The Procurement and Production Phase
Much is happening simultaneously after the contract is signed. We’re buying materials and starting to build your home in our factory. Meanwhile your builder is preparing the site.
Buying Materials: Our first step is to order the materials that will be incorporated into your home. We believe strongly in the efficiency and quality advantages of the “just-in-time” approach to purchasing. We maintain a small inventory of very standard materials such as certain lumber sizes, standard fasteners, drywall materials and paint. Nearly everything else, and, especially all custom materials, is ordered with a firm sub-contract, deposit and your builder’s “go-ahead” direction.
Our plant in Bristol, IN is the center of one of North America’s largest networks of distributors of building materials. We can obtain most materials for your home within one to two weeks after we place the orders with our suppliers. However, some custom materials may have much longer lead times, perhaps as long as four to six weeks. We will generally know about these lead times during the contracting phase, and communicate them to your builder so that we can all plan around this built-in lag before we can start production. Sometimes there are unexpected delays related to production or supply problems at our distributors. While it is fortunately uncommon, suppliers of custom materials may abruptly announce they are no longer producing a particular product, and we may need to work with your builder to find an acceptable substitute.
We usually don’t need all of the materials on-hand in our plant before we begin to manufacture your home. We schedule their arrival to match when they will be needed during the production process.
The Production Schedule: Almost daily, we update our schedule of when production will begin for each home, and where it will be in the assembly process each day until it is completed. The day on which we schedule sawing the first lumber and driving the first nail, which we call the “on-line date,” meaning the date on which it starts on our assembly line, and the date on which it is completed within the plant, which we call the “off-line date,” are based on the following conditions and events:
• The date on which your builder tells us your site will be ready for installation of the home
• The arrival dates of materials
• Our backlog of orders
• Our pace of production, which varies considerably during the course of each year and over the economic cycle
• The availability of trucks and other transportation equipment to deliver the home to your location
We vary our staffing and production pace to match our backlog of orders. That means that the interval from the “on-line” date to the “off-line” date may be as little as five working days or as many as fifteen. In very slow times, we may actually halt the assembly line for a week or two. In general, the pace is slowest in winter after the holidays and fastest during the peak building season in late summer and early fall.
Inspections: We maintain a formal quality assurance system, with a written manual based on widely accepted quality control and improvement concepts and a series of inspections and tests focused on assuring that your home matches the contractual design and specifications, meets the applicable building code, and performs properly. Each employee and supervisor has specific responsibilities in our system. In addition, separate company inspectors oversee the whole process.
A quality control form, which we call a “traveler,” accompanies each module as it progresses down the assembly line. At each station, responsible employees note the completion of key tasks and make note of any discrepancies in design, specifications, code compliance or operation. All discrepancies must be followed up and a note made as to the proper resolution of the concern.
In addition, at least once, and usually more often during the production of your home, an independent inspector engaged by your state, province, or, in the case of the US HUD code, by the federal government, will inspect your home. We are prohibited from delivering your home until we have the approval of the independent inspection party as evidenced by certain signed forms and the attachment of a label released to us by the inspection authority.
Completing the Home in Our Factory: We build in an efficient assembly-line process, using as much helpful lifting and fastening equipment, jigs and fixtures as possible. We begin with the floor, and then add interior walls, exterior walls and the roof until we have a true “box girder” which can be transported safely. Then in stages, we add the interior and exterior finishes, install doors and windows and install equipment, plumbing fixtures and light fixtures. You can follow this [link] to a photographic plant tour with many more details.
Homes with a permanent transportation chassis are installed on the chasses with rolling gear (tires and axles) at the beginning of the assembly line. Homes without a permanent transportation chasses and which will be installed on a basement or crawl space foundation are fastened to a specialized transportation “carrier” at the end of the assembly line. These modular carriers will be returned to our plant after your home is installed on the foundation.
Any home consisting of more than one module will have open areas along the “mating lines” where modules will be joined together. At the end of the assembly line, we cover up these openings with a tough plastic sheet and literally shrink-wrap the modules for protection from the weather during transportation. Also at the end of the assembly line we will load materials which cannot be installed until the modules are fastened together at the building site. Examples are the siding, roofing and flooring materials which will cover the “mating lines.” We refer to these materials as “ship loose” items. To assure matching colors and materials, builders will often order additional ship-loose siding, roofing, doors and windows for garages, porches and other structures that will be built at your home-site.
As each module of your home is completed, it is pulled out of our plant and safely placed in our large, fenced and secured storage yard. When all or most of the modules are complete and in the yard, the process of delivery to your building lot can begin.
You are very welcome to visit our factory while we are manufacturing your home. We prefer that you make arrangements in advance and come in the company of your builder, if possible. For your safety, we ask that you wear stout shoes. We require that all guests wear safety glasses that we will provide. With a little planning, we can accommodate wheelchairs.
Meanwhile at the Building Site: One of the great advantages of “off-site” construction in a factory is that work can proceed simultaneously at the building site and in our factory. While we are assembling your home in our factory, your builder can be preparing the site, excavating, and constructing the foundation system. For homes built completely on-site, construction of the home cannot begin until these preceding tasks are complete.
Your builder will also prepare the site for receiving the modules from our factory, and, if one is involved, for giving a crane access to the site.