Today’s workforce shortage has dominated the construction industry news this year more than ever before. The title of this article is a question that can easily relate to this shortage issue. So what is the correct answer to the question? If you are an owner that built the business from the ground up, you have a pretty good idea. The first condition to test is how much work can get done? Are there any conditions that would limit the quantity of work to complete that day? An example of this could be that we have 3,000 SF of sidewalks to do but because the brick mason is still completing their work they are blocking us from getting the full 3,000 SF completed and only 500 SF can be done. Other conditions may be trying to do more than is capable and risk quality. The weather can even be a contributing factor. On a construction project there are many limiting conditions that can affect our work on a daily basis. Many times I have seen Foreman/Superintendents want to maintain the same crew size because they are a team and the number on the team is not considered when planning work. This way of thinking can create profit robbing results.
The best solution in answering what is the correct crew size is by establishing a production measuring system. A production measuring system looks at all of the cost codes you use in your job costing system. Each one needs to have a unit of measure determined for it, such as square feet, linear feet, each, etc. On each of the jobs cost codes you will take the completed measurement and divide it by the total number of hours expended and this will give you the production RATE. If you do this exercise on every job the production rates will build in your history and can be used for future reference when bidding jobs. But the most powerful feature of establishing and benchmarking your production rates is to determine the answer to how many workers make up the right size crew. The graph below looks at the 3,000 sq. ft. of sidewalk needing to be completed from the example above;
In this example we used past jobs (in blue) to compare to when bidding the example job. We established a production rate (in orange) based on factual accomplished goals. We can even establish a Company goal (in green) that all crews can strive for.
The Foreman/Superintendent bought into the budgeted hours because they trust what numbers were used to establish the goal. Many times they realize that a lot of the numbers used were goals accomplished on jobs they completed. Once we have everyone understanding the units of measure of each cost code we can use the production rate to determine the correct crew size. The following table answers the question for the Foreman/Superintendent that has a brick mason holding him up and only allowing him to complete 500 Sq. Ft. for the day.
With the brick mason’s restriction on the work needing done, the best they can do will only allow for him to use a 5 or 6-man crew to get the 500 Sq. Ft. completed. If there are more men on his crew, he is looking for other work they can be profitable on and planning accordingly. In the past he would have scheduled all the men and not realizing the reason for the negative effect on his production rate. As you can see if this practice of production measuring is mastered then the profits that can be captured are enormous. What is even more incredible is at the end of the day every worker has a basic question answered for them, “How did I do today, Boss?”.
So to answer the question the correct number is based on the obtainable production rate based on job site conditions. Every day, every job is different and having a tool like this will help the team determine the most profitable approach in planning around these conditions.
Your comments are welcome!