by George Hedley
November 3, 2011

Q: How can contractors benefit from attending industry trade shows?

A: Getting the best pricing and service from suppliers can be difficult. They sometimes seem to care only about getting paid quickly for delivering products to jobsites.

To find better suppliers, many contractors attend industry trade shows. Industry trade shows provide an opportunity to learn about innovative ways to improve and meet manufacturers that will help you grow your business.

I recently attended the Structural Building Components Association BCMC (Building Community, Making Connections) Conference in Indianapolis, Ind. The SBCA is an association of building component manufacturers who fabricate, manufacture and distribute structural wood, trusses, wall panels, fasteners, connectors and building systems.

After I made a presentation at the conference, I walked the exhibits and talked to several building component manufacturers to find out what they have done to make their customers’ jobs easier.

I noticed that many manufacturers want to work closely with their customers and help them become the most efficient and cost-effective business in their marketplace. In less than two hours at the trade show, I found several ways contractors can save money, become more efficient and win more jobs by working with suppliers and manufacturers.

Increase Efficiency

Many manufacturers at the show offer software programs that streamline the building process. This software eliminates the need for detailed lumber takeoffs, purchase orders and bill of materials. It also shortens the entire preconstruction process for contractors and saves them time and money by reducing material waste, layout time and field crew hours. Some of these manufacturers will work closely with contractors to review their operations and provide 3-D modeling that shows what finished projects will look like before they are built.

Improve “Buildability”

Other manufacturers’ representatives who I met at the show offer software solutions that help builders effectively design, price, order, deliver and install the most economical wood building structural system possible.

These manufacturers use the term “buildability.” This means the project will be designed in the most economical and easiest way to ensure it can be built with the least amount of problems and conflicts in the field. With a single-source software solution, all project parties can work together from the same set of 3-D plans to review, modify and approve a single design with workable details.

Everyone sees the same set of plans, which reduces delays, field surprises, labor overruns and change orders, while also increasing contractor profitability. When the whole team wins, the builder gets more referrals and customers.

Manage Production Rates

Most contractors do not go into the field often enough to see how their crews work. As a result, crew efficiency can often be slower than desired. Small things can make a big difference in production rates, such as jobsite layout, material storage location, sequencing activities, crew loading and equipment availability.

At the trade show, I met consultants who help contractors examine and improve their production and operations. These consultants study crew efficiency, systems, manpower scheduling and equipment usage to determine the fastest and cheapest way to build. They also use strategies to help contractors save money on materials.

These consultants will conduct an in-depth review of a company and suggest proven principles that control and reduce costs. Imagine a contractor with 20 crew members totaling 30,000 hours of field labor per year. If that contractor saves at least 5 percent, this would reduce the company’s field costs by as much as $30,000 to $50,000 a year or more. Making small investment choices wisely can result in big returns.

Keep Up With the Latest

Some structural product manufacturers for the building industry offer online training courses to help new foremen learn the installation standards required. They have lunch-and-learn workshops for local building inspectors and contractors to recognize their installation requirements and latest innovations.

To find suppliers that will help you grow your business, you must attend industry trade shows to learn about new products, techniques and innovations available. Make your plans now—I hope to see you on the road!