John Harple, Plant Manager at MODLOGIQ, issues an invitation to people who mistakenly think of “trailer factories” when they hear the words “off-site modular construction.”
“People driving by the plant, they can’t see inside and understand what we do,” he says. “They need to see it in person – take a tour.” As an example, John points to the sprawling, 65,000 square foot elementary school currently being built at MODLOGIQ.
“When we bring in people to interview, they’re amazed by the size and scope. With our “Build Together” approach, all 65,000 square feet of the building is completely intact, just like it would be if it was being built on site. They ask: ‘How many modules? How far do you take it to finish? How do you take all that apart?’ The more that people see what we do – building multiple stories, pouring concrete floors, welding structural steel – the more impressed they are.”
When people first meet John, they may be surprised that he has been in the industry for more than 25 years. He looks young to have that much experience under his belt. But it’s his extensive background that allows him to bring so much to his role. “Safety and quality are always at the top of the list,” he says. “They’re automatic. Every day, I make contact with everyone working on the shop floor. I’m in constant motion, always bouncing around from project to project, making sure we’re all working safely and hitting our quality goals. I’ve learned to never stay stationary.”
But walking the plant floor is about more than just keeping tabs on the work: “I don’t breathe down people’s necks, but I want to be available if they need something, if they have questions. I know from my own background as an electrician on the floor, it’s a good feeling when you can get answers. Most of all, it’s important to let the team know I appreciate the work they do, the effort they make.” An incident early in John’s tenure demonstrates this commitment. “When I first started, we had a project with a tight timeline. I came in on a Saturday with everyone else. The staff was surprised: ‘What are you doing here on a Saturday?’ Well, if I’m going to ask the team to give up a weekend day to get the job done, I need to be there with them making the same effort. We work hard together and enjoy each other’s company. We have great character and culture and teamwork.”
Along with safety and quality, another of John’s responsibilities is leading MODLOGIQ’s lean manufacturing process. “Lean manufacturing has a big impact on how you manage materials,” John explains. “Recycling waste and keeping everything properly separated keeps the shop cleaner and neater, which contributes to safety and quality. You also recycle more of everything – cardboard, drywall, steel – so it doesn’t go in the landfill. That’s better for the environment.”
The growing importance of sustainability is just one of the many changes John has seen over the years. “I was hired into the industry 26 years ago by Scott Heckel [Director of Operations at MODLOGIQ],” John recalls. “He said to me: ‘Once this industry gets in your blood, you can’t leave it.’ He was right. Every project we do is interesting. There’s something unique about every one of them. It’s exciting to develop the plans, follow the plans, and see the plans turn into finished buildings.”
Under John’s leadership, a number of those finished buildings have won Awards of Distinction from the Modular Building Institute, including three Best in Show awards, including the 2021 Best in Show winner: Good Samaritan Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room Expansion. “Me and my team touch every project that goes through the plant. It’s a great feeling to play a part in these wins,” he says.
As John looks to the future, he sees even more opportunities for continued award-winning innovation. “We’re doing things with off-site modular construction that most people don’t know are possible,” he points out. “Things have changed so dramatically. Today, what we build structure-wise is really unlimited.”