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The 6 Pillars of Productivity

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Business Advice

Maintaining a high-level of jobsite productivity is one of the most important activities for any foreman, crew leader, or project manager. By using the Six pillars of productivity, the productivity and profitability levels of any landscape crew, on every type of landscape project – maintenance or construction can be increased. 

Six Pillars of Productivity Summary

Maintaining a high-level of jobsite productivity is one of the most important activities for any foreman, crew leader, or project manager. By using the Six pillars of productivity, the productivity and profitability levels of any landscape crew, on every type of landscape project – maintenance or construction can be increased. 

When production rates drop on a landscape jobsite, money is lost, and often cannot be recovered. On the other hand, when production rates are monitored closely, and improved upon constantly, profits are earned and a company will gain a competitive advantage. How can jobsite productivity be enhanced? One way is by utilizing the six pillars of productivity.

Increasing the productivity of a crew breaks down into six key areas: materials, tools and equipment, planning, goals, and communication. How well you execute and provide clear direction relating to all Six of these pillars will determine the overall productivity of your crew. The systems you set up in your company to guarantee these six areas are managed effectively will determine the success or failure of your company.  Without these areas under control the waste will consume all of the potential profits.

Defining the Six Pillars

1. Materials – This is priority number one on construction projects, but luckily, materials are also relatively easy to manage and set up systems for since we need to understand what material is required well in advance of the project during the estimating phase. If the crews do not have materials, they cannot install anything. Making sure all materials are on the jobsite and that they are getting to the work areas for the crews to install in an efficient manner are what should be focused on. 

2. Tools and Equipment – This is a simple enough concept, since no tools equals no production and the wrong tools equal low production. This is not a place any landscape crew wants to find themselves! Therefore, ascertain that the crews have all the tools they need and that the tools are easily accessible. Do a quick analysis to see if the higher cost of the tool will offset the savings in labor. Ensure that the Foreman has the opportunity to review the project in the estimating phase to be sure the right tools are built into the plan in advance.  

3. Planning – If people have materials and tools, then the only thing they need to get started with the work at hand is the plan about what, where, and how they will be doing the actual work. This is the area where pre-planning comes in as a critical tool. You will never be able to achieve 100 percent in this area, which is why you need to be constantly working on improving what information you have, and how you communicate it to the crews.  Using an estimating program that includes project planning process allows the plan to be effectively distributed to everybody involved in the project is the easiest way to ensure that planning is developed accurately.  Using a project planning system that ensures all of the required information is gathered and communicated to the crew in a repeatable manner will create opportunities to increase productivity that most companies do not achieve. 

4. Goals – If your crew has the proper materials, tools, and information, you might wonder what’s left. Adding in goals can improve production by 10 percent or more on a consistent basis, so this pillar should not be overlooked. Don’t underestimate the power of setting goals for the crew on a daily and weekly basis. Look at linking production rewards to meeting certain production goals throughout the entire work process. For example, if an activity is budgeted to take a crew six days of work, they have a much better chance of completing it in the budgeted timeframe if they are provided with the actual budget to measure themselves, they will know that if the work takes seven days they were over budget and need to make up a day in the weeks coming, crews begin to think of themselves like athletes with a plus or minus average. You will be amazed at how often they will manage to complete the work on time once they understand the goal.  We are measured and scored from the time we are children at school and in sports and activities, why stop in the workplace? People thrive on success, how can they improve if they can measure their success? By designing transparent compensation and bonus packages that are directly linked to the actual production result of a crew, a trust develops between the ownership and the field workers and the company culture becomes more entrepreneurial and people begin to differentiate themselves according to their actual capabilities.

5. Communication – Ensure the lines of communication are open at all times. The need to communicate project changes and deviations from plan from the field to the office is paramount. Ensure that your people have access to additional information and assistance without delay. Waiting for days to obtain required information is certainly the most common form of waste in this industry. Creating a simple but effective paperwork process ensures the field operations and office activities are aligned perfectly to ensure billing is accurate, cash flow is managed effectively, and job costing is accurate. Using technology to ensure this communication happens quickly is the key to your success.

6. Technology – The right investments in technology can make remarkable improvements in your company’s production rates. When you automate a task using technology, you improve the speed and accuracy of the task. Technology empowers people to do more in less time – sometimes making the impossible possible. Let’s examine a few examples of technology that make big improvements in productivity:

  • Smart Phones/Blackberrys – You cannot underestimate the value of instant communication with your crews. Smart Phones/Blackberrys enable direct communication at any time during the day – helping to prevent mistakes or make changes on-the-fly. Emails make communication to groups quick and effective – helping to send out instructions to a wide group of individuals in seconds.
  • Automated Time Keeping – Implementing automated time keeping will not only save hours generating payroll, but will save you labor costs!  We’ve met many companies who’ve experienced a 20% reduction in labor by switching to an automated payroll system that pays by-the-minute (no rounding up to the nearest half hour!)
  • GPS Tracking + Dispatching – Know where your fleet is at all times. You can use GPS to better route and dispatch your trucks, but your customers will appreciate the accountability and accuracy of GPS reporting, enabling you to offer a better, premium service when compared to your competitors.
  • Business Management Software – From CRM (customer relationship management) software through estimating and accounting, software empowers you do more office work, more accurately, with less people. With software, owners have instant access to information and reports that would be otherwise unavailable using a human-based system.

Good jobsite productivity really is that simple! There is no reason to make it more complicated. Every project management process in your company, every activity that you do every day relating to project execution should be able to be categorized into one of these six pillars. If they aren’t, you need to ask yourself whether it is really necessary. If you are weak in any of these areas, you know where to focus!

Remember that good productivity means a competitive advantage, more work, good profitability, and more opportunities for everyone in the company. It’s a win/win situation! 

Mark Bradley

 “If I had two hours to chop down a tree I’d spend the first hour sharpening the ax”

– Abraham Lincoln

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