Hopefully you are noticing a reoccurring theme with a lot of the Constructorator blog posts, we can’t stress enough the importance of the planning portion of your job. As a supervisor it’s your responsibility to plan for all activities your crew will be performing and your crew is responsible for executing the plan.
I am not trying to sound like a broken record, but it’s the most important part that gets overlook the most often. The continuous planning is the first task to be neglected when we are feeling pressure either from schedule challenges or overrunning budgets. We feel the need to “jump in and help” or we just get caught up in moving from one fire to the next.
The first step always is to create the plan - schedule, manpower, materials, logistics. That part takes some serious effort, but if you slack off on your planning you will pay the price later. After you plan the work it's time to execute and maintain the plan. The continuous planning and plan maintenance are often not given the attention needed. We all know that in construction with so many moving parts and prerequisite work that needs to be completed before the next trade can start, we need to be flexible. This means we need contingency in our planning, nothing will ever go exactly as planned we need to be ready for a breakdown in the plan and react to it accordingly. You should always be adjusting the plan, don't let the hard work of creating the plan go to waste when a hiccup occurs.
I have a lot of carpenter's asking me how much time and men do they have to complete a certain task. So in this week's blog post we want to look at starting simple to figure how many men and how many hours for a certain task. Take an activity like spot footings, in the picture below there are twelve spot footings highlighted that we are going to use as an example today.
First, find the estimated/budgeted Man Hours for spot footings. (460man-hours)
Next, schedule duration for this activity, in this example there is 7 working days to complete the spot footing activity.
Now, take man-hours and divide by days - 460/7= 65
So you have 65 man-hours a day for a seven day duration to complete the footings.
Then you want to determine your crew size based of your daily man-hours
First take the daily hours 65 and divide by the crew size you would like to have, let's try 10 men. 65/10=6.5 if you have ten guys to stay in budget you could only work on spot footings for 6.5 hours a day, if you have 10 men for 8 hours a day for 7 days.- your total man-hours would be 560 (100 hours over budget)
Let's try a crew size of 8.
65/8.1= 8 so you could have a crew of 8 for eight hours a day for seven days- your total man-hours would be 448 (12 hours under budget).
There are many factors that come into play when determining crew size and it's easy to get over-whelmed. You have to break apart each task, understand the job flow, sequencing and schedule. But if you start with one task and work all the way through it then move to the next task and so forth, you start to create the data needed for an average crew. Maybe you only need 8 on spot footings but 10 on walls and four on columns, after you know your crew size you can double back to the schedule and see if the sequencing works out where you can get away with a crew size of 14 because of all the trade work or down time in-between activities or on pour days. The more you practice the easier it becomes.
The important part is that you learn and understand hours/cost on every activity you are part of, and it's never to late to start. In the case that you are not shown the budget or hours by your Foreman or Supervisor click here for a MH/Unit form that you can start tracking yourself. You want to become great at what you do, so empower yourself to learn, grow and excel above those who don't want to share the information.
What does the word empathy mean to you? Do you associate it with weakness? In the construction industry we tend to be "tough guys", or at least pretend to be. Empathy is the last thing on most of our minds during the work day, but what if it wasn't?
The simple definition of empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else's feelings. How on earth could this help a construction worker? Think about it, how many times a day do we find ourselves dealing with others in a one on one conversation? Have you ever stopped to think about how you are being perceived? How do you make others feel when you speak to them?
If you want the most out of your people you should strive to build them up not tear them down. How do you treat people, do you speak down to them or as equals? Remember we are all fighting the same enemy(budget and schedule), you are on the same team. The next time you have a conversation about re-work, slipping schedule, or any other topic that could cause you to get heated think about how you're coming across to the other person and what will the outcome be? It is perfectly fine to show emotion and to be upset, but how can your reaction help the situation? Can you learn from it, can you teach from it?
After all the effort you put into the planning and sequencing, you put the plan into action and somehow the execution falls apart because something was out of sequence. Time, money and manpower was wasted because of a break in the link. If you’re a new foreman don’t overlook or dismiss it calling it, saying “that’s construction”, if you want to learn and grow get to the root of a problem by asking “WHY”.
For example, let's say you had a concrete pour that went ok, ask yourself:
Why was it just ok?
It took longer to pour out, then expected.
Why did it take longer than expected?
Because the finishers got behind; it took them a while to get the concrete placed.
Why were the finishers getting behind?
They concrete was stiff on the last half.
Because the trucks were starting to back up and the concrete was getting old.
Because we were still working on the slab prep (rebar placement, recess areas etc..) in the morning, while the pour was going on, which caused the finishers to wait on us at times.
Why were you still working on slab prep?
Because the area was not turned over until 3:00pm the night before.
Why was the area turned over late?
Because the dirt contractor was behind schedule.
Why were they behind schedule?
because he did not show up on Tuesday.
Why did they not show up, did someone forget to call them?
No, they were scheduled but decided another job was more important.
So after they were a no show what decisions were made as far as schedule and the pour date?
We had to make the pour, so we waited for them to show up the next day and went back to normal, just trying to get it done.
By asking “WHY” you can see that the pour production was subpar.
Because the finishers were not able to get the slab placed quickly with fresh concrete they had to work twice as hard to lay it down, because the carpenter crews were still placing rebar and fine grading the gravel, because the area was not turned over to them as scheduled because the dirt contractor did not finish on time because they were not on-site on the day they were supposed to begin the prep. So you can see one missed step cause a chain reaction of events to which caused the un-productive slab pour. If we focus on the problem at the first or second why we will never get to the route cause and will learn only half of our mistake. The problem is decisions not being made right then, whether it's changing sequence of flow (maybe focusing on one area, a certain section so that one half was completely ready for the finishers when they show up, instead of nothing being ready and work needing to be done in all areas).
Once a schedule disruption happens, an action item needs to be implemented.
It's like concrete trucks stacking during a big slab pour, you're trying to hurry and pump old, dry concrete before time expires. However, this will cause a chain reaction with stacked trucks behind the one currently being placed, whereas if you remove one of the old trucks from the lineup the next truck will be fresher with more time to place out and so forth down the line.
Flow is what we are trying to achieve to be productive. Every time there's a delay, well this disrupts the flow. So asking why allows us to find and get to the root of the problem. Why is a powerful word if asked continually it will only help you learn and grow.
In the last blog post we talked about how to hit the ground running in a new supervisory role. I thought in this post we would dive a little deeper into a couple of the points we made.
It obviously starts with getting to know the team, but how much effort do you really put into this task? If you’re anything like me it’s easier said than done. I’m a bit of an introvert, so it takes me more effort than probably most people to really get to know the rest of the team. You should be looking to build relationships right off the bat, the quicker you gain trust in others and visa verse the more effective the team will be. Be sure to get to know the whole team, not just your superiors but also your subordinates. Depending on your role you should also look to build relationships with your vendors and suppliers. It is during this process of building relationships that you should be getting a good sense of strengths and weaknesses.
When thinking about our own strengths and weaknesses we really need to be completely honest with ourselves. We all know it’s almost a prerequisite in the construction industry to have an Alpha personality type, but don’t confuse confidence with a character flaw of being overly prideful. If we can’t admit we need help with anything we are destine for failure. We aren’t building alone, everyone one your team has something to offer. We as supervisors need to find out what that is to make sure we have the right people doing the right jobs, and that we have the support needed to overcome our own weaknesses. I have seen this over and over again, the supervisor who "knows it all", the guy who has the my way or the highway attitude. In this day and age that management style just doesn't work anymore. We also need our team to be open to constructive criticisms and weak spots in their fabric. Maybe you have a good communicator who isn't the best planner, if you pair them up with a good planner who isn't the best communicator you will have a stronger team. Just remember it all starts with honesty.
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