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.
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.
Everyone wants a safe job, they also want to bring value to what they’re doing, in short they want to be productive.
So why wouldn’t all jobs be set up for safe productivity?
The two factors that would play part for having an unsafe and an unproductive job; cost and too much time. We hear it all the time “We don’t have time” “We don’t have money for that”.
So let’s start with money.
What is the cost of an extra ladder, barricades, trench box?
And what’s the cost of an accident, injury or even fatality?
How about time.
How long does it take?
Most of these can be done within a couple minutes, where we lose time is not planning for it so everyone thinks safety takes a lot of time for example, everyone goes up to the third floor after their morning meeting yet none of them take a retractable for a certain task that needs to be done. So once they all reach the third floor and realize they need a retractable they call on the radio and ask someone to bring it up, so now we have a whole crew broke down waiting for a retractable.
Another example let’s say your decking a slab and you get right up to the only access off the deck, if you would have planned ahead, you could have had someone put up a secondary access while you were decking and when you came to the point of needing the ladder moved so you could continue on it would have been done, instead you get right up to the ladder call on the radio and wait for someone to put up a secondary access so you can continue work. This happens all the time, I know, I know, but we are staying busy while they were working on moving the ladders, the problem is you were busy, but you were not productive. If you continued decking without waiting on access you would have been decked out today, instead you will finish tomorrow. But, you helped get the edge form guys caught up while you were waiting, now they are waiting on you to finish decking.
If you have a safe job more than likely you will have a productive job, one with clean work areas, proper access, lighting, tools and equipment.
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.
How many questions a day do you answer?
A Foreman’s responsibility is to answer questions, however, you could be answering more than needed. If you are doing nothing but answering questions all day long, either you’re a Foreman who needs to know all the answers therefore everyone comes to him for everything. Or you’re the nice guy, you know the one who does everything for everyone with a smile.
So how do you know if you are getting asked too many questions a day?
Tomorrow take note of every question you are asked, yes by the end of the day your list might be 10 pages long, it might be only half a page, but it’s data you need to see.
Next as you go through each question you were asked check it with a #1 (this is something you need to be asked), #2 (if someone else could answer it) and #3 (if the person asking the question could’ve resolved himself).
Let’s use some examples of a #1, #2 and #3 question below.
Q: Can we move a temperature PT Cable 1’ to the north- it interferes with an embed?
A number one is worth your time, it deals with a change to the contract documents and has a significant impact on the job, production and design.
Q: I need someone to help me with placing the form oil in the containment bin?
A number two could be avoided by the person asking the question to ask a fellow worker instead.
Q: Do we have saw blades?
A number one could be answered by himself if he knows the location of the tool trailer, gang box or wherever the saw blades are stored.
If you are continuously answering the #2 & #3 look at the overall planning and communication being done.
A number two can be avoided with planning; pre planning deliveries, order list, etc.
If your open to teamwork and set the expectation that we are all here to help when needed, then this one shouldn’t be a problem. But, if you’re over controlling then you will always be answering a number two question.
A number three can be avoided with a simple morning huddle meeting. Walking everyone through the site logistics, material, equipment and tools where they are stored and the procedure to note when something is low or needed. If everyone knows the storage locations and protocol for ordering this will save you a #3 question.
If you can limit yourself to number one questions only you’re managing and leading your team well. We can all improve and this is might seem small but time management is critical for your growth, you don’t want to get overwhelmed and you want to manage your time as efficiently as possible. Everyone wants to help, but, if you’re spending most of your day tracking down tools or materials leaving you with less time to focus on what you should be focusing on which is to run a safe and productive job.
With so many new and exciting technologies for the construction industry It’s easy to get overwhelmed and seems like every time you turn around there is someone saying- hey have you heard about (___) or what we need is (___). So, how do you know which ones are right for you? It starts with questioning every process trying to finding the ones that are time consuming, costly or use excessive manpower. For me it has always been as-built’s, they should always be done, but typically never get done. Why? It’s time consuming or difficult due to jobsite conditions (material, height of floor to floor, lack of manpower) there could be numerous reasons as-builds don’t get done. Yet, what is the cost for repairs if they don’t get done. As-built’s tell the story of what happens before and after loading of the deck; did the camber come out as expected or not. If as-built’s are not done and don’t get noticed until the finish stages of the project where its almost impossible to go back and shoot the top and bottom to see who’s at fault, not to mention floor patching or grinding around finishes, it get’s costly. This is where new technologies come into play, so what if you could create as-built’s as well as FF/FL testing, with apps like Rithm, Scene, (https://rithm.io/ ) and a Farro scanner you can. Yes, it’s an investment with cost. So, if you only pour decks on a couple of jobs a year then it wouldn’t make sense to buy a scanner and the software, however if pouring slabs is your bread and butter than it would definitely be worth while. With so many new technologies out you don’t have to go crazy and buy every new at the same time don’t let the game changers slip past you.
January 2015 Spotlight: Dan Lebeda
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