The construction labor shortage is one of the biggest problems we’re facing in the building materials industry today. But there’s one manufacturer who has tackled that issue head-on, and their sales have grown exponentially because of the solutions they’ve come up with.
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This week, Zach and Beth talk with Jay Small, President of Precision Building Systems (PBS), a manufacturer/installer hybrid with locations in Colorado and Utah. PBS provides turn-key construction solutions for the builders and contractors they partner with, and Jay gave us some insight into how they make it all work — and how they’re so successful.
Starting With Solutions
Precision Building Solutions was established over 10 years ago, with the idea of offering both manufactured products and installation services to their customers.
PBS manufactures building components, including wall panels, roof trusses and floor systems. But they deliver efficiency to their customers’ projects on top of that because they also install those systems.
“Over the last few years, we've added additional trade businesses to our portfolio — again, everything turnkey,” explains Jay. PBS now offers their customers a solution for the foundation, framing, wrap and windows on a residential project.
“Ultimately, we will provide a wrapped shell that is complete. Our goal is to be able to turn the framing, siding, roofing and all that around in less than seven days,” says Jay.
For the building partners who PBS works with, this offers a lot of solutions (and prevents a lot of headaches) on a project. “Our hook is that we can provide more and that for a builder, you can give us a call, and we can solve a lot of things for you,” explains Jay.
“There's about 53 trade activities on a typical single-family home. Right now, we're doing 11 of them,” says Jay. “They're all pretty much in sequence too, which really helps the builder,” he says.
PBS services home builders all across Colorado and Utah and has helped build over 1,500 homes a year in the region.
How More Manufacturers Can Play the Game
More building materials companies are working towards solutions like PBS — modular and off-site construction are growing in popularity, and there are brands who offer installation services with their products to help ensure their building projects succeed.
Jay offers some additional advice to people who want to build efficiency into their customer’s projects and stay competitive in the industry.
Do what you can to control the process.
“What I mean by that is, you control your raw material input and things like that, and your build and your quality in the factory, etc.,” explains Jay. But Precision Building Systems also oversees the on-site part of the process. This prevents material waste, which has always been a challenge in the industry; it also prevents theft on the job site.
PBS values this kind of control because they take full responsibility for their turnkey solutions. “When we give a bid to a builder customer of ours, it's a turnkey bid. There's nothing in there that says, ‘Hey, our framework wasted some material. You need to buy some more material.’ That's on us,” says Jay.
Take out the middleman where you can.
If you’re an $800 million manufacturer, you might not feel like you can just start offering installation services to customers. “It's a lot of risk if I'm that big of an outfit to say, ‘Now I'm going to have my own labor force,’ because it's huge to be at their size,” says Jay. Instead, he suggests partnering with a builder and/or a large framing company to add value to your customers — and control more of the process.
Working with a partner can bring success to everyone on a project, even if people are hesitant at first. “Some are going kicking and screaming, having to do panels and try and find labor, but you’ve got to have that partnership with someone because a builder that's been building houses for a long time usually has a framer that they're really comfortable with, and for good reason,” says Jay. “They do a good job for the builder.”
Stay ahead of construction industry trends.
The need for industry efficiency has given rise to modular construction and turnkey solutions like PBS offers. But we’re also seeing the rise of robotic and automation technology in the building industry, to meet the demand for labor in construction. “Automation is coming into play in the component business,” says Jay.
The smart construction industry is booming, and “some of the biggest progress is being made in prefabrication of buildings, using robotic processes to construct large parts of buildings that are then assembled on-site,” according to WIRED. Artificial intelligence and automated processes are quickly becoming the norm in construction — robotics isn’t just a feature at building industry conferences and tradeshows anymore.
And businesses like PBS want to stay ahead of that trend, too. The PBS factory is open for longer hours, just to meet the demand for labor on projects. “We run two shifts,” explains Jay.
That means faster production times so that supplies are available to stay on top of project timelines and improve labor efficiency. “The framer, instead of taking 10, 11, 12 days traditional stick framing a house can get it down to where we're averaging at five to six days,” says Jay.
What’s Ahead for PBS
Jay is excited about the future of the building industry and the Precision Building Systems brand. PBS has expanded from supplying building components to being the full-service firm that it is today, and it’s now a part of the Clayton Properties portfolio of companies. Jay wants PBS to grow in the industry even more, to keep up with demand and innovate more on the solutions that they already offer.
What does that look like for PBS? The company has looked at doing more modular construction for projects. Like any new endeavor, that’s come with a few challenges.
“Well, when you get in the modular business, guess what? You're in them all now,” explains Jay. “You have to solve the plumbing, the electrical, the mechanical because no one's doing it for you, as well as in order to be competitive, you have to be able to do all those things.”
“We've struggled a little bit on the permitting side because of municipalities and state,” says Jay, “It's mainly on us, just learning our way around it, but this will allow us to dip our feet in the water in regards to the mechanical trades, as well as the others. It's pretty cool.”
Want Even More Insight?
Growing in the industry means facing those kinds of challenges head-on, and that’s what has made Precision Building Systems such a successful and future-focused company. By offering high-quality building components and installation services, PBS is able to reduce costs on their projects, control quality and waste and add efficiencies where it’s needed most in construction.
Learn more about how Precision Building Systems and the solutions they’ve come up with by checking out the full interview.
If you want to get in touch with Jay, you can email him at [email protected].
Or reach out to us at [email protected] — we’re here to answer questions about the future of the building materials industry and how your brand can navigate the challenges ahead.
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