IT WAS DUBBED “PLANFEST,” AN ACROSS-THE-BOARD analysis of the plans being offered by Beazer Homes' 33 divisions.
“I personally reviewed product and results from the previous 12 months and looked at what worked and what didn't,” says Gonzalo Romero, Beazer's vice president of corporate planning and design, who puddle jumped from division to division in 2003 and 2004, creating a baseline to use in future years.
After looking at just 10 divisions, Romero began to see trends emerge. The most valuable was that roughly half of each division's revenue was generated by its top 10 plans. The trend was company-wide.
“It got to where I wouldn't have to look at a spreadsheet,” he says.
So Beazer started deleting.
In flush times, design often drove what was built, and until recently, many builders sought to blur the line between production and custom homes. Larry Moore, a partner in the architectural firm Bloodgood, Sharp and Buster, sees a growing sense of caution among the builders he works with. “There's a renewed interest in how to build smart and get the most for the dollar,” he says.
A product audit like Beazer's Planfest is one way builders can cut design costs. Pulte Homes also is slashing the number of plans it is offering. And David Weekley Homes is introducing an entirely new, more competitive line of homes to replace what the company has been offering.
“Builders are concluding that maybe prices are going down a little bit, and they're trying to compete,” says Bob Wilhelm, a design principal at William Hezmalhalch Architects in Irvine, Calif.
For Beazer, it was time to eliminate redundancies during a period of rapid growth. Last year, Beazer built 16,450 single-family homes, mostly for entry-level and first-time, move-up buyers. The company had done informal product audits over the years, but by 2003, it was time to formalize the process.
Despite the overhaul, the number of plans Beazer offers has not decreased, Romero says. Instead, the number of markets it's targeting has increased. A division may still offer 54 plans, but while it dropped some single-family detached plans, it may have added townhouses to the mix.