Home Innovation Insights

Bob Hill, PE
June 13, 2013

Now's the Time to XYQ (Examine Your Quality)

During the housing market downturn, many companies downsized significantly. Now, when all indications are that the market has finally turned around, a lot of builders, remodelers, and trade contractors are going to find themselves on their heels trying to keep up with growing demand while maintaining quality and profitability. Before the market shifts into full gear, now may be the best time to XYQ - examine your quality - to position yourself for the rebound.

The growth will likely require builders and contractors to do some hiring to get their staff levels back up. New staff means training and quality management challenges (and opportunities) ahead. Companies that have a formal, structured quality management system will be better prepared to take these on while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction and profitability.

About 10 years ago, Home Innovation Research Labs developed our Home Innovation Quality Certified Builder & Trade Contractor Programs (formerly called National Housing Quality/NHQ Certification). This system was modeled after the ISO 9001 quality management requirements, which have become the quality benchmark for other industries. Home Innovation used its understanding of the home building industry to customize that well-known, and widely-followed quality management system to fit new home construction in a way that emphasized continuous improvement, and was easy to implement in the home building environment. Delivering quality starts with understanding and managing customer expectations followed by planning, execution, checking, and improvement. Our system been really effective for those companies who have implemented it. Both builders and trade contractors who have participated have reported increased customer satisfaction, reduced call backs, improved builder/trade and trade/trade relations, and increased profitability as a result of Home Innovation’s training and quality certification.  

One of the most beneficial elements of our quality management system is the hot spot technique for addressing recurring construction issues. To implement this technique, a company identifies its most frequent issue or call back. The next step is to understand the cause of the problem and then boil the solution down to simple training instruction that can be delivered at brief, job site tool box talks. The discussion is typically paired with a one-page summary that includes one photo clearly showing the wrong way and one photo showing the right way — as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. But the tool box talks are not in a vacuum. They are tied to an intensified effort to inspect each job to be sure the hot spot issue is being addressed and done correctly. To be effective, this kind of hot spot training is done at least weekly. Some companies do it daily as it only takes a few minutes but can make a big difference in information retention. With this kind of quality management activity, most job site problems can be eliminated in a month or less, allowing the company to move onto the next most pressing hot spot issue.

The hot spot technique is just one step in a company's quality roadmap. Home Innovation provides from basic to advanced consulting services to assist builders and trade contractors in developing and implementing effective quality management systems. For those companies that already have formal quality systems in place, Home Innovation offers third-party certification that the company meets the Home Innovation Quality Certified requirements. Certification requires an on-site audit of the company’s records and operations, which all participating companies have found extremely helpful for improving their operations. 

Are you ready to face the challenges of a growing market? Do you think it's time to XYQ? Let me know if you are interested in improving, or at least assessing, your company's quality management.

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