DEPARTMENTS


3 Strategies to Mow More Efficiently

By Rick Cuddihe


In today's fast moving and competitive business environment, maintenance service providers are challenged to deliver mowing services as efficiently as possible. In some cases this means doing jobs for less than you charged in previous years and still making a profit doing it. Property owners expect contractors to deliver services at the lowest possible cost, because they're also challenged to exceed past performance results in their own businesses. Strategic planning can you help meet this challenge and profitably manage your maintenance operation.

In other words, you must:

There are several important strategies you can use to improve your maintenance efficiency and productivity. Being known as the low cost service provider is not a bad thing these days. It means you're running an efficient operation and know how to get work done faster. Clients like doing business with companies that operate efficiently. Let's take a look at ways you can profitable be the low cost provider of mowing services.

1.) Analyze and Start Smart Planning

Review your maintenance operation, analyzing everything thing you do to perform mowing services. Streamline any process that is time consuming or complicated. Basically simplifying everything so your people can do their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Benchmark every process, starting with when and how crews report for work and get out on to jobs. Develop a time budget that tracks the time spent on everything from the start to finish of the workday. Be sure vehicles, trailers and equipment are ready before crews arrive.

Time spent in the yard or shop by crews in the morning, is time wasted and money lost. Equipment staging should be done so crews come to work and leave the yard within minutes of reporting to work. Use the time budget to log the current time crews come to work and leave for their jobs. Then begin finding ways to reduce that time and record how much time you've saved. You can't manage what you can't measure, so measure everything.

You can't push people to work harder, but you can help them accomplish more work by planning their work through smart planning. One area to look at is employees reporting to work on time. Identify and deal with employees who continually report a few minutes late to work. That costs the whole operation more than just the loss of the late employee's productivity. The cost multiplies when the rest of the crew waits even five minutes for a late arriving crewmember. Peer pressure will work in your favor when everyone understands how much this costs the company.

If traffic is an issue in your market, determine the best starting time to eliminate traffic-related delays. Managers and crew leaders should cooperate in getting the crews out of the yard sooner. Operations with branches should develop the same processes in all branches so everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. Develop a culture where managers, crew leaders and their crews understand the competitiveness of the new economy. Communicate with all employees how important operating efficiently and saving time is to your company, their careers and job security. Open communication with employees helps everyone understand why you're looking for better ways to manage the operation. This will have a positive effect on employees and their "buy in" is important to your success. Acknowledge employees who exceed expectations and accomplish more work.

2.) Organize Processes

After you've reviewed the operation and your time budget is accurately tracking time spent performing all functions, it's time to organize and implement changes or new processes that save time or reduce expenses. Executives and managers should work with crew leaders in streamlining everything and identifying new time saving procedures. Ask everyone to find wasted minutes in their area of responsibility.

Mowing performance is more than just cutting grass, by organizing and planning you'll find time savings that will increase efficiency. You can only increase mowing equipment speed so much, but you can reduce the time it takes for the crew to complete the job by organizing their work on job sites. Develop a time study that tracks the time it takes to complete each of your jobs.

By saving 10 minutes on a job that takes two hours for a crew to complete, you're saving more than just 10 minutes. A simple Excel spreadsheet can track job times, monitor progress and act like a scorecard showing how much time a crew has saved. This should be done first by managers, but ultimately the responsibility should fall to crew leaders because they're on the jobs and best positioned to find ways for their crews to produce more work in less time.

3.) Execute the Plan

Your equipment selection and how operators perform on the job can save job time or it can add waste time depending on how much attention you place on the importance of working efficiently. Be sure you're using the most appropriate and highest production equipment for your jobs. Always use the largest width cutting deck the job site will allow. A mower with a 61-inch cutting deck increases your production rate 23 percent over a 48-inch mower. Crews using a wide variety of mowers require larger trailers and loose efficiency by using smaller mowers than the job allows.

Arrange your job routing so crews can use the larger cutting decks on all their jobs, while other crews use smaller cutting decks on the jobs that limit access to larger machines. Review this now as you plan your schedules and routing for the spring season.

Mowing equipment has gotten faster, more maneuverable and productive over the last fiveyears. Evaluate your mowing fleet versus what's now available on the market, and you could find the increased productivity of the newer equipment will allow you to add jobs without adding crew members. Fleet productivity is an area that deserves attention. Test new equipment and your time study will show how much savings you can get by renewing your fleet.

Review crew size compared to what you used over the years and you may find that you can reduce some of your crew sizes. This could amount to an immediately labor saving that goes right to your bottom line.

Landscape maintenance is a service that contractor have been providing to clients for many years. Take a hard look at how you go about it and you will find ways to save time through efficiencies and that'll increase revenue and your profitability.

Rick Cuddihe, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, is president of Lafayette Consulting Co., owns a maintenance company and works with contractors to improve their businesses. He serves on PLANET's Landscape Management Specialty Group and is a PLANET Trailblazer. Contact Rick at rick@lafayetteconsulting.com or at .