DEPARTMENTS


Tame Your Morning Circus

By Rick Cuddihe


Sometimes it seems like what happens in the morning at contractors' yards is similar to a circus. At the circus, there's never a dull moment and things are happening everywhere. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey may be the "Greatest Show on Earth," but the confusion getting landscape crews out to jobs in the morning is certainly a close second.

Obviously, your company shop is not the place for a circus even if you think your company is the "Greatest Show on Turf." (Apologies, I couldn't resist that.) The fact is that your crews should report to work and leave for jobs within minutes, but there is something you learn from the circus.

For example, I've always been impressed with how efficiently a circus gets set up and ready to go. It's really something to see. The circus train arrives in town late at night and by early the next morning the entire three-ring show is ready to go.

Why minutes matter

In the green industry, a three-man crew waiting an extra 10 minutes for equipment issues, instructions or the late arrival of a crew member adds 30 minutes of unproductive expense. If it happens repeatedly or often, the minutes turn into hours. This expense can never be recouped and if it's happening at your operations, it's a wasted expense that needs to be eliminated. Planning and implementing a system that enables crews to report to work and get out to jobs faster is good business.

Show time

5 Circus Stoppers

1. Look for minutes in the morning
2. Plan your show time to save time
3. Consider a staggered shift system
4. Keep track on a scorecard
5. Every minute squandered reduces revenue & profit
Show time is the time your employees report to work. It be should be a fast-moving event. Too often that's not the case. Getting everybody and all of their equipment ready to go and out the door promptly each morning requires planning and organization.

Crew leaders should be responsible for ensuring the crew's equipment, vehicles and trailers are ready when the crews report to work. This is where minutes are lost and costs mount up. Challenge crew leaders to reduce the time crews spend in the yard by assigning them specific directions to have the equipment and vehicles ready to leave within minutes.

Staggered shift

"We recently developed job descriptions for all employees. In their job descriptions, supervisors are responsible for insuring that crew vehicles, trailers and equipment are ready when the crews arrive each morning," says John Steele, owner of Steele Blades Landscape, Louisville, Ky.

John Steele, left, owner of Steele Blades, Inc., Louisville, Ky.,
and Business Development Manager Alex Fransen say that
staggering morning arrival times reduces the chaos of getting
crews on the road.

John Steele, left, owner of Steele Blades, Inc., Louisville, Ky., and Business Development Manager Alex Fransen say that staggering morning arrival times reduces the chaos of getting crews on the road.
PHOTO BY RON HALL.

Adds Alex Fransen, Steel Blades general manager, "Crews report to work in staggered shifts, with mowing crews arriving first and leaving before 7 a.m. Landscape, irrigation and lawn care crews arrive at 7 a.m. and leave shortly afterward."

Steele and Fransen agree that the staggered shift process has reduced the amount of time that crews spend in the yard each morning and gets them get out to their jobs sooner. "Our shop foreman is responsible for preventative maintenance, servicing and refueling his fleets, and supervisors coordinate all technical issues with the shop foreman," says Steele.

Keep a scorecard

A time study process is simple. It gives crew leaders a scorecard that they can follow to track their progress and the amount of time saved. The initial instructions and implementation is the responsibility of senior managers. This includes developing and maintaining a process to service equipment and vehicles so that everything is ready for the crews when they arrive. Some contractors have technicians service everything the night before.

A couple of other time-savers you might consider include streamlining the system you use to clock in your employees each morning. Electronic time systems save time in the morning and also reduce payroll administrative expense. Also, evaluate your parking area and yard layout because minutes are lost if there's a traffic jam coming in and the leaving the yard every morning.

Every minute saved is a revenue- producing opportunity, and in today's competitive business environment contractors must look for every opportunity to save time. Track the time your crews spend before leaving for jobs. If you develop a good, easy-to-follow system you will find there's no need for anybody to rush. But, you'll also find your crews are doing a bit more production every day, and, multiplied over weeks and months, it adds up to significant revenue.

Takes steps to eliminate your morning circus. You can't afford it.

Rick Cuddihe is president of Lafayette Consulting Co., a PLANET Trailblazer, and he works with landscape contractors to improve their businesses. Contact him at rick@lafayetteconsulting.com.