Monthly Archives: December 2015

Factory Quality with Design Versatility

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In 1913, when Henry Ford rolled out the first Model-T from a factory in Highland Park, MI, the manufacturing process was forever changed. Seventeen million cars later, this moving assembly line increased the quality and speed of manufactured goods while simultaneously lowering prices.

Exact tolerances could be obtained in the factory environment that were not achievable before large-line production became commonplace, resulting in improved quality.  Due to ever increasing efficiency of the assembly line, speed of production also increased. The first Model-T’s took over 12 hours to build, but by 1927, the factory cut production time dramatically, spitting out an impressive 9,000-10,000 cars per day. Assembly line production also allowed the price to plummet. In 1925, the price of a touring car version of the Model T was just $290, $560 less than the initial price in 1909.

This new, improved quality and efficiency, plus the drop in price, was unique thanks to the production system,  where prices for the product diminished as better cars were manufactured. We have seen similar improvements in almost every industry where mass production is employed. For instance, many credit a lesser known Ford employee, William “Pa” Klann, with the innovative manufacturing process after observing a slaughterhouse in Chicago. What works with meat, works with cars and even works with elevators and modular building overall.

In the construction industry, assembly line production of various components in a commercial building is now commonplace. Just like the Model-T, quality and speed of production increases while prices drop. It is now realized that quality can be increased when efficiency is introduced in a factory setting, even when building the various parts of a commercial structure.

The downside to Henry Ford’s assembly line dream of an affordable car for the masses and the argument of some detractors of a manufacturing process, is that choice is restricted. As proof of the lack of flexibility, it is pointed out that Henry Ford famously equipped, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” Although the earliest Model-T’s came in several colors, by 1914, there was precious little versatility in the “Tin Lizzy.”  It turns out that black paint was less expensive and it had a shorter drying time, so color was sacrificed for efficiency.

The image of the all black Model-T led many to incorrectly assume that something manufactured in a factory setting will always result in less choice. While some segments of manufacturing have limited choice, this is not true for all. For example, when a modular manufactured elevator is produced and installed, the interior designers and architects have complete control over the look of the cab design, as well as the size of the elevator, number of stops and the type of propulsion (hydraulic, traction or machine roomless), just like the stick-built version. The elevators can be constructed to match any interior and exterior design.

The only difference between an old-fashioned, stick-built elevator and a modular is the construction layout. Modular elevators are constructed horizontally on a factory floor to ensure stringent standards are met, resulting in increased quality while also allowing for faster construction and fewer job site delays. It also means that the elevator will be competitively priced and take less time to install. A modular elevator has approximately eight weeks of lead time and a one week installation time, while a stick-built elevator can take between six months to a year or more from start to finish.

Current modular elevators are high quality and built with exacting standards, and unless you know you are in a factory-built elevator, you would never know the difference. And unlike the Model-T, they come in more colors than black.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

 

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Ship in a Bottle

Ship in a BottleI had a great uncle on my father’s side of the family that lived on a big farm in relative seclusion. I would occasionally go for a family visit, and the one thing that I remember most was that he had a ship in a bottle. For the average ten year old, before the advent of video games and tablets, it was pretty exciting to see. One evening I was sitting near the fireplace, staring at the model stuck behind the green glass. I must have been concentrating pretty hard because my uncle came over and asked what was so interesting.

As a child, I only had one question. “How did they get the ship in the bottle?”   He went on to explain that the creator slowly crafted the model, folded down the masts and sails and then poked it all into the hole at the end of the neck. The person that made the model would then painstakingly take hours to erect the masts and trim the sails and get the clay ocean waters looking just right.

A couple of things immediately popped into my fertile, 10 year old mind. First, no wonder the ship was so crude and sails a bit eschew and secondly, why not just make a perfect model ship, cut the bottle in two, place the ship inside and then glue the bottle back together? It made perfect sense. It would be the same product only much faster and with higher quality.

The same can be said about the current way some companies go about installing an elevator. They make the bottle (the hoistway or elevator shaft) and then proceed to put parts in, all the while working is a tight, vertical space. That process comes with problems of alignment, safety and a much longer timeline for project completion. For higher quality and faster lead and installation time, doesn’t it make more sense to build the elevator horizontally in a factory setting where precise alignment can take place in a safe environment? Then the entire elevator can be taken to the job site and hoisted into place. And get this: even at a lower overall investment!

As I have grown up, I have come to understand the more romantic reasons for building a ship in a bottle. It shows that the builder appreciates old traditions and demonstrates patience and determination, but why should we build buildings as if we had all the time and money in the world? The better option is building quality more quickly with modular.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48077358@N02/4952091078″>i miss you grampa.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Breaking Old Ways of Thinking

RoastA lecturer once told a familiar story about a young newlywed that was preparing a roast for her husband. It is a good lesson about breaking old ways of thinking so I will retell it here.

The husband was watching his new wife as she prepared a roast for their first meal together, before she put the roast in the pan she cut off the end. This made him curious so he asked, “Why did you cut the end off?” She replied, “I’m not sure it’s the way my mom always did it.” Now she was the one that was curious and called her mom and asked her why she always cut the end off the roast before cooking it. Her mom said she didn’t know why either, but it was the way her mom always cooked roast. Not satisfied and undeterred the newlywed called her grandmother and asked her the same question, “Why cut the end off the roast?”   Her grandmother simply replied, “I never had a pan large enough for the whole roast so I always cut a bit off so it would fit.”

Every day we take action, consciously and unconsciously making decisions that impact our business and those we work with. But how often do we truly consider why we take the actions we take. There is some justification for not overthinking everything we do. Some habits are healthy and even save our lives, like brushing our teeth and signaling before we change lanes. But when it comes to the day to day business actions we take when do we consider “Why do it this way?”

Most of our behaviors were formed years ago, as a youth or when we first started our practice and others more recently. But, many of our behaviors come out of circumstances that may no longer be relevant or are from another place and time.  Despite this we continue to repeat the same actions over again without a thought of why. We should question if our behavior is an anachronism that has outlived its usefulness.  We should consider what we should do differently and more effectively if not constrained by the ghosts of past behaviors. We must review our actions and make change where change is needed. This demonstrates leadership by understanding that change is not the enemy, but something that needs to be examined, considered and implemented if it truly is a better way.

When polling a group of architects about modular elevators I could see the “roast” popping up all around me. Each admitted they had not thought of quality modular elevators as an alternative because they just did things the way they always had done things before. Each had heard of the concept but had not explored the possibilities, as a result a modular elevator was not even a consideration.

However, once I described the factory process, high quality, standards, speed of construction, reduced installation time and lower cost they began to change their minds and thought of several commercial applications.

Whether you are considering modular elevators or not remember that leadership requires flexibility and creativity.  Change is a good thing and often it is necessary for both personal growth and the businesses we run.  Flexibility and change can be difficult hurdles for any business or organization, however if we are to keep things fresh and moving forward we need to consider options outside of the box we are currently in and we need to keep pressing against the edge.

Before you take your next action today truly think about why you do it and if there is a reason, or are you just cutting the end off the roast.

The fastest installing elevator begins with a quick quote.
To get an elevator start here with a quick quote!

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/52066925@N00/8529802506″>Balsamic pork roast</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;