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5 Major Job Site Time Wasters (And How To Avoid Them)

Grainger Editorial Staff

You’ve heard the saying “Time is money,” right? That phrase certainly applies to the job site. Time lost by your employees at job sites translates into actual costs to your business. By taking back that time, you cut business costs and boost the bottom line.

The trick is identifying the biggest time wasters and taking steps to rectify them.

Let’s look at five top factors that add unnecessary time to jobs, and what you can do to get workers back to work.

1. Failure to Plan

By some estimates, during a typical day on the job, a contractor’s crew spends only 65 percent of its time on a job doing installation. The other 35 percent is spent on tasks such as taking trips across the area, cleaning up, setting up, obtaining permits and looking over plans.

But there’s a way to increase the time your employees spend on installation itself: pre-planning. This will help avoid surprises that lead to costly solutions and construction delays.

Mapping a job in detail before actually kicking it off cuts time spent on activities such as studying plans, laying out the work again to get it right the second time and searching for the appropriate tools. The plan outlines how the job will get done, sets a schedule with incremental deadlines and analyzes costs. It includes a schedule for tasks such as becoming familiar with permit requirements for the job, and ensuring that those permits are in order, which reduces trips and slowdowns when the job is under way.

The pre-plan also accounts for how potential weather setbacks and hazardous materials will be dealt with; and includes a labor schedule, a method to track labor and a way to show how materials will be brought to the site, and disposed of from that site.

By building lead time into the project via planning, you can also shop around for, and compare prices on, materials and equipment.

Because the plan is intended to keep everyone involved with the project on track, make sure you’ve sent it to all the players early on, have communicated with them and have asked for their feedback (including whether they have changes to the plan). This will streamline processes and help the project to move along efficiently.

2. Searching for Tools

By some estimates, boosting job-site productivity through better tool management could cut project labor costs by 10 percent. That’s because workers spend time searching for the right tools or materials, leaving the job site for materials and learning how to use those tools.

To help realize a 10 percent cost savings, you’ll need to learn everything you can about the tools and rigs you’ll use on a job, as well as the procedures for using them.

For starters, you’ll want to:

  • Maximize tool investment by keeping track of tools and materials via an inventory, checking them in and out as you would at a library.
  • Instruct your workers in tool management and use before the job begins.
  • Equip a mobile machine shop, complete with generator, that can be set up and used onsite.
  • Rent tools and equipment from companies or other contractors.
  • Customize tool-storage facilities with schedule boards, technical sheets and books that instruct workers how to use the tools.
  • Create tool bins that can be off-loaded from the van or trailer used at the job site and wheeled to areas where the tools within the bins are used the most.
  • Use a flatbed truck equipped with a high-lift bed to deliver tools to the second (or higher) floor of a building.

3. Waiting to Work

Employees who are at the worksite but not working could be waiting for instructions on what to do. Or, they may be awaiting materials delivery — including gasoline to power a generator — or access to locked areas. Whatever the reason, they’re on the clock but not working. There’s an easy way to figure lost costs here: the hourly wage minus the downtime.

To keep waiting to a minimum, your leadership skills need to come into play.

You’ll need to provide clear direction to crew members about what they should do when work slowdowns occur. Tell them they will need to keep themselves busy and on the job when waiting for deliveries and the like.

Other things you can do:

  • Conduct a morning meeting with your employees to clarify who is doing what that day and how they’ll get it done.
  • Make contact information available. Post a laminated list of important telephone numbers in a key location. A crew member can call a delivery person, for example, if the delivery doesn’t arrive by a specified time.
  • Stage your job site at the end of each day to be sure it’s ready for the next day’s work. This minimizes setup time.
  • Track job performance. This keeps you on top of worker performance and encourages your employees to stay on task. You’ll also find areas where downtime can be minimized.

4. Injured Employees

Taking a proactive approach to safety will keep your workers safe, and the time spent recovering from accidents to a minimum.

Safety is also the number one way to reduce your workers’ compensation costs, both direct (insurance premiums) and indirect (cost of hiring, retraining, overtime and loss of productivity). Studies indicate that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers realize $3 to $10 in cost savings in both direct and indirect costs.

Here are a few ways to help avoid accidents on your job site:

  • Hold mandatory safety meetings at the start of each day (perhaps during the morning meeting). Discuss any expected changes to the job site, as well as any machinery to be used throughout the day.
  • Continue to give safe-handling reminders regarding machinery, materials and tool setup and operation.
  • Require everyone on the site to wear proper safety gear, including hard hats and eye protection. Ensure that those working on rooftops and scaffolding wear harnesses.
  • Make sure all workers take regular breaks to reduce the chance of accidents due to exhaustion.

5. Job Site in Disarray

This situation ties in with the other factors. Workplaces that aren’t kept clean and clear cause accidents and prevent workers from going where they need to be and working efficiently. To keep areas clear:

  • Be aware of waste-disposal regulations for the area, and make sure to contain waste in a central area and dispose of it on a regular basis.
  • Keep walking/working surfaces clear and clean.
  • Keep stairways, passageways and gangways free of materials, supplies and obstructions.
  • Hammer in, bend or remove any nails protruding from scrap lumber. Cap or bend all exposed steel rebar ends.
  • Clean up all spills and wet floor areas.
  • Keep all walking and working surfaces dry, and free of grease and oil.
  • Remove from the work area any items not being used, and store them in their proper places.
  • Keep lavatory and toilet facilities (stationary or portable) clean and sanitary, equipped with the necessary paper products and soap. Check and clean these areas twice a day.

By having the proper procedures in place and implementing them rigorously, you’ll keep time wasters to an absolute minimum and cut job costs accordingly.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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