In these economic times, many contractors are looking to stretch their money and work as efficiently as possible.

It only makes sense. Like many families, plenty of sheet metal and HVAC shops are struggling, looking for work wherever they can find it and trimming the budget. Commercial HVAC contractors who have long shunned residential projects are making forays into the home market. And residential contractors may be looking outside their comfort zones as well.

If you’re looking to work more effectively and perhaps try something new, it may be the right time to go lean. I hope you’ve been reading our series of articles by lean construction expert Dennis Sowards. This Arizona-based consultant has taught classes across the country on this growing, popular movement.

As Sowards has explained, “lean” manufacturing is based on the world-class techniques of Japanese auto giant Toyota.

Today, its principles have been adopted far beyond the auto assembly line - including by many sheet metal contractors. At a time when many companies in all industries are cutting workers or benefits, making your company work smarter could have big benefits.

But whether you’re trying to become lean or working harder to find business, I’d like to hear about what you’re doing to keep the dollars coming in. I know some owners are hesitant to tell their success secrets, but whenever a contractor is succeeding during this difficult time, that’s something to cheer about. It’s why we featured two such examples in this month’s issue.

Contact me at We might print some of your responses on this page or feature you in a future story. Be sure to include your contact info, including a phone number and where you’re located.

Changing subjects, it’s that time of year again when our circulation department has asked me to include something about subscription renewals. If you receive our e-newsletter, visit or noticed the blurb on this month’s and last month’s covers, you know we’re making our annual push to ensure that everyone receiving Snips continues to do so.

If you haven’t renewed your subscription yet, please go to fill out the renewal form. Please remember that you have to sign, date and check the appropriate boxes to ensure your subscription is processed.

And as always, thanks for reading Snips. March poll results

Lean construction principles have started to gain momentum in the sheet metal and HVAC industry. If applied correctly, lean can improve shop efficiency and eliminate waste, many experts say. How “lean” is your company?