How to Prevent Problems When Outsourcing Truss and Panel Design Work

How to Prevent Problems When Outsourcing Truss and Panel Design Work


There was a time when your component company designed your products with an in-house design staff. One or two designers, trained in the use of the engineering software handled all your needs and were available to troubleshoot any problems that arose during production. As your company grew, you added more design staff to keep up with the increase in work. You spent time and money training the new staff, bought them computers to do the work, hired a supervisor to oversee and check their work and perhaps even built a new building to house the increased staff.

Then suddenly, a recession hits the housing market. Your staff is too big, so you lay some of them off. They have families to support so they move to more work friendly locations or they change careers altogether. You can’t lay off computers or buildings, so that part of your overhead stays.

The recession ends, you look for competent designers to hire. They are not there. They moved away or got good paying jobs elsewhere. What to do? You remember getting an email from an off-site design firm. You contact them and arrange for them to do some or all of your design work. The first jobs come in and, wow, the problems begin.

The benefits from outsourcing your design projects will be determined by the quality of your chosen engineering services firm—and how closely you work with that firm. It’s not always easy to determine the quality of services you’ll get, but you can start by asking for references. Isn’t that how you would screen a potential employee?


Do a little homework. It’s not always easy to determine the quality of services you’ll get, but you can start by asking for references. The quality of the work performed is obviously dependent on whom you’ve selected to do the work, but also on how well the engineering groups specify what service is to be performed. Outsourcing will reduce the workload on some engineering resources, but it also will require using processes to specify and develop the final design. Though using a formal process will take more up-front time, it will lead to better outcomes.

  • Communication: Communication is the key to a beneficial relationship. When questions arise, who do I call? Must I go through the component company or can I directly contact your customer?
  • Design Criteria: How do you prefer your trusses to be designed? (Give them some pervious jobs to review.)
  • Lumber: What types and grades of lumber do you typically stock?
  • Hangers: A list of stocked hangers should be supplied.
  • Layouts: What specific details do you need on the truss layout? Do you have a border with a company for use? Do you want the same info for quotes and production jobs?

Companies seeking quality design work from an outside contractor should be aware of two dangers.

First: Unless they have a long-term relationship with a contracting firm, its lack of familiarity with their operation may make it difficult to get things done in a snap at crunch time. Time takes time.

Second: Unless they prepare adequately (e.g., develop a detailed design criteria) before giving the job to the contractor, they could encounter mistakes and rework. This will certainly add to the project’s overall costs. Familiarity breeds experience.

Communication is by far the simplest and cheapest way to overcome any down the road problems with outsourcing design work. Take those initial steps and shown above and make your outsourcing commitment work in your favor. After all, isn’t communication the key to any successful relationship?


Extra help when you need it could be the missing piece in the puzzle that your business needs to meet the demands and help you need at a time that you need it. Your solution could be a mouse click or a phone call away. To reach the lofty goals you have for the year, innovation and “outside the box” thinking proves paramount to growth. After all, doing the same thing you have always done will always yield the same results! Any outsourcing company worth its value will do whatever it takes to educate its customer on how to be successful at it. But you have to give them that opportunity!

Richard Gould – Design Administrator

Gould Design, Inc.