One of the basic problems in housing construction today, in terms of achieving the cost benefits of assembly-line efficiency is that not a large enough number of houses are built at each building site.
Trial-run debugging that produces the benefits of the traditional mass-production assembly-line…of achieving the lowest cost-per-unit…is based upon the idea of manufacturing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of identical, repetitive products.
The artistic diversity of architectural designs is a direct result of the housing construction industry realizing long before Henry Ford’s Model-T assembly-line that fully assembled houses are too large in size to be manufactured at a single location then shipped to building sites.
Once the notion of constructing hundreds of thousands of identical, repetitive, 2,400 square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses on a mass-production assembly-line is abandoned…then the artistic diversity of innovative variations in design takes over.
From an aesthetic viewpoint this reality provides interest and variety to the design and construction of houses.
But from a manufacturing viewpoint this provides the challenge of discovering, documenting, and disseminating the debugging information that accrues exponentially by this very same innovative diversity of the variety of square-footage size, architectural style, interior finishes, and orientation on unique building sites…of each individual new house being constructed.
This is what makes perfect housing design and construction a topic of interest in the massive-sized industry of building construction.
The assembly-line debugging information gleaned from the mass-production manufacturing of tennis rackets does not carry-over to the mass-production manufacturing of a particular model of dining room table.
But the value of the initial trial-run debugging of the assembly-line for the mass-production of a particular model of tennis racket is found in the large number of identical, repetitive tennis rackets being manufactured.
Because many of the same building trades practices are used in constructing new houses that are all different in size, style, and price range…this creates one database of debugging information that is common to all new housing construction, and another database of varied debugging information that is specific to each unique building site…scattered all over the countryside.
But it is the starting reality of the large size of houses that dictates the method of assembly…and produces the reality of assembly-line debugging on housing construction projects that have a limited number of products to build and short time-spans to work with.
Before moving on…it might be good here to expand upon and summarize the concept presented in the Introduction in this book, of housing construction being different:
For housing construction projects, after all of the construction problems are resolved…the construction is complete…the house or houses are built…and we move on to a new and different project.
Problem-solving and debugging are an integral part of every new housing construction project…usually from start to finish…because the same product is not repeated in large enough numbers to “build” upon past experience to the point of assembly-line perfection.
An assembly-line approach cannot be used because of the practical reality that houses are too large in size to be fully assembled at one location and then transported overland to another.
Each new house must be assembled piece by piece at its exact location on the building site…and because houses occupy a lot of space…only so many can fit on each project site.
Each new housing construction project is therefore a one-time event…limited in time duration by the total number of houses to be built at that site.
Each project is separated from other projects by the distance between building sites, the economic competition between rival construction companies, and the lack of motivation or communication channels for sharing debugging information within the industry.
New housing construction projects have only one opportunity prior to the start of the construction for proactive problem-solving.
In housing construction, the trial-run phase and the actual construction are one-in-the-same operation.
In housing construction there is no trial-run debugging phase, except in production tract housing in the construction of the sales models when problems and issues are supposed to be identified and resolved before the construction of the production units begin.
But even for large tract housing projects of 200 or 300 units…being the typical maximum size for most “merchant builders”…this mass-production feature still limits the benefits of trial-run debugging to the total number of houses in each project.
In housing construction, the mass-production of identical, repetitive houses never reaches the number of tens or hundreds of thousands of smaller sized products typically manufactured within a single assembly-line building.
Builders, subcontractors, superintendents, forepersons, and tradespeople must therefore be prepared to debug the individual peculiarities on a project-by-project basis.
This requires having both a defensive and offensive game-plan to achieve success.
The needed database of debugging information can only be acquired by observation after-the-fact of mistakes and problems that actually occur as unanticipated “bugs” on a large number and wide-range of new housing construction projects.
This database of debugging information can only reach the broader housing construction industry by becoming part of the back-and-forth communication between designers and builders…breaching the proprietary barriers around this information that historically has provided competitive advantage in terms of experience and expertise.
Because designers and builders mix and “cross-breed” in their collaborations on housing construction projects…the introduction of quality-control information into the architectural and interior designs in terms of illustrations depicting what not to do…added to the details pages of the design plans…will over time spread throughout the industry.
When applicable, this information can also be added to the scope-of-work sections of building trades subcontracts, highlighting company-specific and project-specific issues that builders want to bring to the attention of the subcontractors.