Panel Briefs September/October 2003

Barden Grapples With Growth
A hot home building market in the Northeast, low interest rates and an increasingly productive builder network have pushed sales to a record high in July for panelizer Barden Homes (Homer, NY). Orders for new homes from the company’s 200 authorized builders in one month was higher in volume than any other month in the company’s long history.

“We’re literally bursting at the seams,â€? says Eric Barden with Barden Homes. “It’s a nice problem to have from a manufacturer standpoint. But to be up by a full 20% over the same month from one year ago is certainly a testament to our builders and our production staff to get product out the door. We see it as a huge success.â€?

Production in the Homer facility (the company has another facility in Middleport, near Buffalo, NY) has grown from $8.7 million in 1997 to $16.1 million in 2002. The company is projecting $18 million in sales in 2003. “If sales so far this summer are any indication of what the rest of the year holds in store for us, we’re looking at one of our most profitable years ever. In the last six years our production has more than doubled,â€? Barden says.

Even with the company running two, ten-hour shifts each workday (it employs more than 200), it can’t comfortably keep up with demand. “We could use still more production capacity, since we are backlogged quite a bit. It’s gotten to the point where we can’t continue operating out of this facility efficiently. With our strategic plan, we realize that building a new facility will help us achieve more growth and drop more profit onto our bottom line.â€?

That’s why Barden is casting its eyes on nearby Preble, where there is a 90-acre parcel of land that may be the new home for Barden Homes. Company officials envision a 77,000 sq.ft. new manufacturing facility and a ndw 8,000 sq.ft. office building to house its currently cramped for space design and drafting departments. The company also wants to add new laser setup technology to its truss making capabilities, which streamlines the labor intensive manual blocking that it currently employs. “The nature of the building today is that in a given roof system you will have 150 different trusses. With the new truss technology out there, we can really increase our efficiency dramatically,â€? says Barden.

A new plant will augment the new electronic efficiencies the company has adopted for its builder network. Authorized builders, for example, can order homes, peruse designs, track production and drafting—all online. “We’ve essentially created a paperless system where builders do all their ordering over the Internet,â€? Barden says.

While the relocation isn’t yet set in stone or even paper, the company does anticipate creating a new facility by next spring.

More than a year and a half ago Barden Homes closed a manufacturing facility in New Castle, Indiana, after an expansion into that market didn’t go as planned. “We found that the overhead of that plant was too much for the amount of product we were shipping from it. We discovered we could ship product from here and still be cost competitive,â€? Barden says.

BCMC Bound For Phoenix Oct. 8-10
It’s time for all panel and truss producers to saddle up and ride to Phoenix for the annual Building Component Manufacturers Conference (BCMC), which will be held at the Phoenix Civic Plaza in Phoenix, Oct. 8-10th.

BCMC is the premier tradeshow for the structural building component manufacturing industry and provides the venue for the largest gathering of component manufacturers in the world. This year’s show, “Navigating Your Future – New Frontiers,â€? promises to expand attendees’ knowledge about this rapidly growing and changing industry.

BCMC will feature a number of educational programs including breakout sessions divided into three tracks. These tracks, led by knowledgeable industry representatives, will share ideas and information on personnel, insurance, safety, business growth opportunities, wall panels and much more. The presentations will kick-off with Brad Sherwood, a regular performer on ABC’s Whose Line Is It Anyway and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and other television programs including The Drew Carey Show and LA Law. Gary Garcynski, the 2002 President for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will be the keynote speaker. This year’s economic forecast will be given by NAHB’s Assistant Staff Vice President and Director of Forecasting, Stanley Duobinis.

Show organizers are anticipating over 2,200 attendees and more than 120 exhibitors at this year’s event. Attendees at the 2003 show will be eligible for a number of prizes including $500 cash, which will be raffled-off during open exhibit hours. This year’s grand prize give-away is courtesy of Lakeside Trailer Company. The winner will receive an entire year’s use of a 2004 model, 42’-60’ x 8’6â€? J.D.H. Trussmaster Stretch Roll-Off trailer with sliding tandems, a hydraulic front-end and controllable rollers with remote floor. In addition to these scheduled events, the Carbeck Structural Component Institute (CSCI) will sponsor live and silent auctions at the show. Anyone wishing to donate auction items may contact Kelli Gabel at 608/268-1161 (x128).

Details on the show please visit the BCMC website at www.bcmcshow.com or call BCMC at 608/268-1161 (x9).

Online Truss Education in Florida
Getting started or keeping current with truss technology just got easier in Florida. Online training courses for residential construction professionals are now being offered through a joint program established by the Wood Truss Council of America (WTCA), the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) and WTCA’s Florida Chapter. Designed to educate building professionals about the structural building components industry, these Truss Technology Workshops (TTW) have benefited many allied industry professionals for years in the more traditional classroom or seminar format.

Careful planning and technological advances have allowed WTCA to provide web-based learning as an alternative to traditional classroom training. The online workshops, approved by the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board, reduce training costs, increase training flexibility and are geared to take advantage of a variety of learning styles. Now professional license requirements for continuing education can be fulfilled anytime, anywhere. All that is needed is a computer, an internet connection and an email address, explains Suzanne Cook, FHBA Director of Education & Training.

“FHBA welcomes the opportunity to partner with WTCA in providing high-quality training via the internet to our members and other construction industry professionals. Through advanced learning such as this, our members help push construction quality to a higher level.â€? Several key features help keep participants on track and connected to the coursework. Both high and low-bandwidth streaming audio and video, integrated quizzes and exams, a section-related glossary and a student tutorial were designed to enhance the educational experience of all participants.

Learn more by clicking on the Truss Technology Workshop logo at FHBA’s website – www.fhba.com

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