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Getting Lean and Mean Part I: Clearing the Clutter

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Business Advice

We all know clutter is one of the biggest contributors to poor production and wasted time. And, despite our insistence that clutter is really just “organized chaos,” we really aren’t fooling anybody. The fact of the matter is: poor production and wasted time do not a successful, thriving business make.

If a task can be completed in less time and with less effort, but you put off the clean-up process that will allow such to happen, then you are doing a huge disservice to your company and your customers. One of the main problems with clutter is its magical ability to make every minute task take that much longer. And, the longer it takes to complete something, the more valuable time you and your employees are wasting.

Basically, those papers scattered all over your desk and those tools and parts sprawled all over your shop and trailers are joining forces to take down your company’s efficiency and productivity. Eliminating all the unnecessary items from your office, shop, yard, job sites and other work-related areas will allow for faster, safer and higher quality work.

Here’s how to fight back and clear the clutter:

In the Office:

Why is it especially hard to throw things out in the office? We often keep loose papers, files, faxes, mail flyers, whatever lying around because we think it will have some meaningful purpose in the future. But, in all practicality, it’s just accumulated debris.

First, plan an actual time to deal with the clutter. Whether it’s a full day or even just an hour every other day, allot a specific time to clean up the mess and follow through. Then, during your set “clean-up time,” sort through your current projects and make sure they are organized in clearly labeled folders. Make sure all your staff, vendor, and equipment files are updated too.

While it is likely that those loose papers hanging around your workspace are meant for the trash, go through them anyway. File the papers you do need. And, while you’re at your filing cabinet, go through it and discard anything outdated. Just make sure you shred papers with confidential information.

Now is also a good time, if you don’t have a spot already, to designate an “archive area” (such as a lower file drawer or storage room) for your legal documentations and other important items that you don’t refer to regularly, but still need to keep on hand.

After you finish clearing the clutter, implement a “regular filing schedule” into your work regimen to keep your office consistently organized and to keep your valuable time well spent. 

In the Shop, Trucks, + Trailers:

Just as you did for your office, set aside time to clean and organize your shops, trucks and trailers.

Go through the shop, yard or trailer and tag all items that are rarely used. Once you have tagged each item, go through these items and actually get rid of the things that are no longer useful and are therefore hampering your productivity. No sentimental feeling – clutter is waste. And, if it’s waste, it goes!

Holding your crew accountable with labels:

By Labelling all your items and tools, everyone is accountable to the same system. Without labels, people always have an excuse as to why they didn’t properly follow through with a procedure. With everything labelled, there’s nowhere for your crew to hide – they’re either following the system or intentionally ignoring it. Accountability makes people pay attention and follow the system.

Label all items and tools and find a proper home for them (i.e. not on the floor) in easy reach. Likewise, assign storage space for bulk materials (like salt, topsoil, etc) that are of value, but not used as frequently or in such large amounts. Label the storage area so your employees know where each item belongs. Make sure this storage area is out of the way, but easy to access.

For larger items, which actually need to be kept on the floor, paint coloured boxes (an example might be: blue for repair items, red for loading items) to represent the types of materials that will be held there. Just ensure your employees get the memo. Ask yourself these questions: (1) What exact items do we need for a job? (2) What is the best location for these items? (3) How many of each item do we need? And organize your workspace accordingly.

While it may seem time consuming, removing the clutter from your workspace will ensure efficient, safer and more productive work. Bottom-line: the time spent getting organized now more than makes up for the time you would have been spent had you not of.

On the Jobsite

Image is everything when you are completing a project for a customer so keep your site organized and clean.

Neat and clean produces the “illusion of control.” You want your customers to see that your crews are in control of the site, the materials, and the work. Thus, organize your materials and equipment accordingly. Ensure such items are setup onsite so that they can be used efficiently and productively. By staging your materials and equipment accurately, your crew will spend less time moving materials and more time getting the job done – not to mention, neat and organized job sites are much safer! Also, keep in mind that organized job sites are like living, breathing, ‘advertisements’ to your customers’ neighbours. One job done right is worth 100 ads so make your work count!

Landscape Management Network is a collection of systems, tools, and training to help great contractors build and manage great businesses. Visit the LMN website.

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