In our first 3 posts in this series (see Parts 1, 2 & 3), we looked at the importance of communication with your lumber supplier and value engineering. While those concepts are not new, they are increasingly significant in light of pandemic-related supply chain limitations. While we cannot change the current availability of a given size or species or predict the future, we can do the next best thing by suggesting carefully re-adjusted orders that either greatly lessen the lead time on a project or perhaps even make what was once impossible, possible.
The Heart of Value Engineering: Evaluating What You (Really) Need
Let’s say your original plan is for Mahogany, but really what your customer wants is a wood with a reddish hue. Perhaps reducing the width of each board by only a half inch might be one way to fill the order in a reasonable timeframe, but another option might be to use an alternate (less expensive and/or more readily available) species in the same color family instead. By making either of those changes, you could turn a project with a 6-month lead time into something you can schedule for only 2 weeks from now!
To use another example, let’s say you have a 20-foot decking project with Ipe or Jatoba in view. While 20-foot-long boards are difficult to come by, 10- to 20-foot boards are much more available – and ready to ship. Not only would the lead time be lower, but the price per linear foot is also significantly less, and the shipping cost will be lower as well.
The Heart of Value Engineering: Greater Value for Less
If you’re being hired for a high-end decking projects, your customers may not be as concerned about saving money – or even the timetable – as they are about quality. Value engineering addresses that as well. While we don’t deny that there will be a noticeable seam, the shorter boards are often perfectly straight and free of defects. Since there are an abundance of them, they can also be color matched, and you can potentially incorporate end-matched seams throughout the deck.
The overall effect will be a deck that’s more stable and easier to install as well as made up of higher grade wood – and installed for less money and in a shorter amount of time than the deck with 20-foot boards which you thought you wanted. (And who knows when or if we could even find enough of the longer boards for you at all, right now – let alone ones that meet the high standards of you and your customer.)
The Heart of Value Engineering: Meeting Unique Demands
Maybe before the COVID-related supply chain issues, you just took a customer request at face value. But in today’s climate, you need to lean in and ask more questions. For instance, if a customer wants wide plank flooring – let’s say 18- to 25-inch-wide planks – and specifically mentions Teak, you already know it’s going to have to be an engineered floor. You might want to ask whether the width or the species is more important. Maybe the customer is particular to Teak, or maybe what they want is simply the honey-gold hue of Teak. If that’s the case, Iroko might be a great stand-in that allows for top-grade planks in the extreme widths the customer desires. Not only is the lesser-known species more readily available, but the higher grade will actually be a better match to what the customer actually wants.