Applying Supply Chain Management to custom-design construction

World-class manufacturers produce superior goods for their end users by carefully managing every step of their production process. This involves more than just raw materials and manufacturing. Every aspect is considered—from product design and possible new technologies to marketing and after-market services. A key contributor to success is the involvement of all the relevant experts and decision-making professionals from the start.
What often happens in the case of custom-design construction, however, is that the project’s design phase drives ahead. Once a prospective homeowner engages an architect, they will spend as much as six months to a year discussing and developing the schematic design. A construction company is usually not part of this process—it is called in after most of the decisions have been made, and the majority of details are fixed.
Unlike the client and architect, who have expended much time and effort in developing the design, the builder usually has a week or so to look at the working design, and about three weeks to make a final bid.
One thing is certain: construction companies know that unique house plans mean problems for the builder. Much as they may wish to conform to the materials and procedures specified, there may be aspects that cannot be executed. Details may be miscommunicated; siting information may be incomplete.
It is understandable that building companies add a margin to cover their costs as they deal with unforeseen problems, but it increases the overall project cost, and each difficulty increases the risk of claims.
At ASJ, the builder provides a “studio” for the design process. Not just a physical space where one of our member architects can meet with the client, the studio system brings a construction professional into the process from the start. This collaboration allows the architect to discuss structural, mechanical, and material concerns with an expert; by resolving potential problems in the planning stages, the builder’s studio rep ensures that work will proceed smoothly when construction starts, eliminating the need for a large contingency fund.
Like supply chain management, attention to each phase—design, planning, and execution—and coordinating the work done by each type of specialist allows ASJ to deliver value: high quality construction at reasonable costs.

A value-added network

The two key inputs for a successful construction project are design and technology. There are now many sites and organizations that match architects with businesses and prospective homeowners seeking design services. This has been a positive development, and the construction of distinctive structures has further popularized custom design for both commercial and residential projects.
But structural quality and cost performance are also vital to a project’s success. This is why ASJ brings together both qualified architects and skilled builders to comprise a “studio.” Working together, they can reduce the timeframe for developing the schematic design and provide integrated project delivery. The need for referral fees is also eliminated.
In this process, the builder’s input adds value to the architect’s original concept, and the builder accumulates experience executing custom projects. The builders and construction companies we work with also have extensive experience using the visualizing technologies, costing systems and other support software developed by ASJ. The client benefits from these synergies, as well as system-wide improvements as we implement best practices throughout of our network.