Last time I discussed ways to increase new construction productivity. This month I'll discuss ways to increase productivity for replacement departments. Most of what I see with respect to productivity issues for replacement work is jobs taking longer than the hours that were bid. There are many reasons for this and I will discuss some solutions here.

Like new construction jobs, there is no such thing as a two-hour replacement job. When you bid work, bid it in a minimum of four hour increments. So, if you think a job is going to take 10 hours, bid 12. If you think that it is going to take two hours, bid four. There is always something that stretches out the job.

Either something unforeseen has to be picked up, something on the job gets uncovered that will take more time, or the workers stretch the "morning job" into a half day. Occasionally I have seen (let me emphasize occasionally) in a busy season a two-hour job actually taking two hours or the two-hour job is in the afternoon and the crew can go home when its finished. So, the safe thing to do is to bid in four hour increments.

The salesperson has a lot of impact on the productivity of the crews. By completing a sales form showing a diagram of the job location as well as the details about the job, you can prevent a lot of wasted time. In addition, the salesperson should create the materials list for the job.

Review the job with the crew. Let them know what is expected to be done, the amount of time that is allotted to the job, and any peculiarities of the job (i.e. they are to go to the back door, landscaping issues that must be taken care of, or pets that must be noticed). Make sure they understand what has to be done. It is important to let the crew know what amount of time has been bid for the jobs. If you've taken a job at a lower gross margin than normal, tell them that you've bid only X hours in the job. Most crews will appreciate this and complete the jobs in the allotted time.

The warehouse person should pull the materials for the job based on the list created by the salesperson. The materials should be waiting for the crew, or loaded onto their truck prior to the crew coming in during the morning. This way they spend the least amount of time waiting in the warehouse.

Whenever possible, the materials should be delivered to the job so the crew can be there without having to come to the shop. Remember with most replacement work, equipment must be removed so the crew can start removing it and be ready when the materials arrive on the job. If you coordinate this properly you can have a one man crew. The second man can help with equipment removal and new equipment placement. The rest can be done by one person. This saves time and increases productivity.

Remind the crew that if they find something on a job once they get into it that needs to be done that isn't on the proposal, stop. Don't do it without speaking with the customer. If necessary, get the salesperson involved. You can lose your entire profit on a job by doing things that your installers find that are not in the agreement.

Make sure that the crews don't have to go back to the shop or the supply house for anything. This is a great waste of time and eats into your productivity. Their trucks should have a standard parts inventory on it.

Next month, I'll discuss service productivity ideas.