Just as a head coach needs a playbook to achieve the results to win a game so too do contractor business owners.
“They’ve got to call the right plays, have mandatory must-do systems and strategies to achieve their goals,” construction business coach George Hedley told a WOC virtual webinar audience in his discussion on improving field management.
Hedley helps the webinar audience define a problem, break down steps needed to meet challenges and offers tips on how to measure the end results.
“First, you need a clear picture of the results you want to achieve. You need to define goals. ‘Work harder’ and ‘Try your best’ are not goals,” Hedley says. “Having no punch list or no warranty work are goals. Goals are targets that are measurable and have a deadline. To achieve results, you need to know what you’re aiming at.”
He shares this anacronym regarding goals: “SWAT.com”—specific, written, attainable, time dependent, challenging, on target and measurable.
Defining the problem
Citing production surveys, Hedley says that the average crew “wastes about three to four hours a day looking for stuff, waiting for stuff, hoping stuff shows up, shooting the breeze, walking up to a half a mile to go to the restroom or to get some tools out of their truck.”
If you're a subcontractor, and your GC locates “a portable toilet way over on the other side of the project and your guys are walking back and forth all day, that might cost you about an hour and a half a day for your whole crew. That’s three grand a day,” Hedley points out.
Following Hedley’s SWAT.com, you would name the goal, which might be “improving the jobsite layout.” Solutions might include renting a portable toilet to be closer to your job or, if your crew has to walk far to a tool storage area, getting your own fence and putting storage next to where you’re working.
Top five production 'reducers'
- Poor or lack of supervision.
- Poor work scheduling and sequencing.
- Lack of materials, double handling and waiting.
- Lack of equipment and waiting.
- Inefficient, wrong, bad, old or misplaced tools.
While Hedley says there are some indirect things that need to be considered—companywide systems, standards and enforcement—he focuses on numbers to bring home the point. “A 20-person crew each earning $50/hour is $8,000 a day. Wasting four to five minutes an hour means a loss of $130,00 a year.”
To help employees reach the goal of wasting less time, Hedley suggests paying an incentive for the hours saved under budget. “If you hit the budget, you get so much. And if you save hours, you get more. And I’m not talking about a gift bonus. This is an earned incentive. I call it the ‘PIP’ plan. Profit Incentive Pay for production.”
Hedley says to create rules and standards such as daily goals; weekly safety meetings; clear start, quit and break times. And on-the-job rules such as no cell phones, no smoking, no dogs, no music. One rule he reiterates several times: “The foreman never leaves the job ever except an emergency or company meeting.”
Once you’ve got these standards, Hedley says to use a scorecard to visualize and share your goals and outcomes. These should be shared with your team at regularly scheduled meetings where you work together to come up with best practices. Perhaps “you can offer technology training, put in [the PIP] incentives, and of course, take a look at your site plan to make sure we're not walking 20 minutes to get to the toilet or to the job trailer.”
What he calls the “field crew production tracking scorecard” might have this information: hours budgeted in quantity, installed, percent complete. “This way people can quickly see where they are over or under budget. The goal is to stay on track,” Hedley says.
With this information, a foreman would review where the crew is every week to determine what’s needed to achieve the ultimate goal. “Every week you should bring everybody to the office to review every job together as a team. You might notice some jobs that are over budget by 250, 300 hours, and they're only 30%, 40% complete,” Hedley says.
Consider what you can do and how to improve. “If some jobs are doing well, maybe those supervisors can assist the ones that are falling behind.” Then on a monthly basis and when jobs are finished, share the information and reward people based on over/under.
Hedley walked the audience through the same strategies for staying on budget and on schedule and offered tips he’s gleaned from contractors he has worked with over the years:
- Have a foreman assign a crew member to arrive early and stay 30 minutes late to lay out all the tools before everyone starts working. After the crew goes home, one person stays extra and cleans up all the tools and closes down.
- Have rules around overtime: any overtime must meet a particular budget of overtime, or it must be approved by 2 p.m.
- Have a clear understanding what's included in the contract.
- Always have a pre-job, pre-costruction turnover handoff meeting, with the foreman attending.
- Have a monthly all-crew meeting.
- Have a training program.