The construction process is commonly viewed as a process of using labor and equipment to turn material into completed parking lots, roads, bridges, buildings etc. However, one could argue that the supervisor is really in charge of managing the construction firm's money.
I'm reminded of the first time I met my neighbor, a small plumbing contractor. I asked him what he did for a living. "I'm in the business of collecting and processing information such that I can optimally manage my money. And oh, by the way, once in awhile, I put in plumbing pipe to keep track of it."
His point was well made; some contractors manage projects without an eye to the cost of things; they might spend too much of their time managing small or insignificant work tasks or things. One remembers the line from the movie; "show me the money".
The supervisor would do well to prioritize his or her daily supervision time by focusing on the money. For example, if one work crew is doing work on one end of the project that costs $3.00 per unit, say excavation work, and another crew is doing work on the other end of the project such as concrete placement that costs $150 per unit, if the supervisor cannot be in both places, the supervisor should spent most of his time with the crew doing the higher cost work.
This appears obvious. However, I find the problem is that the supervisor may not know what things cost. While giving a seminar recently, I asked a group of concrete supervisors how much a steel-ply form costs; the supervisors did not know. Similarly, I asked a group of sheet metal supervisors how much a lift costs, and they did not know. They should know. Cost books and cost data are not only relevant to the construction estimator; they are relevant to the supervisor. I recommend that the supervisor should be given a sheet of paper listing the cost of everything at his or her job to include the various work tasks. Only then can the supervisor prioritize his focus when allocating supervision hours.
The importance of viewing things as cost rather than "things" was also demonstrated to me during a recent site visit I made to a job site with a group of students. Given that they were in my productivity improvement class, while they were at the job site, they were very attentive to focusing on a group of workers that were taking a break having a cigarette during the work process.
They knew the workers were making more than $40 per hour with labor burdens. As such, when they saw the workers taking an unnecessary fifteen minute break, they were critical of the workers. On the other hand, while we were at the site, a piece of equipment that rents for more than $120 an hour did not move or perform any work during a four hour time period. However the students, future supervisors, said nothing about the idle equipment. I'd suggest the reason the students focused on the idle workers rather than on the $120 per hour idle equipment is that they knew what the workers made per hour. On the other hand, they viewed the equipment as a machine, i.e. metal. If the equipment had a sign on it that indicated that it cost $120 per hour, the focus would have been on the idle equipment. The more the supervisor views "things," to include labor, material, tools, and equipment as money, the better the supervisor will be in allocating his supervisory time.
Critical on time schedule
At the university level we pay much attention to teaching students about the "critical path" and the importance of managing the critical path work activities. If two work crews are at different locations on a project tomorrow, and one of the work activities is on the critical path that dictates the project completion date, and the other work activity is not on the critical path, it is obvious that the supervisor needs to pay more attention to assisting and controlling the critical path work activity and crew.