In November 2019, we hosted 120 or so key stakeholders in the housing industry for a deep dive event focused on driving attainability for middle income households – those who make roughly $50K-$125K per year.

In table-based think tanks of six to eight people, we addressed 15 questions related to PLACE, PRODUCT and PRODUCTION (or process) – the three big buckets that need to be tackled to make homes more attainable without sacrificing the quality of our homes and our lives.

Here’s a question from the PRODUCTION segment of our agenda.

What are the opportunities to eliminate inefficiencies and what product-service solution ideas should we evaluate further as more homes are built off-site?

We asked 28 thought leaders, including housing developers, regional and national builders; experts in innovation, architecture, government relations, off-site construction, marketing, recruiting and media; researchers / analysts; manufacturers and an academic.

Here’s what they had to say.

Work on inefficiencies in these areas.

  • Getting the right people in the room. The folks that will win will have the manufacturers and the trade partners come together to work on eliminating inefficiencies together.
  • Buying power. Buy direct where possible. Have conversations with manufacturers. By doing this, one company was able to reduce the minimum components to install cladding from 10 to 6. Imagine that across 50 trades —or 50 components that you could take out of the process. Also, buying “just-in-time” or having storage will reduce theft.
  • Labor pool. Reduce access to the labor pool. If labor is enclosed, you can centralize that labor for training and have more training opportunities. You also can reduce access for poaching.
  • Foundation building. The foundation is a missing component. Try to do it off-site or panelize it.
  • Relationships. Data-driven decisions will make corporate folks more efficient, and we have to get comfortable with that. Perhaps there should be less reliance on person-to-person relationships and more on strategic partnerships.
  • Supply chain. Delivering more products on fewer trucks —consolidate the supply chain as many of the big builders get bigger.
  • Handoffs. We need better efficiencies in the handoffs from architect all the way through to the manufacturer of panels. A common BIM approach is critical.
  • Manufacturing. Optimize the panel line or the assembly line. Bring the manufacturing mind into that plant in the same way as an automotive or product factory. At the same time, consider doing sub-assemblies like the auto world. You have sub-assemblies that can come either off the line, into the line or as a subset to the line.