How to increase crew productivity by 20%
The construction industry has made many strides in productivity in the past 20 years. Just consider what battery powered tools has done to make workers more productive. There are many areas in construction that have not improved causing lost productivity and extra costs that we probably didn’t factor in.
In today’s blog, we explore what we can do as business owners and managers to increase productivity of our crews without screaming “Get it done faster!” You will learn, it’s not the crews fault but rather it’s managements turn to look in the mirror and ask “what can we do to be better prepared for our crews?”
Why is this important?
You may have a crew that is working at maximum productivity but the reality is that most are not. This costs millions of dollars in lost productivity resulting in less profit and even jobs that simply lose. I hope that considering the concepts below will spark ideas of how you can improve your process and gain more productivity.
How to make crews more productive
It goes without saying that if you plan out your project in detail, things will run smoother and there will be less delays and unforeseen costs. The foundation of planning is a project schedule. It doesn’t matter if you are a GC or a trade contractor, you need to have a way to schedule out your work in a visual manner. The schedule allows you to see what is coming up many days in advance so that materials, tools and equipment can be ready and on-site for the crews to get to work. I witness on a daily basis crews sent out to jobs without the right materials or the right tools. They spend time calling the office, driving to get the missing items and burning up half a day completely non-productive. I’m sure you didn’t bid it that way, right? Tip: add a recurring calendar reminder to review project schedules weekly to force this proactive process. Each time you view the schedule, ask yourself “what needs to be on-site on this day for my crew to maximize efficiency”. You will be surprised what you will come up with.
Looking for a great crew scheduling app that allows you to visualize the crews and projects? Try buildcenter’s crew scheduling module for free.
Every construction company works slightly different with how they organize crews. Some are all individual workers that sometimes work together to be a crew on a specific task or project. In other cases, often for plumbers, they are teamed up two per van. But you need to ask yourself “would it be faster if two guys perform that task or is it better with one”? I have found that in most cases, crews work better in pairs rather than threes. I find that the third is waiting around and not able to stay productive. Of course, there are times when having a third person cutting while two others are installing together is the best. This is something you have to experiment with to find the right size crews for the task.
One total productivity zap is when a crew of two goes to get materials from the supply house. First of all, try to avoid having your crews get materials unless there is no better way. If they need to get materials, it should only be at the very beginning of the day or at the very end. In a pinch, use the lunch break to get materials but never allow a situation where crews are pulling off the job at 10am to get materials. By the time they return, it’s lunch time and then there are only a few hours left….what a waste! If you have a crew of two and materials need to be picked up, send one and the other can continue to work. The next time, send the other one. This way, it’s fair but you don’t lose production from both. Make this a policy and hold your staff accountable.
Have you ever had your crews show up to a job and they didn’t know they needed to bring the [fill in the blank]? It happens all the time because even though you knew this special tool or equipment was needed, the crews didn’t get the message. Communication is huge in construction and when things don’t go as planned, it’s usually related to poor communication.
When you are scheduling the crews for work, they need to know what to bring. This is typically handled by a phone call or text message sent to the worker the day or night before the job. That can work if you only have a few workers but once you get over 5, this becomes difficult to manage and things start to slip through the cracks. Each worker needs to know where to go, when to be there and what to bring. You may want to consider a tool like buildcenter that allows all this information to be entered into a schedule and the workers simply look on their smartphones to get all the information they need to be ready to be productive.
Communication is a two way street so you need to get feedback from workers. They know what tools make them most productive and they want to productive. It feels great to complete work faster and more efficiently. Ask them for feedback about what tools and equipment would make them more productive. Let them know that you are looking for ways to improve the company by being more efficient. Encourage them to be creative and provide ideas on how to streamline the process….you may be surprised at how many good ideas they have.
Getting feedback on a specific projects progress is vital to being efficient. You need to get an update from the crews on how much progress they have made. You can do this by text or phone and simply ask “what percent done are you on that task or phase?”. This will allow you to move resources around to be more efficient. If another half day is needed to wrap up a job, send just one worker instead of two. If you don’t want all the text messages and calls, consider using buildcenters time tracking tool where workers can enter progress notes at the end of each day.
There are many ways to increase productivity just by making a few proactive changes. Better planning with well organized crews that are communicating well with the office makes for an efficient construction team that is producing at a high level. We have all seen glimpses of this phenomenon but the trick is to be consistently productive so that you can grow and elevate your business.
Try buildcenter for crew time tracking and scheduling.