Boost your productivity by employing this powerful business tool.

Virtually everyone in the construction industry is feeling the pinch of today’s labor shortage. As we are pressed to do more with less, many builders are searching for new ways to drive greater productivity from existing staff. Process mapping offers a proven means for advancing that goal.

A standard practice for manufacturers, process mapping is a collaboration among people from different parts of a business to visually map out how things are done and how they might be done better. It’s an aid that should be in every builder’s business toolbox.

“Mapping out the steps in a business process, including handoffs and decisions, makes it easy to see opportunities for improvement in our windows and doors business,” says Bonnie Davis, director of JELD-WEN’s Excellence Model. “It helps you identify things like repetitive or unneeded steps, missed handoffs, and delays.”

Beautiful results and greater productivity are common rewards of process mapping, which identifies repetitive or unneeded steps, missed handoffs, and the cause of delays.

Your secret weapon for productivity

Process mapping has yet to see wide use in the building industry. Despite that fact, Michael Dickens considers it a secret weapon, having learned about process mapping in the 1990s at GE. Now, as a partner in the quality assurance firm IBACOS and vice chair of the Housing Innovation Alliance, Dickens helps builders learn and implement process mapping. “It’s at the base of any innovation,” he says. “That includes efforts to improve quality, learn to do things faster, or reduce costs.”

For those new to process mapping, it can be useful to start small by tackling something specific, such as the options selection process. Once the team gets the hang of how the process works, it can start looking at the business as a whole.

Reducing cycle time and growing profits

George Casey of Stockbridge Associates, an industry consultant and former builder executive, has used process mapping to benefit his clients. In one case, it helped a Florida builder grow annual volume from 800 to 1,500 units over four years with roughly the same workforce. “We helped them reduce cycle time from 240 days to less than half of that while increasing gross profit from 22 to 36 percent,” Casey says.

Thrive Home Builders in Denver reports similar gains. With the IBACOS team acting as facilitators, Thrive analyzed all areas of the business with an eye to eliminating wasted effort. “We had one community with a cycle time in the 300s,” says Elitia Schwaderer, Thrive’s director of sales. “We were able to reduce that to less than 200.”

Thrive now uses process mapping to unlock new insights and value across the business. “We’re always looking for ways to improve,” she says. “If something’s not working, we start by getting a bunch of people in a room and mapping it out.”

Building a culture of collaboration

The many benefits of process mapping begin with collaboration. By bringing people together who don’t normally work with each other—sales, design, purchasing, construction, warranty—builders can discover fresh perspectives. For example, a job supervisor looking at the sales process for windows and doors might identify opportunities for improvement that someone closer to the issue does not see.

Not only can those new working relationships improve many facets of the business, Schwaderer says that it has also changed Thrive’s culture. “It has helped us break down silos in the company.”

Learn more about process mapping

If you are looking to learn more about process mapping, the Housing Innovation Alliance recently hosted a webinar on the subject. Get started by checking out “Process Mapping: Tools for Aligning Your Team to Effectively Drive Change.”

For assistance with your projects, visit JELD-WEN’s resources for professionals.

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