Fieldstone Homes Utah, a division of California-based Fieldstone Communities, thought it was doing a pretty good job by finishing one house per working day a year. It had a 91-day working schedule to finish any house it built, from a 1,400-square-foot to a 3,500-square-foot house.
With a goal of finishing two houses a day, it scoured its processes and cut that time by a third, says division manager Bern Wilson, and hit two houses a day by the middle of 2004. Since then, the company has continued to chip away at its cycle time by “introducing better processes, better practices, and managing our human resources better,” Wilson says.
Today, it's building a 3,500-square-foot house in 49 working days, with 38 of those from framing forward. Fieldstone now finishes three houses per working day (the schedule allows for weather delays), halfway to its goal of six per day.
The average consumer wouldn't be faulted for assuming that with a “more house for less money” building model and a virtual race to completion, the trade-off is in the quality of the construction. Far from it. Wilson credits the company's fanatical attention to quality control for its ability to look a customer in the eye and tell him that he'll move into his house in 49 working days.
“When we decided to reduce cycle time, we said we would shorten the duration of each activity,” Wilson says. “We knew it would be impossible to make it stick without a nice, robust quality control process to go alongside of it.”
To make it happen, Fieldstone began what it calls a QC1-8 checkpoint process that runs from foundation through closing. All superintendents are put through a three- to six-month in-house training program that includes an exam and certification before they're allowed in the field, Wilson says. Much of the program is centered on quality control.
Once in the field, superintendents start each day with a “power walk,” going into every house in their subdivision with a list of construction standards to check. It can happen because superintendents at Fieldstone have only two basic responsibilities, Wilson says: holding the customer's hand through the process and administering the quality control (QC) program. The scheduling of trade contractors is centralized, as are jobsite deliveries, lining up new trades, and negotiating contracts.
EXPECT INSPECTIONS The process is monitored by Fieldstone's central scheduling department; bonuses are tied to getting all of the QC checkpoints completed on time, with only a certain number of items that are found to be below standard at each checkpoint. “If he goes above that number, he loses everything,” Wilson says.
It all culminates in the QC7 check, when the homeowner is invited to walk the house with the superintendent—and there's money on the line again.
“We have a motto that runs through the company: ‘We get what we inspect, not what we expect,' ” Wilson says. “That drives a lot of our quality control. If we're not inspecting, don't expect too much.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Salt Lake City, UT.