If David Weekley Homes' vendors don't get their quarterly performance reports on time, they call up looking for them, says Bill Justus, Weekley's vice president of supply chain services.

TOP TRADES: At an annual gathering of David Weekley Homes' trade partners, company chairman David Weekley addresses those honored as Trade Partners of Choice for their customer service and/or quality products. Photo: Courtesy David Weekley Homes The Houston-based builder's intensive performance review system, which started four years ago as a way for the builder to closely track its vendors' performance throughout the company and honor those who outperform with Partners of Choice awards each year, has become a valuable tool for vendors as well.

"We really like it because it's one of the rare times when you get quantifiable feedback on how well you are doing across multiple divisions of an operation," says Brian Grenfell, Moen's vice president of strategic accounts. Moen earned an A grade for service this year.

The report is particularly intensive. All Weekley's employees who have anything to do with its suppliers, from the design studio staffers to the field superintendents, rank each trade partner from one to 10 on quality and performance every quarter. The raters put their names to the grades because any supplier who receives a five or less is expected to touch base with that rater to find out what the problem was and develop a plan to fix it.

It's the survey's breadth that makes it most valuable to suppliers, they say.

"A lot of times, your contact with large builders comes at that centralized location, and there's not a mechanism to see how you are truly doing out in the divisions," Grenfell adds. "Up until this time, no news is good news, and you assume there are no problems. ? With the national feedback system, we are getting news, both good and bad. It's been a tremendous service."

It's become an effective full-chain monitoring system for James Hardie as well. Hardie won A grades in both customer service and quality this year.

"It allows us to monitor our business and also make sure that our channel partners are doing the job that they need to be doing with the customer," says Dan Tresch, James Hardie's national director of government affairs. "Our channel partners do a good job of letting us know if there are any issues, but if we haven't heard from our channel partners about the issues then certainly Weekley lets us know."

"We are always looking for ways to improve, and this is an excellent vehicle to help us do this," says Denny Huston of Boise Engineered Wood Products. "We wish more builders would do it."

Despite the time and costs of implementing the intensive surveys, Justus says there isn't any thought of eliminating the program because of the market.

"We are as cost-conscious as any builder out there right now," notes Justus. "We think we should be aligning ourselves to an even greater degree to those partners who excel. The immediate and long-term gains far exceed what short-term gain you would get from cutting off the program."

Justus is happy with this year's list of winners because it includes some suppliers who are always on the top of the Partners of Choice list as well as some new names.

"It's a nice blend," says Justus. "What this tells me is that we have some stability in the process, but we are not so rigid that new players can't come on board and win."

–Teresa Burney

Weekley's 2008 Partners of Choice Winners

A Winners

  • BMC West (service)
  • Eaton Corp. (service)
  • GAF/Elk (quality)
  • Hunter Douglas (quality)
  • I-Level, Weyerhaeuser (service)
  • Lennox HVAC (service)
  • Moen (service)
  • Office Depot (quality)

Double A winners

  • Boise Engineered Woods Products
  • Dow Chemical
  • Honeywell
  • James Hardie
  • Seacoast Supply
  • Simpson Strong-Tie
  • Suncoast Post-Tension
  • Trane