As one of the top 10 private homebuilders in the US (and one of the top 25 overall), Gehan Homes has explored its fair share of technologies promising efficiency and productivity gains. When it came to pulling home designs, plans, elevations, and options into full job start packets (JSPs), the Texas-based homebuilder managed to generate about 400 JSPs per year before the productivity cost of eight hours each began to limit growth.
When Sumitomo Forestry America acquired Gehan in 2016, the builder was bolstered with new financial resources to pace expectations of continued growth as a leading homebuilder. And indeed, Gehan would add eight new product lines over the next few years and almost triple their volume from 1,400 to 3,700 starts.
To manage the JSP process, Gehan adopted Revit building information management (BIM) software from Autodesk. “With the new growth came the need to find new efficiencies managing options and plan sets, and we saw some value with Revit, which promised to cut JSP production times in half,” says Gehan product manager Robert Griffith. With an additional modeling tool app bolted on the platform to manage material and cost breakdowns, JSP production time was down to two hours.
Despite the improvement in productivity, problems with the software stack quickly revealed themselves. “We were still spending an inordinate amount of time doing dimensioning and annotations, and those just didn’t transfer to the JSPs,” Griffith says. “The software couldn’t handle it, so it meant we were still doing a lot of repetitive work.” Despite the software glitches, the time savings was a plus, and Gehan began converting existing plans and rolling out new product lines on the system.
When the chance came to view the LotSpec solution from Simpson Strong-Tie with another builder owned by Sumitomo, Gehan team members — somewhat resigned to dealing with glitchy technology — accepted the invite with some skepticism. “We had already rolled out some new product lines with our existing software and had little interest in moving to something new,” Griffith says. “We were unsure what to expect, but came away from our first meeting very excited about the possibilities. For every deficiency we were struggling with in our current solution, there was a solvable opportunity for us in LotSpec.”
An application add-in suite for Autodesk Revit and Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture, LotSpec provides a solution for managing design options in both 2D and 3D workflows, automating the process of creating “lot-specific” construction documents used for permitting and construction based on customer option selections.
After testing out LotSpec on the homebuilder’s top-selling plan, the Gehan team felt they had landed on a solution to introduce much-needed layers of functionality, efficiency, and ease of use to their existing technology. “Within two weeks we had nothing but positives to say about the software,” Griffith says. “It was truly a great opportunity for our company and solved every issue while providing everything we originally thought we would get out of our current solution and Revit. It was tremendous.”
In fact, Gehan was able to cut JSP production time down to an incredible 20 minutes, a 6x increase in productivity as Gehan drafters began taking advantage of the LotSpec tool suite, using reverse imaging mirrors to flip plan elements, automating option creation and naming, and stacking options on top of options.
“LotSpec works as a toolkit and works for how you do things in your company, so you are not constantly adapting to the system,” Griffith says. “It has all of your annotations, all of your dimensioning, and everything is right there in the file, which translates directly into efficiency and speed. Now we can do six JSPs in the time it takes to do just one in our current software…”
Indeed, by April 2021, Gehan again landed on BUILDER magazine’s list of the top 25 production builders in the country, and was positioned to reach the 4,000 home mark for the first time. And although Griffith commends LotSpec as one of the most efficient tools he has come across, company software engineer and design team leader Joe Arenas also likes LotSpec for something that has little to do with the technology at work.
“I just want to put some well-deserved kudos out to the call desk at Simpson Strong-Tie,” Arenas says. “Although we’ve only had to call them three times, we get solutions back the same day, which is tremendous. That level of response time and quality of service make it by far one of the best help desks I’ve ever used.”
Download the complete case study to learn more about Gehan Homes’ adoption of scalable LotSpec solution from Simpson Strong-Tie.