Any question that Clayton is not out to leverage factory power and an enormous national distribution infrastructure to disrupt site-built home building in its effort to "democratize" homeownership for more Americans may finally be put to rest.

Berkshire Hathaway-owned Clayton, which made its name as America's No. 1 manufactured home producer, announced plans this week to build a $14-million, 130,000 square foot facility in Westmoreland, Tenn., that will set up to produce wall panels and trusses spec'd for use among builders of single-family and multifamily site-built homes and apartments. Including Clayton's own still-growing portfolio of site-build firms east of the Mississippi.

Per Clayton's press statement:

The company will hire nearly 110 new team members over the next two years. Clayton anticipates operations in Westmoreland will begin in early 2020.

The supply facility will be dedicated to the launch of a new division of pre-manufactured assemblies for on-site home builders. Clayton's plans to manufacture wall panels and trusses for single and multifamily residential site-built homes, serving builder

Clayton's Westmoreland facility--which, down the road, when three shifts of associates may be working at full capacity, will be capable of producing panels and trusses for 4,000 homes annually--represents an intensifying convergence between offsite construction knowledge Clayton has gained in its manufactured housing operations and more recent learning from its 8-company portfolio of on-site home builders. The new Tennessee factory will serve not just Clayton-owned Nashville-based Goodall Homes, but all home builders and multifamily developers in the Nashville macro market.

"We've worked hard at helping home construction's supply chain to function more efficiently," says Colt Davis, president of the Clayton Supply Group. "That's not just about products, but looking a waste in processes, ways to improve quality, precision, and speed, and--everyday we come to work--improving ways to make homes more affordable."

Davis notes that the starting point deliverables next Spring will be open panel systems, but that very quickly the accumulated knowledge of Clayton's manufactured-home processes and learning curve insight from its on-site builders will come together.

"This will be a real-time learning lab opportunity for us to get more value into the panel itself," Davis says. "Windows, insulation, electric, all of those elements can soon be integrated and engineered in controlled-climate, precision-calibrated, automated conditions of the factory. We're so motivated to make this about people being able to afford homeownership. We take this personally--it's a very special thing we get to do every day we come to work, to build families their homes."

With the new factory, we're witnessing a push into vertical residential construction integration fire-power and scale the likes of which might have been unimaginable before 2015, when Clayton made its first foray into the site-build area, with the acquisition of Atlanta-area family-led local power builder Chafin Communities.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Entekra announced plans last week for its new factory in Modesto, Calif., a $35 million plant with capacity to produce 3,000 building enclosures--walls, roof-trusses, and flooring, annually, starting to deliver in July of this year.

“Expanding our operations within the greater Modesto community, which has been supportive of our efforts from Day 1, will allow Entekra to effectively capitalize on the tremendous interest in transitioning to FIOSS from the inefficient and labor-intensive method of stick-framing houses on site,” said Entekra CEO Gerard McCaughey.

The new 200,000-square-foot facility will be the most technologically advanced construction-related factory in North America and will facilitate the servicing of residential housing developments from Bakersfield to the California-Oregon border.

While home building firms already use or have begun to amp up use of factory-fabricated wall panels and trusses as an operational work-around, Clayton's push is different, more strategic. An intensifying capacity constraint among skilled framing carpenters and the like has begun to exert an X Factor effect, virtually forcing all builders to consider, pilot, and, increasingly, adopt factory-produced components as part of their construction schedules to secure expense visibility and predictability in their build cycles.

The Clayton strategy and operations team, on the other hand, is working to drive both procurement power and factory-fabrication processes to another level altogether. Their Holy Grail is two-fold. Elevate the quality of homes they produce off conveyor belts and assembly lines even as they gain control of more costs by scaling both supply chain sourcing and iterative access to building lots. The company's sights are set not just on increasing productivity but on, literally, expanding U.S. market demand for new homeownership.

"Democratization of homeownership" is a mission currently roiling and surging through the ranks and process flows and output metrics of Clayton's strategic roadmap, a bold vision coming straight from the top of the company, Kevin Clayton and his current mentor in leadership, Berkshire Hathaway ceo Warren Buffett.

As the late Jack Bogle democratized Wall Street investment tactics for Main Street via his Vanguard index funds, and the late Herb Kelleher "democratized the skies" with his pioneering vision at Southwest Airlines, Clayton is bent on bringing homeownership and the American Dream back within reach of more working-class Americans.

One can imagine, before long, a Clayton Properties Group operating footprint that features similar facilities--melding the best of what the firm has learned about high-volume home construction on the manufactured and modular home front with what it's learning at exponential speed on the newer on-site side of its businesss--in the Southeast, Texas, Missouri/Kansas, and Denver regions.

"Right now, we're focusing on Nashville, and we want to learn everything we can as fast as we can," says Davis. "Obviously, we look 'big picture' at both the need and the opportunity to do something very special. We're really motivated, and that means coming in each day and working for ways to do things better than we did them yesterday."