The Myth of Customization?

shelter-systems-floor-plan-sbc-magazine-may-2016
Components Manufacturing Facility (image: SBC Magazine May 2016 Issue)

Through the advancement of automation and software capabilities, manufacturers boast an ability to produce unusual and complex truss designs otherwise inaccessible or unrealistically expensive. After visiting one facility with impressive capacities for automation, and another facility without any automated machinery, we see a great promise for design customization utilizing the speed and precision of automated saws and jig tables. However, whether the consumer or client is able to access this value remains to be seen. Although the time-savings is evident, the expenses for manufacturers to automate their facilities, for truss designers to design unusual or multiple unique trusses, and for framers to learn or accept new framing methods may prevent the value from reaching the clients of custom, architect-designed residences  who might benefit from this technology..

The structural component system runs most efficiently and affordably with economies of scale. Despite the 6 second speed of a jig table realigning to a different truss, manufacturers presently place high value on the savings that occur with repetition. At the Metrics for Managers session at the 2016 BCMC, using templates and avoiding complex projects were suggested methods for conserving time. This suggestion seems to contradict with the values of smaller, minimally automated component manufacturers like Kevin Brown of Brown Truss Company, who considers every project a custom project. While the promise of customization and the desire for economies of scale appear to be in direct conflict, the accessibility of custom components  in market-rate housing  depends upon whether the values and processes of the plant manager and framer/installer can be aligned with those of the architect and client.

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