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Today we’re going to discuss production issues that hurt construction project efficiency and are often overlooked. If you own a construction-related business, you know that time wasted on a job comes right out of profit.

Power tools

All set screws, thumb screws or other locking screws or devices should be turned down tight before the tool is put away. This will prevent them from being lost. Teaching your employees to observe this rule is time well spent. I once drove 35 miles one way to retrieve a setscrew for a reciprocating saw that had not been secured.

Bad or worn power cords

These should be repaired or replaced at the first hint of wear. Cords that won’t conduct electricity are not only worthless, they are dangerous. Breaks or nicks on the insulating covering can deliver a nasty shock. Bad cords are a waste of time, keep them in good repair.

Dull saw blades

Dull saw blades are not only a time waster, they are hard on the ears and dangerous. Anyone that works in the field should always carry at least one complete set of unused shop sharpened saw blades. And, by the way, you don’t save money by sharpening your own blades. That is like doing your own bookkeeping. Pay the other guy to do what he does best; you do what you do best.

Fall Protection

Using fall protection is not only required by OSHA, it’s common sense. And the time spent rigging up is far less than the time spent dealing with medical issues and OSHA fines if a fall occurs. I would make it a job termination offense for anyone working off the ground without proper safety gear on.

Plan Reviews

Not reviewing plans on each section of the job or having the latest version of the plans at the job site. Your crews should review the plans for the job they are working on each morning, and again when they shift from one part of the job to the next. This should be a mandatory exercise.

Additionally, although it should be top priority to get new plans to the job site ASAP, one person on each crew should be assigned the task of checking with the office on a regular basis for updates to the working plans. We recently heard of a room addition that was framed with 8′ walls, while the plans called for 10′ walls. It wasn’t discovered until they noticed the roof rafters weren’t matching up.

Crew size

In remodeling work, a one-man crew is the most efficient, with a helper that floats between jobs as needed. This takes some planning and coordination, but that should be the lead man’s job. Basic rule of thumb: a given job will expand to fill the available hours for all workers present. In most situations, a smaller crew will be more efficent.

Supply House Visits

Picking up materials in the morning is a huge waste of crew time. Schedule your pickups in the late afternoon on the way back from the job to the office. The supply houses are normally vacant in the mid to late afternoon. Calling your order in ahead of time will save even more time if you can find suppliers that will compile the order.

And a two or three man crew picking up materials is an absolute mistake. Getting materials is almost always a one-man job. Better yet, pay the supplier to deliver materials to your job site. That’s a much better use of crew time.

Delivering Material to the Job Site

The owner of a company picking up or delivering materials is an even bigger mistake. I have never understood why the owner of a business, who should be worth at least $40 to $60 an hour, would take his or her time to pickup materials and deliver them to a job site for employees working for $15 to $20 an hour. “Checking the job” is no excuse; that should be a scheduled event each week. The owner of a company who delivers materials is not planning their day or running their business. What they are doing is donkeywork and losing money.

Scheduling Subs

Failing to schedule subs ahead of time is usually a result of poor planning and lack of follow-up by the person responsible for scheduling. The subs should be given the job schedule at the pre-job conference and they should agree to a timeline for their work. Then the job scheduler should call them at least twice, preferable three times before the day they are due at the job. It should also be a condition of the subcontractor that they agree to your schedule and stick to it, no excuses.

Cell phones

I’m amazed at the amount of time that’s spent on cell phones. A limit should be set on cell phone usage on the job site. That includes texting time (and social media time if employees have internet access on their phones).

One of the best ways to keep phone use under control is to have field people check their calls and return them twice a day, around noon and just before quitting time. Tell your employees the phone is only to be used to expedite the jobs they are working on. It is not for personal calls, talking about sports or bs’ing with a buddy. The phone is to get the job done. If the call is not job related, cut it off and get back to work.

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