Know Why Your Customer Wants It

SBCA Magazine,

“If a customer is open to wall panels, the first question you need to ask them is why,” says Dean Rana, owner of Truss Fab, LLC. “You need to know their motivations and make sure your product meets their expectation.” Are they doing it because they don’t have enough field labor? Are they wanting to reduce material usage and jobsite waste? Do they purely want to reduce cycle times to complete more projects? “I had a large customer come to me initially and they claimed they just couldn’t make my wall panels pencil, but now they’re coming back to us because they just have too many slabs sitting empty.” Their needs changed and Truss Fab was able to manufacture wall panels to meet that new need.

BCMC Session: So You Want to Start a Wall Panel Line?
Dean Rana, Truss Fab, LLC
Michael Miller, Truss Fab, LLC
Shem Jessop, Agra Tech

Michael is quick to point out that being successful with wall panels also means not taking on too much too quickly. “The great thing with wall panels is that you can start simple,” says Michael. “You don’t have to make a crazy investment on the front end. You can start with a basic setup that doesn’t require the best equipment, and then work your way up as it grows.”

“Getting together ahead of time and working through everything from layout to wall details to stacking order can go a long way towards success.”

Michael and Dean both warned that if you do it right, it can be a product line that grows quickly as your customer base embraces it. “We started five years ago and made plenty of mistakes, but eventually we got going and now things are really cooking. It’s crazy,” says Dean.

Stacks of wall panels

Having success with wall panels hinges on understanding the customer’s motivations and needs.

One of the reasons why Truss Fab is having success is the relationships they’ve been able to develop with framing contractors like Agra Tech. Shem Jessop, owner of Agra Tech, says one of the keys to the success of today’s turnkey framer is finding a component manufacturer (CM) who is willing to partner on projects. “A framer’s success starts with knowing what you want before you call a CM for help,” says Shem. “You also need to find a CM like Truss Fab who is interesting in listening to what you need and working with you to deliver it.”

Shem observes that too often framers end up bad mouthing wall panels because they’re out of sync with the CM. “Sometimes the GC is handling the material and they don’t know what they want, sometimes the framer doesn’t know what to ask for ahead of time,” says Shem. “Getting together ahead of time and working through everything from layout to wall details to stacking order can go a long way towards success.”

“Wall panels allow our customers to frame faster, smarter, and better control their costs,” says Dean. “It’s no surprise they’re gaining traction.”