knowledge to a "lean team" in each facility.
"Everyone we have shared the concept with so far has been receptive," said Davis. "We are in the process of making our value stream map, and we hope to use the process to make a better product, increase volume and make the people who build it happier."
Brent Bardo, vice president, general manager and co-owner of Four Seasons Housing and Admiration Builders in Middlebury, Ind., agreed. "Our employees are excited about building lean because it will save them time and energy. Any time you can do that they will love you."
Additionally, lean processes have the potential to significantly increase production as bottlenecks and inefficient processes are streamlined and eliminated.
"For the retailers it means better quality and quicker deliveries," added Bardo.
The manufacturers chosen for the study represent a cross-section of home types and price points, as well as geographic location, to ensure that the findings can be broadly applied.
After the lean techniques have been applied at the nine plants, MHRA will present the results and lessons learned by the teams in a report detailing how factory-built housing can utilize the practices to positively impact the bottom line and home quality. MHRA will also hold a seminar to present project findings to the industry.
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Content updated on 2/23/2007