“There are only so many ways you can put paint down on a pavement, so once you get to a certain point with equipment your efficiencies have to come from the planning or organizing you do,” he says. ““I like to simplify everything I do.”
Estimating on all new construction jobs is handled by Jerry Heard, who prepares each estimate and bid without leaving his office. “He does it all online and he sends me exactly what we bid to the gallon,” Cumming says. “It can be a 20-line eye clinic or a big box store and he sends it to me all ready to go to the client.”
On any job outside of new construction Cumming, Cordell and Humphrey save time by using Google Earth to measure a parking lot and count stripes, then a quick drive through the property identifies any additional work opportunities or problem areas.
“We’ll bid the job right then, email the estimate, and we’re done. Last week, for example, I bid $50,000 worth of sealcoating and pavement maintenance work without leaving the office,” Cumming says. “Even when we have to get out on those lots rather than spend three hours out there I can spend 30 minutes because all the measuring and everything else has been done in advance. We don’t spend a lot of time and gas, which means we are much more efficient and can be more competitive.”
Cumming says that his crews are trained to work efficiently – something he and Cordell learned early on.
“When Brad and I worked together on parking lots back in the mid-90s we would have our steps down from the time we got out of the truck, to the layout, to the striping. We would know what the other was thinking. We always say, that ‘a good crew is one that doesn’t need to talk.’ Everybody is on the same page without a lot of time discussing every move. This is something we preach daily,” he says. “This is a philosophy that you instill in your crew leaders. We are constantly training, talking, so my crew leaders know exactly what they have ahead of them on the job. We go to the job with everything we need and we finish the job.”
To help keep things efficient and on schedule both Cumming and Cordell rely on “to do” lists to run their operations. “We each have a list for every day and we check things off the list as they’re done. We go over them line by line to make sure everything’s covered. It might seem archaic to some people but that’s the way we do it and it’s very effective.”
Loading Up and Getting Out
Cumming says each Monday morning begins with a meeting with supervisors to let them know what jobs are scheduled for the week ahead. Monday’s meetings also are when Cumming or Cordell let the crews know of any changes that might happen as a result of subcontractor work.
“I often get calls from our contractor customers telling me we have to be on a specific job on a certain day to finish it off for them so I move things around as needed to make sure those contractors are taken care of,” Cumming says. “We have somewhat of a moving schedule but we need to because those contractors need us when they need us.”
On Monday each supervisor is given a load sheet for the week that covers everything needed for each job their crew is scheduled for, including how many signs, sign poles, gallons of paint, stencils etc. “It’s detailed down to each pole, gallons, stencils,” Cumming says. “Each trailer is stocked with the basics – chalk, white and yellow paint, basic tools and equipment, then stencils and other tools or materials are loaded onto each trailer according to the job.”
Cumming and Cordell talk with crew supervisors at the end of each day as well. “We need to make sure we’re still on the schedule we planned for that week,” he says. “If we’re not on schedule I need to know so I can make any adjustments we need and to let the next day’s customer know what’s going on.
“If we are on schedule they know they have to come back to the yard and refer to the load out sheet they got on Monday and load the trailer so it’s ready to go the next morning. The faster they can load up the sooner they can get out of there.”