Have you ever been called or sent to take over a job that feels like you just jumped on board of a sinking ship? One that is either losing money, behind schedule or has quality issues? Then you need to try these three easy steps to help get it back on track quickly!
Clean The Job
More often than not an un-organized, messy job is usually behind schedule or poor on quality. If you want an efficient job, it needs to be clean and organized. By cleaning up the job, it not only makes it easier for the crews to work in and around so they can be more efficient, but it also shows progress and change. When you’re trying to change a job this will help with immediate results by changing the environment they work in from a messy, unsafe area to an area clear and free of materials and debris.
Supply Crews with the necessary: Materials, Tools, Equipment and Long Lead Items.
There is nothing more frustrating for a crew than to be waiting on information, tools, equipment or materials. The whole objective of a supervisor is to ensure all of this is taken care of before they even start work, clear a path for your crew to be successful. So don’t just look at the immediate needs, start looking ahead. Create a schedule with materials, tools and equipment needs for the activities. This will help ensure there will not be any hold ups.
Give them a reasonable objective to hit. If your behind and try giving them un-reachable goals, it will only add to the hate and discontent they have now. Start off with a couple of goals you know they can hit. Build up their confidence, then, start pushing once confidence is achieved. After that they will welcome a challenge and looking forward to what they can achieve now.
There could be many reasons a job starts going south, in order to fix the problem you need to first identify and remove the problem: this could be the wrong supervisor or foreman on the job or it could be a problem with the sequencing and logistics. Whatever it is, once you identify the problem and remove the cause, it is your responsibility to find a solution to get it back on track. The three listed above are just some general items to help you get the job organized.
Talk to the crews, contractors and sub contractors and get their opinion of why the job has not been performing like it should. Remember any feedback you receive can only help you identify the real problem so you can correct it.
Here are three steps to help you be successful with your next task.
Start with Planning:
Last but not least is to review.
This is how we become successful.
Have you ever had to make a tough decision, one that could be life changing? I'm sure we have all been there. I have recently had to make a tough decision, and if there is one thing I learned it's don't overthink or second guess your final decision. You can take your time, break it down, pull a spreadsheet, and make sure you are covered. When you come up with a decision you feel confident about, go for it! Don't second guess yourself as it will only make it more stressful and confusing. I mean, in construction we make tough decisions all the time. In fact we make decisions where if we make the wrong one, it could be a loss of thousands and thousands of dollars or worse, a major safety incident. So, I started thinking even though this is a life changing event, it's no different than some of the decisions I make at work. I asked myself, how do I make tough decisions at work?
First: Break it all down, go through: risk vs. reward, cost analysis, schedule impacts, steps, etc.
Second: Having a plan B or backup plan is essential. (even though you always plan for success and not failure).
Third: Make a decision and be willing to stick with it if you truly believe it's the right one. You will do whatever it takes to make it successful.
Why wasn't I able to do the same with my current decision? One of the things that affected my decision was all the personal factors causing changes to my original decision. In turn, led to frustration, stress and uncertainty.
So a lessons learned for me is yes, it's ok to change your mind. However, once you have decided, don't second guess yourself. Instead embrace, enjoy and run with it. The decision might not be easy, but in the end, it's your decision.
How important is organization on your job site? Have you ever thought about what it costs to be unorganized? Most all of us could use some improvement in this area. More jobs than not are in some serious need of organization. However, it doesn't stop there. Not only should a job be clean and organized, but efficient as well. I mean, what good is it to hurry and strip footings and place them in nice neat stacks where a crane or forklift can't get to them until after the backfill is complete. Sometimes it's a simple as stacking the material on one side or the other of a footing that can make all the difference.
Take a look at the pictures below, If this was your job what would you change? Are there any you feel you wouldn't change?
Just some things to look for:
Do work areas look ready
Are there too many or not enough people working in the work areas
This is a broad subject, it could be anything from logistics of the job to paperwork on your desk. Each area of organization could be costing your job money, if it takes you an extra 5 minutes to find the drawings you need then another 5 extra minutes to find paperwork for one of your crew members. That time can add up and is completely preventable! It might sound like much to worry about, but think about the whole jobs wasted time. If your logistics aren't planned out and organized we start talking about real money wasted. The construction industry as a whole wastes millions in double handling materials.
How well organized are your crews with tools and materials? It might be time to re-think the job logistics.
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.
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.
Moving into a new role as a Supervisor, or switching companies can be overwhelming. There is always that feeling of needing to “prove yourself” when entering unfamiliar territory, which can hamper your productivity by adding unnecessary pressure on yourself. We all know that we are the most effective only after we find our comfort zone and routine. We are going to look at how to hit the ground running and hit full efficiency as quickly as possible. Here is a checklist of the first things to look at when facing a new job as a Supervisor.
• Get to know the team – Who are the key players and contacts? Every leader has a right hand man, it shouldn't take long to find yours. Relationship building is key at any transitional period of your career; don't be afraid to show your human side. First impressions are hard to change, so think about how you want to be thought of during your first interactions with your new team.
• Know strengths and weaknesses for yourself and of your team – Play to everyone’s strengths, if someone on your team is better than you at some particular part of the job let them run with it. Don’t think you can do it all yourself; we all need help with some parts of the job. This will also help build the team, showing trust and delegating only helps show your leadership abilities.
• Scope – You need full comprehension of schedule and budgets. This should be on top of your priority list. The faster you have this understood the faster and more accurate your upfront planning will be. Find the holes in both, are they realistic? How much manpower will you need etc.
• Clear understanding of responsibilities - Make a list of all of the duties associated with the supervision and delegate them appropriately. This should be done in a formal meeting with all of the Supervisors, so there no confusion as to who is responsible for what.
These are a list of steps to take to fit into your new role as painlessly as possible, but every job is obviously different. The faster you hit your stride, the better off your crew and the job will be. Remember there is a reason you are the Supervisor, don't become intimidated with your new situation and focus your efforts on the most important parts of your duties early.
Successor: thing that succeeds another
Predecessor: a thing that has been followed or replaced by another.
So, every project schedule has a successor and a predecessor. The goal is to have every activity in sync with the next, avoiding any gaps. Think of it like dominos lined up in a figure 8. The whole goal is to start one domino knocking the next continuously until they are all down. However, if there is one domino that misses or comes up short, it will disrupt the flow. They did not all go down in sync, therefore, no “domino effect”. Now it might be ok if it just happened once, but what if it took ten attempts to knock them all down. Well anyone that has ever set up dominos would set them up right the next time to make sure they all go down in one shot. Superintendents and foreman are the ones who set up the task and activities to start and finish on time. If you’re well planned out and organized, you will have all your dominos lined up and ready to go.
Here are some examples of how this can be achieved.
Planning and thinking through every process can help you mitigate any potential delay’s, cut out unnecessary steps and set you and your crew up to succeed.
Everything doesn’t go as planned 100% of the time, but if you have a good plan and follow through you will be miles ahead of those who don’t.
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