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Units of Measure? Teach. Teach.. Teach…

Have you ever tried to learn a new game? Like a card game or board game. Do you remember how many times you needed to play it before you “got it”? Look at the NFL and the game of football. If the scoring system and rules were more complex do you think the number of people would watch? Think about it in another way, what if there was no score even kept? All of these questions are to set your mind up for measuring field production in the construction industry. In my conversations with clients, the first response is that it cannot be done, period. Once I get past that roadblock then the next response is that it won’t work for “my” company.

The answer to both of the above mental barriers is YES it can be done and with ANY company.

To get started, the first thing to do as an owner is find a great people person who communicates well and is tech savvy. The rest of the skills can be taught. The other requirement is that you, the owner, must communicate with and support this person completely. All the employees must see your involvement and support to build trust in this new system.

Once you have the Process Owner (PO) in place, then start meeting with the estimators to define the measurements. If you are estimating with spreadsheets the job will be more difficult than if you are using a database driven estimating system. Either way, the point is to remember what we want to measure is going to start out much simpler then what the estimators tend to want. Think of this as a new game that we are teaching. The simpler the game the easier it is to learn. The simplicity also depends on the number of employees to be taught and the collective knowledge (intelligence) of them.

To start, have the estimators summarize the detailed labor tasks into very “broad” work codes. They will argue that the collected information will have no value because it includes too many types of work for a meaningful measurement. Remind them that the measurements are for the guys producing and to be patient because over time the collective knowledge will increase and the detail can become more complex. Below are some learned points when starting out;

  1. Every employee must record their own time tickets. (This is absolutely vital to the success because it will build trust and it allows for daily communication)
  2. An employee should never have to break their time to more than 3 work codes. (See example 1 the loss of accuracy increases with more)
  3. New companies starting the process should not have more then 40-50 work codes total and generally 10-15 on a job.
  4. Your accounting system is the source of the correct data, then add the un-posted time tickets and qualities completed to it and present live to each time users input or approval process.
  5. Use phases if the quantity or length of time the work code needs to be accomplished exceeds more than 15-30 days.

Refer to previous blogs on cost codes part 1 and part 2 for detailed clarification in determining the final work codes to start with.

T3 Cost Codes a Dayhe problem is defining how you are going to measure. Establishing the unit of measure you will use is difficult. The simplest way to determine this is to pick 5-6 of your best craftsmen and do a little brainstorming with them. What will it be based on?

  1. Square Foot
  2. Pounds
  3. Linear Feet
  4. Each
  5. Cubic Yards
  6. Gallons
  7. Squares
  8. Sheets
  9. Tons
  10. Etc…………….

The key is to just start with something. You can always change it if you determine a better unit. An example was a General Contractor was required to keep the floors clean during a yearlong project. They used Sq. Ft. and figured they would have to completely sweep the floor 3 times. The floor was 165,000 SF times 3 = 495,000 SF and they figured 2 laborers using a rented floor sweeper along with hand sweeping for the last 4 months of a yearlong project. 2 Laborers times 8 hours a day = 16 hours times 80 = 1,280

So the production rate would be 386.72 SF per manhour.

Or 495,000 SF /1,280 Manhours = 386.72

So we now have a way to see if we are ahead of the goal or behind and we can discuss the reasons why and make the necessary adjustments needed. Every day when each of the laborers enter their time, they see that goal and the square feet they completed will be reflected in the current production rate. If they are ahead or behind, they are talking about it and planning. If the goal is too high, everyone will see it and the estimators can make an adjustment. The more data you collect, the better the unit of measure is understood and fine-tuned. The communication takes planning to a new level. The above example is a very simple solution, every work code will require considerable thought as to the best unit of measure to use.

In closing, remember this is a journey that takes time. The selection of the person (PO) is also very critical. They need to fully understand and embrace the value the measuring system will bring and stay with it until it becomes a habit. Each year that passes the historical data gets more accurate and the process gets easier. Using technology to connect to your accounting data to present in real-time gives you the tool to make it become a reality!

Feel free to comment and add suggestions…..

Lee Clark
Lee Clark

As the CEO and co-founder of PayCrew, Lee Clark is passionate about the people in the field, because he understands the importance of trust between a company and its people. As a construction business owner, he saw first-hand how attracting and retaining skilled people form the foundation of a company’s success.

Lee has a passion for measuring daily performance in the construction industry and is also a regular contributor at Concrete Construction.