One Atlanta builder uses collaboration software and improved sawing technology to solve a perennial challenge:to deliver flooring systems that are accurate and on time and can be backed up by warranty in the event of a defect.
There are so many instances in which technology is a solution looking for a problem that it's really worth noting when technology actually solves a business problem.
Such is the case with Legacy Communities, an Atlanta company that builds about 1,600 homes a year, many of which average about 3,000 square feet and are typically priced for first-time buyers in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.
For the past year, Legacy has been using software offered by Atlanta-area lumber dealer Plymart and wood products company Boise Cascade, which cuts its design time in half. New sawing processes reduce the linear footage of engineered wood it needs to purchase, slashing floor joist costs by 10 percent.
“The new system dramatically improves our framing operation,” says Steve Connor, Legacy's vice president of operations.
Conner says that for several years, Legacy Communities had problems getting its flooring systems installed correctly. Floor joists would have inconsistent cuts, be improperly marked, and lack proper documentation, so the framers would just make their own decisions as to how the joists should be installed.
Too often, inspectors would fail jobs because the flooring system wasn't installed as specified by the original plans. Such a result could set back Legacy's production schedule several days. Another negative result is that once the integrity of the flooring system is compromised, the dealer's warranty is voided.
At the low price points Legacy operates under, the home builder simply can't afford to have an inefficient flooring process and needs to be confident that the floors installed can be backed up by the dealer.
“We're always looking for better ways to build the structural components of the house,” Connor says. “Especially something like the flooring system.”
THE SOLUTION At least in the design phase, much of the heavy software lifting is done by Boise Cascade's PlansRoom, which is a private-label version of Autodesk's Buzzsaw collaboration tool. This Web-based application lets architects, Plymart technicians, and Legacy's project supers share and collaborate on engineering drawings and CAD files. Since it's Web-based, everyone who's authorized to use the application can do so on any computer with a Web browser. This means project supers can access BoisePlansRoom at home, at the trailer, out in the field on a wireless laptop, or in the corporate office.
Connor says Boise's willingness to pick up the cost for PlansRoom was very important to Legacy Communities. “I don't think we would have spent the money on Plans-Room on our own,” he says.
Tim Mickelson, a technical representative at Plymart who works closely with Legacy Communities, says the old system was mired in paperwork and inefficiency. He says, in the past a Plymart designer would develop a set of plans for a flooring system and print it out in paper form. The plans would have to be hand delivered to the builder, who would then send it back and forth from the builder to the dealer several times before everyone agreed on the plans.
“This system required both the builder and the dealer to keep very accurate paper trails,” says Mickelson. “If a super called from the field, or an office worker had a question, it had to be pulled out of a paper file and there was never any guarantee that the latest version was in the file,” he says.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.