While working as an Owner's rep on a large construction project awhile back, the issue of scheduling became a hot lunch topic. The project was located just 90 minutes from the metro area. Just close enough for most of the field guys to commute. The question that we batted around frequently was "Why aren't they running 4 x 10's?"
We knew the simple explanation was "The GC will not allow it." We also know that the unanimous opinion among everyone else on site was "The GC is cutting off its nose to spite its face."
On a construction project like ours, running 4 x 10's should have been a no-brainer decision.
- It would have reduced travel reimbursements by 20% for several subs who were subsidizing their guys.
- It would have avoided a persistent labor shortage...and led to better qualified workers.
- It would have allowed the GC to avoid losing so much time to weather interruptions.
- It would have greatly increased productivity...again shortening the calendar.
- It would have generated much greater cooperation between the GC and its subs.
The field guys were asking about it all the time. Eventually, a couple of the big subs split their crews in half, working the first group Monday through Thursday and the second group Tuesday through Friday. Their crews were much more productive this way. It turned out to be a life saver as the project neared its conclusion.
These two subs didn't ask permission from the GC. Although the GC eventually became aware of the situation, the Project Manager and General Superintendent didn't make a public issue out of the disobedience of their rule. The situation evolved into a "Don't ask and don't tell" arrangement. This is further proof that it is often better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
Recently, one of my clients and I were discussing strategies for staffing his burgeoning workload when our discussion slid into the issue of 4 x 10's. The more we talked through the advantages and disadvantages and the ins and outs of making it work with the general contractors, it became apparent that most projects would benefit from running 4 x 10's.
The two most obvious benefits are the crews get more done and the schedule impact of rain is minimized.
Many contractors underestimate the impact of breaks. When you switch from 5 x 8's to 4 x 10's you remove two breaks from the forty hour work week. That's the obvious savings. The not so obvious savings is the stopping of work, taking the break, grabbing the tools and getting back after it.
During the transition into and out of breaks, worker productivity drops. For discussion purposes, let's assume those slowdowns are limited to 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after each break. Now you've saved 20 minutes in dead time and 20 minutes of slow time each week by switching to 4 x 10's.
The weather advantage is simple. If work rains out on Tuesday, the guys work Wednesday through Friday. The job stays on schedule and they get their 40 hours in. The key to this approach is communicating and over-communicating to the guys that they MUST leave their Friday's flexible. Supposedly, the same could be done on a 5 x 8 schedule but field crews typically are not open to giving up their Saturday's to keep the job on schedule. They would prefer the overtime be issued as a 5 x 10 schedule.
Field Worker Acceptance
I've rarely met a field worker that wouldn't opt for a 4 x 10 if given the chance. It cuts down on drive time. It frees up a day for whatever their hobby is, whether it be hunting and fishing, a side job they do for extra income, spending time with their wife and kids, or working on their house or care. They'll eagerly give up those two 10 minute breaks for the gain of a three day weekend.