Here's a fairly thorough list of the tasks a concrete crew might perform. Which three or four are taking up the vast majority of your crews' time?
- Compaction of ground
- Installing forms
- Installing expansion material
- Placing rock
- Placing rebar or wire
- Transporting concrete
- Pouring concrete
- Troweling concrete
- Saw cutting concrete
- Covering concrete
- Removing forms
Size of job matters when it comes to choosing your cost codes. If your crew is working on small areas like footings, they will probably do several in one day and may hit more than one site per day. If they are working on a large job, they may work on the same task, like forming, for many days in a row. Coding time is much easier on jobs that run several days than it is on jobs that run several hours. A simple rule of thumb: an employee should be able to record all of one day's time on no more than four real codes and "Other."
If your typical job runs less than one day and you have crews of less than four people, the workers should probably track their time by preparation, pouring, finishing and mobilization. If your crews tend to spend three or four days on one job, then your workers should probably track their time by all of the tasks listed above. The right answer will differ by the type of jobs you typically have.
Once you've figured out which tasks to track, create a master list of the codes and assign numbers to them. For each job, narrow the list down to the codes you want them to track their time to. Give your foremen the list of codes complete with clear descriptions of what tasks are to be assigned to each code.
Tracking work output
In order to calculate labor productivity (i.e. the speed at which your crews work) you must know how much work the crew performed. You MUST track the quantity of work produced. Examples are:
- Square feet of slab poured and finished
- Cubic yards of grade beams poured
- Lineal feet of slab forms installed
- Square feet of wall forms installed
- Pounds of rock spread and compacted
- Number of rebar rods tied and placed
- Square feet of wire grid placed
- Lineal feet of expansion joint place
- Cubic yards of debris removed
On small jobs, much of this data can come from the original estimate. On large, multi-day jobs, daily progress (quantities) must be tracked. It's best not to have the field workers track data that can be captured in the office from existing documents unless it is needed to ensure they are making adequate daily progress.
Time card design
Redo your time sheets to make them user-friendly. The less writing the foremen need to do, the better. Consider printing out custom time sheets for each job that contain the project information and the material quantities required for the job. You will quickly discover that the easier the data recording, the better data you'll receive.
Non-negotiable: time cards must be filled out daily!
Data quality drops off rapidly when crews are allowed to fill out their cards a few days down the road. Give each worker a pocket-sized spiral notebook to jot down their coded time throughout the day. Then they, or their foreman, can transfer their notes to the time sheet at the end of the day.
The final step is teaching your field crews and foremen how to fill out the paperwork. Give them examples. Have them fill out a couple of time cards together in your office. Provoke questions and answer them.
We all know how much the field workers HATE paperwork. If they liked paper work, they would have become desk jockeys. You need to sell your employees on the value of sending in accurate data.
Explain that the data is essential for setting realistic budgets and schedules. Explain that their personal financial security is tied to you knowing their productivity. After you've answered the "What's in it for me?" question, hold your foremen accountable for submitting complete and accurate time sheets. Job costing is not quite as important as safety, but it sure runs a close second.