You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it. Gut feelings and intuition are often cited when leaders are asked to provide insight into their past successes, but that very often boils down to good luck and being in the right place at the right time.
When I worked in the roadbuilding industry, if anyone had asked me how many tonnes of hot mix we laid or how many meters of curb the crew poured that day and I didn’t know the answer, it would have been the end of me. You lived and died by matching the actual production to what was in the bid. You did it everyday and you did it with paper and a calculator. (an upgrade from chisel and stone tablet)
There are no excuses for failing to collect and analyze every bit of production data relevant to your business, with the power of the computers and software that exists today. This kind of data is considered proprietary information, and companies in other industries gather and guard it like it is gold. And it is. Many in the construction industry seem to be content with letting it flow down the stream. It has to be panned.
While there are numerous industry sources available to provide endless production data based on a huge variety of averages and conditions, none of this data is your own. Nothing can equal real data derived from your own unique set of variables. All it takes is the discipline to collect it, store it and manage it. Every day.
The very act of having to report daily production data will have a positive effect—nobody wants to be outdone. If a foreman is not able to meet the production put forward, he will also be the first to point out the reasons why.
The funny thing is, the measurements are likely already being taken and the data is being collected—it just isn’t being stored. Any foreman worth his salt starts his day knowing what his goal is. Whether it is pipe in the ground, concrete curb or sidewalk or electrical conduit in a plant, the foreman charged with running a crew will know what the bid allowed, in one form or another. He or she will even know, just by looking at it, whether the number is achievable or is just another pie-in-the-sky number cooked up by the estimating department. If your company does not require that foreman to record the production data he is already collecting, then those numbers from estimating will never reflect your reality.
It is no longer enough to pick the odd job and do some research to get a feel for how things are going. Hard data collected in an organized and systematic manner with ongoing and persistent effort is the only way to produce historical data of value.
Value is what you will get. The very act of having to report daily production data will have a positive effect—nobody wants to be outdone. If a foreman is not able to meet the production put forward, he will also be the first to point out the reasons why. Problem employees will not be able to fly below the radar as easily and no crew will tolerate them if it shows up as poor production. Issues that consistently result in delays will come to light and allow solutions to be found: again, if a crew can’t produce due to a material-delivery issue, you will hear about it when they are required to put it on their daily report. I’m not suggesting that your estimating department should necessarily be bidding based solely on the production data reported by your crews. I have heard it all before: “If we bid based on those slowpokes, we’d never get any work!” Without historical data, though, it is difficult to call those slowpokes up on the carpet and find out what needs to be done to improve. The opposite is true as well; those slowpokes can demand adjustments by estimating when the pie-in-the-sky numbers are proven to be just that. By measuring production, both good and poor performance can be dealt with; encourage the good and explore the cause of the poor.
One common argument is that there is so much paperwork now that the guys spend all day behind a desk and can’t get any work done. This is the new reality. This industry is no longer being conducted on the backs of cigarette packages and jobsites need to be staffed accordingly. The cost of project administration is easily offset with the gains made in having up-to-date information on which to base decisions.
The requirement to develop and implement systems to measure and, subsequently, manage construction in a more proactive and disciplined manner is no longer a luxury or an option. With the ever-increasing involvement of owners through the use of collaboration software and the ongoing improvements gained with lean-management techniques, transparency in the industry is increasing.
Companies with strong systems in place have nothing to fear or hide, while those who continue to believe that they can fly by the seat of their pants will eventually get caught with them down.