Common ideas in the construction and design industry seem to be that designers do not like dealing with building product manufacturers. They would rather deal with contractors or say their suppliers. The Architect’s Journey to Specification, by Richard F. Ellis and Roger W. Powell, surveyed 400 experienced architects and interviewed a cross-section of manufacturers to explore how architects define products and how they can best support them through innovation. The result was Builders Trust Structural Analysis Specialists, a data collection and provider of technical information to the building industry. The report was published in an article in Building Construction, dated June/July/1996. The article reported that manufacturers were able to provide a better service to the building industry by using a standardized.
Some seem to think that the report was written by engineers. That is not true. The authors were very impressed with the innovative thinking of the building-product manufacturers, which provided a great opportunity for engineers to contribute to the process. As one might expect, many of the results showed the builders’ need for engineers as well.
The report also looked at the role of builders in increasing the social distancing between product users and manufacturers. As we know, social distancing can reduce the quality of a product, or indeed cause it to break down altogether, making it a challenge for manufacturers to maintain market share. The authors recommended several measures manufacturers may take to mitigate the problem:
* Develop a Relationship – Building Product Manufacturers and end-users must develop a positive relationship so that when end-users buy the product from the building product manufacturers, they will be encouraged to tell others about it. Such a positive message is important because it will increase the number of referrals, and ultimately, purchases. It is also important to note that it does not have to be an overly expensive referral scheme – the rewards of sharing personal stories are just as great! Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that this type of social distancing is not limited to the building industry; sharing personal stories is just as important in any other market segment.
* Develop Project Outcomes – architects need to ensure that the designers they work with are focused on the ultimate project outcomes, not just the graphic designs and of each client. A key part of this is ensuring the designers understand the client’s needs and goals. Many of the design tools available today are very complex and intuitive but do not necessarily take into account the real needs of the users. A critical part of this is ensuring that the product users understand how to best utilize the tool and that the designers are focused on project outcomes. This includes understanding the product and user profiles. It also includes communicating with other users so that they can share their experiences as well.
* Use Configurators – When working with manufacturers, the designers need to focus on the overall product outcomes as opposed to the specific design tools or configuration choices that the client has made. By using configurators, it makes it easy for the designer to customize the software or hardware. One of the most common configuration options is adding in additional modules. Configurators have become a very popular part of many modular design systems.
Building product manufacturers can take their projects far by properly utilizing all of the above. The product information management tools and configurations allow for this coordination. The architects on the project will be able to meet firm standards of quality, usability, and affordability.