David Weekley Homes, the Houston-based builder, has singled out eight suppliers whose quality and service over the past year were judged to be superior by 1,000 of the builder's employees who are polled quarterly for their appraisals.

These “Partners of Choice,” who scored “A” ratings for the full year in quality and service, are Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products, Dow Chemical, Honeywell, James Hardie, Simpson Strong-Tie, Trane, and Seacoast Supply, a division of USG’s L&W Supply; and Suncoast Post Tension.

“It’s a good measure that’s not based on price,” says Don Wood, who manages Trane’s national builder division. Trane has won “double A” honors in each of the four years that Weekley has conducted this program. Wood adds that the process gives his company insight into how is company is interacting with the builder in various departments, “which we turn around and communicate to the field to work on an action plan.”

Each quarter, Weekley asks 250 of its employees who participate in the program to fill out a “National Trading Partner” survey, to rate the performance of the company’s 150 service providers. (Subcontractors are not included because this is a national survey.) The survey’s 11 questions touch on such areas as a supplier’s response time and how it manages its staff. Quality and service are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, and if an employee rates a vendor 7 or less, he or she is required to provide comments about the score. Any company that scores 7 or lower is also required to call the rater and file a report with the builder about how it would improve that score.

“We want the manufacturer and distributor to be on the same page as the builder,” says Bill Justus, Weekley’s vice president of supply chain services, who spearheaded this program. “The real differentiator for us is how well the [supply] channel performs through the installation into the house.”

Justus says that Weekley rarely gets less than 80 percent participation in the survey, month to month. And by bringing suppliers and employees more directly into the process, he believes that Weekley has saved “millions” over the last four years by resolving operating issues this way. “We are willing to work with any supplier that wants to improve the relationship,” he says. “It’s a function of effort and sincerity.”

He estimates that only about 20 percent of David Weekley’s suppliers receive “A” grades. And it would seem that the scoring has gotten tougher over the years. Mark Davis, senior accounts manager for Moen, the faucet supplier, notes that scoring in the low “9s” no longer guarantees the highest grade because suppliers have become more competitive about gaining favor from the builders’ associates. “It’s sort of a mirror,” says Davis. “By seeing the results, you’re in constant contact with the organization, and it makes you want to get better.” Davis attributes his company’s service reputation to the fact that it uses its own associates, and not manufacturer's reps, to work with clients.

Moen is one of five companies—the others being BMC West, Eaton Corp., iLevel by Weyerhaeuser, and Lennox—to be rewarded for earning “A” ratings for service for the entire year. GAF Elk, Hunter Douglass, and Office Depot were honored for their “A” grade for quality. The honorees are being feted by the builder at an awards dinner tonight in Houston.

John Caulfield is a senior editor at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.