Posted by: JC Gatlin | December 13, 2009

Warranty defects were made for PDCA

What do you do when you receive a warranty request from a Homeowner?

The average Superintendent contacts the appropriate trade to go to the home to fix the defect then follows up with the Homeowners to ensure the problem has been resolved to their satisfaction. This works for the average homebuilder. This is unacceptable to a lean homebuilder.

Simply fixing defects exposed through warranty requests – no matter how quickly and how completely those issues are resolved – will single handedly destroy a builder’s lean progress. This includes any waste elimination, building process & schedule improvements, and cost reduction efforts that have been made. In fact, warranty defects are arguably the leading waste factor for every home builder.

Sometimes warranty costs are so buried that their true cost in wasted time, resources, and dollars is hard to measure.  This is the expense of 2nd Time Quality, and it will nickel and dime a homebuilding company and eat a Construction Professional’s time and reputation.

A Construction Professional for a lean homebuilder should at all times know the top warranty defects in his houses. And, he must constantly monitor the systematic prevention of any recurrences. That prevention is called 1st Time Quality. So where does he start?

Step 1: List the Top 5 warranty defects in your community

Look through past warranty requests for trends. Then, starting today, keep a running log of the warranty requests submitted by your homeowners.  Log everything. Never discount a request because of a Homeowner’s attitude or because you think it’s a one-time anomaly. It’s not.  Warranty defects are like cock roaches: where there’s one there’s hundreds just like it that you can’t see. Once you compile the list, commit to eliminating those defects by a target date.

Step 2: Work with your Building Partners to get to the root cause

Tie each defect back to your FTQ scores and to a specific construction activity in the home building process. Then start the PDCA process on each defect. Don’t even think about working a PDCA without the Building Partner. Get them involved in finding the root cause and the counter measures to keep it from ever happening again.

Under no circumstances do you name the Homeowner as the root cause and then call it a day. Yeah, okay. Sometimes it’s tempting, I’ll give you that — especially when improper use or maintenance creates the defect. But you and your Building Partner are being shortsighted if you don’t look for WHY the Homeowner is misusing or not maintaining something.

Step 3: Standardize

Update the Standardized Work Instruction Sheet or create Hot Spot Sheets to standardize the way the work must be done within that construction activity. Work with your Building Partner to come up with the best way for them to communicate the standard to their team. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box: if a defect is occurring because of Homeowner misuse – how can we educate & inform Homeowners on proper use and maintenance?

Step 4: Follow-up

Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up. I can’t say it enough. Make a point to be on the jobsite when the construction activity is occurring to go over the SWIS or Hot Spot Sheets. Keep your warranty log updated, and a watchful eye for this defect to resurface as you tackle the next Top 5 warranty defects in the homes you build.

© December 2009 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo

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