LEAN Principles That Increase Efficiency

LEAN principles shadow board

The first thing you see when you enter the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas, is what you can’t see—no clutter, no chaos, no extraneous noise. Because while nearly 30 people, including scientists, engineers, and support staff, work throughout the facility’s labs with numerous machines, hundreds of materials, and thousands of samples, a concentrated focus on safety and efficiency guides each step.

Assisting in those efforts is a facility-wide adherence to LEAN principles, much like you would find at some manufacturing plants.

“We are a lab with many, many projects and many samples,” notes Sarah Fortenberry, a Discovery Center research technician who also leads the facility’s LEAN programs. “So you have to manage not only the individual projects as well as the amount of materials coming in and going out. LEAN principles help us do that.”

Fortenberry notes that following LEAN guidelines also is key to maintaining a safe, healthy environment.

Here are a few of the LEAN tools the Discovery Center has implemented:

• Shadow Board: In areas with tools and equipment, storage areas are outlined and labeled, as shown in this photo. This includes everything from duct tape rolls to a hammer to extension cords. “There’s no wasted time trying to find an item,” Fortenberry notes. “It’s labeled, it’s where it should be.”LEAN principles shadow board The 5 S’s:
Sort: Frequently determine what you actually use and get rid of the rest. This helps keep work areas clutter-free and safe.

Set in order: Label everything and where it goes. The most important items should be the closest.

Shine: Keep work areas clean.

Standardize: Have a standard method for tools and equipment. Everything is labeled—every tool, every shelf, every drawer. This also pertains to samples, which ensures every test is tracked and identifiable. The process of managing samples is the primary reason that LEAN is essential at the Discovery Center.

Sustain: Establish how you keep the workplace clean and a cleaning schedule.

• 3C Board: The three Cs stand for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure. In each work area, the team has a 3C board. If something is wrong in the area, it goes up on the board, what’s causing the problem, and, eventually, what is being done to fix the problem.

• Total Productive Maintenance: Broken machines lead to costly downtime, so each machine has a list of maintenance steps needed to keep it running properly.

• 5S Fridays: At the end of every Friday, the team convenes to address problems on 3C boards. “We work as a team to get to and maintain a sustaining level of production,” Fortenberry notes.

• Kaizen: Kaizen is Japanese for “continual improvement.” The team hosts kaizen events in which they visit areas of the lab and track team members’ steps to see where there is wasted movement and how those steps can be consolidated. Bringing in team members who don’t work in that area provides a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking.

“It’s made us more of a team, working as a group to improve our areas,” Fortenberry says. “Through the kaizen events and 5S Fridays, we can do something in a short period of time that would take someone weeks to do alone.”

LBM Journal: Texture, Authenticity Lead Today’s Siding Trends

A growing diversity of innovative products is helping to fuel the latest exterior trends, according to LBM Journal’s annual In Depth feature on siding. Homeowners are clamoring for color and variety in their façades, while builders are not only trying to meet those aesthetic needs but also are seeking out easy-to-install solutions and product knowledge support.

Here’s an overview of trends and industry observations from LBM Journal’s report:

  • Mix and Match: A diversity of materials is contributing directly to one of today’s hottest façade trends: mixing materials. “Gone are the days when houses tended to be rather homogenous in terms of colors and textures,” magazine contributor Mike Berger writes. “In today’s siding market, it’s all about mixing and matching textures and products.”
  • Darker Colors: The magazine notes that darker colors are in growing demand, a trend that aligns well with TruExterior Siding, which can be painted any color, even black, thanks to its high levels of dimensional stability.
  • Authenticity: Buyers are craving products that offer the look of wood without the maintenance. “There’s an authenticity people want with products today,” TruExterior Siding & Trim Product Manager Aaron Sims tells the magazine. “They want it to look like wood. They want it to feel real. They want the details to be right. They want it to look very authentic to replicate a traditional Craftsman-style or Farmhouse-style home.”
  • Resilience: The increasing rate of natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires, is driving code changes in certain areas of the country. “To meet these needs, manufacturers are developing products to withstand the rigors of storm and fire,” Berger explains. The writer pointed to products like Grayne engineered siding and TruExterior Siding, which both meet California’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) code for fire and the Florida Building Code for wind.
  • Labor: The ongoing labor shortage continues to be top of mind and, according to the NAHB, is currently builders’ No. 1 concern. This is driving demand for products that are easy and straightforward to install. Versetta Stone mortarless stone veneer, the magazine notes, offers the stone look without requiring the skill of a stone mason.
  • Training: Dealers and distributors can no longer just stock products, the magazine says, they have to be knowledgeable about those products, how they work, and how they compare to competitors’ offerings.

To read more trends and insights into today’s siding market, view the LBM Journal article in its entirety here.

Best Practices for Combining Exterior Colors

It takes less than 10 seconds for someone to form an impression about a house. One of the most important factors in that impression? Color.

And with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years or more, siding and accent color choice is important.

“When selecting colors, follow the 60-30-10 rule of decorating,” advises color expert Trisha Wagner, senior product manager at Boral Building Products. “Sixty percent of your color will be siding; then your accent, which may be the trim, will be near 30%; and, finally, 10% will go into shutters or another element such as a stone façade.”

When looking at a home, think about what you want to see first and where you want to have the biggest impression.

Here are general rules and factors to consider when choosing and combining colors:

Work With Home Style and Period
To achieve the right look and feel, it’s important to understand the limitations of a home’s style and choose colors that align with the architecture and time period.

For a home with natural-finish cedar siding, for example, a more neutral trim and shutters will help maintain a traditional Colonial style, while bolder accent colors such as green or brown will give it a Craftsman-like look.

Take Cues From Existing Design Elements
For homes with existing stone or brick or those looking to add this element, Wagner offers this tip: To highlight or make the stone stand out, pair with a paint color that incorporates minor undertones from the stone. This will help draw it out and give a more dynamic appearance. Conversely, to make the stone or brick blend in, find a siding color that is more similar in tone.

Further tie these elements into a home’s look by matching the trim to the grout color of the stone or brick.

TruExterior Siding and Trim
Complementary colors in the siding and stone help the stone stand out without one element overwhelming the other.

Consider the Role of Nature and Lighting
Consider how landscaping will contrast and complement the look of a home. Houses with mature landscapes and shrubs with vibrant greens and other colors will draw the eye down. Be aware of what colors you or the homeowner will plant and how that relates to the colors you’re selecting for the home.

For homes that don’t have a lot of landscaping, consider brighter siding. For those with a denser landscape, you may want to consider darker colors for more contrast.

Landscaping can also influence lighting if a home is heavily shaded by trees or natural topography. Wagner advises to look at the direction the home faces and where the sun hits at various times of day to understand how the color may change.

TruExterior Siding Fine Homebuilding ProHome
On the 2016 Fine Homebuilding ProHome, the entry area offered the perfect place for a pop of bold color, modernizing the look without taking away from the farmhouse vibe. It also provides a focal point since the home has limited landscaping.

Consider What’s Trending
For the last five years, shades of gray have been the most popular choices for a home’s exterior. Homeowners inspired by the versatile neutral are frequently selecting varieties and combinations like green-gray, greige, and blue-gray.

Dark, rich jewel tones, such as sapphire blue, are another common selection for home exteriors. Colors in this family are typically paired with white trim, particularly on the ever-popular Craftsman-style homes.

For the indecisive homeowner or buyer, Wagner says neutral bases and black and white accents are a safe option that will stand the test of time.

Another growing trend on new construction home exteriors has been mixing textures, such as combining shake and traditional siding with brick and stone for a variegated look.

Grayne siding
Gray is a trendy choice that never goes out of style and pairs perfectly with crisp white trim.

Avoid Common Mistakes
The easiest way to avoid color mistakes is to consult the color wheel.

“It’s the same color wheel you played with in kindergarten,” Wagner says. “There are still complementary and contrasting colors, and that should be your ultimate guide.”

But you have a lot of flexibility, she adds, with the variety of tones available.

Before committing, get sample pieces of the siding colors being considered. Have your buyers put them up for a few days—perhaps on the weekend when they can see in the light at multiple points across the day—to see how they look.

TruExterior siding
When in doubt, black and white is always a classic combination.

In the end, “personal preference is the ultimate guide,” Wagner says. “A home’s color is highly personable and a definition of the homeowner’s style, so give it the time and attention it needs.”

 

Culture, Commitment Fuel Boral’s Standout Service Department

To fully grasp how unique Boral’s customer service department is, one need only look at two numbers: a 95% call-answer rate and a 0% turnover rate.

“We take a proactive approach in our call center, and that has afforded us a very high service level,” notes Tim Barber, Boral’s director of customer service. Most call centers average around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less; Boral’s average at that rate is 95%. “If you call, we pretty much answer immediately. We know that busy contractors need answers fast and that jobs can be held up if we don’t meet that need.”

But while phone calls are the primary form of communications, the omnichannel department responds just as efficiently to requests made via email, fax, EDI, and pretty much any other form of communication with a hands-on strategy Barber calls a “concierge approach.”

“We really hope to cultivate an experience that keeps customers coming back to our family of brands,” Barber says. “We want to make sure we’re ending the call having solved the customer’s problem and having used their time effectively.”

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The employees’ dedication shows in the department’s high tenure rate, including 0% negative attrition (firings or voluntary company departures) for the past two years, a significant feat considering the typical rate for call centers is 30% to 40%.

The department fields as many as 800 to 1,000 calls a day, taking orders, addressing warranty concerns, providing tech support, and responding to any number of other topics. Staff numbers ramp up during busier months from April to October, and the full team is engaged with onboarding new employees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a fabulous staff that comes to work every day with their A game,” Barber says. “We’re building our culture around customer service. Our culture is important—you can’t have success without good culture and good leadership, with people feeling like they can contribute. They come in and do the best they can for customers. We empower them and provide an atmosphere that’s supportive.”

Have a question? Contact Boral’s stellar customer service team by calling (888) 926-7259 or submitting a contact form.

New Initiatives Aim to Address Construction Labor Shortages

As the housing industry continues its steady climb, the shortage of skilled labor is only intensifying. In fact, builders have indicated that cost and availability of labor is currently the No. 1 problem facing their business, according to a December NAHB/Wells Fargo surveyA Home Improvement Research Institute study found that 60% of skilled trade professionals believe there is a shortage of labor.

In January, the construction industry’s unfilled jobs reached 250,000, up from 159,000 in January 2017 and just shy of the post-recession high of 255,000 last July, according to NAHB analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The challenges can lead to scheduling problems, budget woes, and quality concerns, among other issues.

Several industry organizations are attempting to tackle the issue through new initiatives that encourage young people to consider the trades, provide scholarships for training, provide direct training, or simply promote the benefits of a career in the industry. These include:

  • Skilled Labor Fund. Created by Professional Builder publisher Scranton Gillette and with an operating committee that includes leaders from the NAHB and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the non-profit is raising money to “build a foundation for a stronger workforce” via student scholarships, accredited trade schools, and training facilities.

skilled-labor-fund

  • Home Depot Skilled Trades Initiative. In early March, The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million grant aimed at training 20,000 people in the trades to help fill the labor gap, particularly in areas of the country devastated by natural disasters. According to USA Today, the Home Builders Institute will use the funds from Home Depot to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers readying for civilian life.
  • Lowe’s Track to the Trades. In February, Lowe’s announced a workforce development initiative to support its employees wishing to pursue a skilled trade. Employees will be eligible to receive tuition funding for certification in a skilled trade, academic coaching and support, and apprenticeship placement opportunities within Lowe’s or among its contractor network.
  • Why I Build. Hosted by Fine Homebuilding, Why I Build showcases the voices of craftsmanship and shares stories about why those in the trades love what they do. The resulting videos are inspiring and demonstrate the pride and integrity associated with careers in construction.
Fine Homebuilding Masonry
Mason Jane DeWitt discusses her craft in Fine Homebuilding’s Why I Build series.
  • #KeepCraftAlive. Another program from Fine Homebuilding, this movement is designed to spark conversation and spotlight craftspeople. The magazine encourages pros to tag their social media posts with the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive to share their passion with the world (see Instagram posts here). Sales from T-shirts will fund a sponsorship alongside SkillsUSA.
Fine Homebuilding labor shortage craftsmanship
The #KeepCraftAlive hashtag, T-shirt, and scholarship help bring attention to the skills gap in the industry.

TruExterior remains committed to assisting our customers with training, as well. Our sales reps are available for a range of hands-on education opportunities, including dealer product knowledge sessions and one-on-one jobsite installation instruction. In addition, TruExterior has a fleet of mobile training units that travel the country, setting up shop at dealer yards to provide installers with hands-on experience with our products.

Boral TruExterior Training Trailer
Boral’s mobile training trailers provide hands-on education for specifiers and installers.

To arrange a meeting, training session, or trailer visit, contact us today.

Take Five for Safety

For many contractors, the safety of employees and site visitors takes top priority over nearly everything else. For firms looking for new ways to ensure and promote a safe work environment, one proactive process to consider is “Take 5,” a method for re-familiarizing oneself with a task.

When facing a task they haven’t performed in awhile, such as operating a piece of machinery, staff at Boral facilities are encouraged to pause to identify and control hazards before they start work:

  1. Stop, look, walk around the task
  2. Think about the task, have a clear plan
  3. Identify and assess hazards that exist or may be created by the task and rate their risk levels
  4. Control the risks and communicate
  5. Do the task if low risk, and keep a lookout for changes

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As part of this process, staff members carry or have easy access to a Take 5 notepad that takes them through a series of quick steps: a pre-task checklist that confirms they are authorized to do the task and that they fully understand the task; a hazard-identification checklist; and a review of the personal protective equipment.

On the back, the employee identifies each potential risk to the task and its controls. Using this list, they can identify whether the task requires sign off by a supervisor or a written safe operating procedure.

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By compelling employees to stop and consider each task, its potential hazards, and its safe operation, the Take 5 process helps further ensure the safety of themselves and those around them. For builders and contractors looking to elevate their safety efforts, it’s one additional way to keep safety top of mind each day and ensure employees and visitors are actively engaged in ensuring the well-being of themselves and others.

7 Exterior Trends for 2018

As outdoor building season continues, expect to hear some familiar requests—as well as some new demands. Homeowners are increasingly discerning when it comes to their exterior facades as they seek to ramp up curb appeal while still making their home reflect their personality and lifestyle.

Here’s a look at what’s trending this year:

  • Design With Intention: Aaron Sims, Product Manager for Boral’s Light Building Products Division, is seeing a resurgence of architects looking at the whole picture rather than the individual home, designing a structure to fit the environment around it. The results are more timeless looks that don’t feel dated in a few years, and homes that feel well-suited to their towns and cities. “Everything seems more intentional,” Sims says. “You have to nurture that. It’s not something you can create, but you can nurture it.”
  • Past Is Present: Historical favorites never go out of style for a reason. Buyers are turning toward familiar, timeless profiles such as nickel gap and shiplap. Some of their popularity stems from TV shows such as Fixer Upper, but also a desire for creating a sense of place. At the same time, buyers aren’t afraid to update those looks, as seen in the subtle modernization of older restored buildings or farmhouse designs that blend industrial metallics.

    TruExterior Siding Nickel Gap Shutters
    TruExterior Siding in a Nickel Gap profile, with Atlantic Shutters
  • Mixed Textures—With a Twist: Like last year, designers are still mixing materials, such as siding, stone, and metal. But they’re doing so in a cleaner way, Sims says. Color combinations are more monochrome, lines are straighter, texture planes are seamlessly blending together.
  • Clean & Crisp: From those seamless transitions to the sleek forms of shiplap, the transitional and modern trend is creeping into exterior home styles, with more rectilinear lines and forms.
  • Natural Versions of Popular Colors: Grays, blues, and neutrals are still common, but they’re moving to the more organic versions of themselves rather than feeling manufactured. Grays are veering toward a more beige-like warmth, blues are earthier and darker. Buyers will see this trend reflected in Versetta Stone’s new Carved Block mortarless stone veneer panels; the line’s Midnight color is warmed by dark gray and almond tones, while the Sea Salt hue features neutral, soft khakis and beiges.

    Versetta Stone mortarless stone veneer masonry carved block
    Versetta Stone mortarless stone veneer in Carved Block
  • Outdoor Living: Tour any model home or pick up any trade magazine and it’s clear that homeowner demand for decked-out exterior spaces is not going away. Many are clamoring for decks and patios with the same amenities they enjoy indoors, including dedicated sitting and eating areas, seamless transitions and views, and even technology. They also need to look the part, so don’t forget accessories such pergolas made with Kleer cellular PVC trim and KLEERWrap post wraps, and be sure to finish off the underside with trim and post wraps.

    Pergola Kleer Lumber
    Pergola made with Kleer Lumber
  • Low Maintenance: No surprise here: Homeowners still don’t want to spend time painting and staining their facades and decks. Foundry and Grayne siding both offer a long-lasting, low-maintenance alternative that still features the authentic look buyers crave.
  • Labor Crunch: The challenge of finding qualified labor continues, so products that offer easier installation can make a difference in time and cost. Foundry and Grayne offer a straightforward installation process familiar to any siding installer. Versetta Stone provides the look of stone in an easy-to-use panel profile that siding contractors can install. TruExterior Siding & Trim cuts and routs just like wood, using traditional woodworking tools, while eliminating steps such as edge sealing.