7 Proven Steps to Reduce Wasted Time

Consider how much time each day your crews are simply waiting. What are the causes for such waiting? Let’s examine a few causes, calculate a possible cost for the waiting, then provide a few proven corrective efforts that can help reduce, if not eliminate, some of your more impactful Time Wasters.

Time Waster Causes

  • Equipment breakdown
  • Employees late to work
  • Gassing up vehicles/Putting water in roller
  • Late delivery of pre-arranged materials
  • Jobsite not accessible or prepared
  • Owner didn’t unlock premises
  • Owner forgot to inform employees “not to park”
  • Supply inventory empty
  • Employee forgot important tool or equipment
  • No directions available to jobsite
  • Crew waiting for supervisor to return from lunch

What are the costs associated with having workers waiting? Consider a paving contractor who suddenly finds his six-person crew without hot mix asphalt. There was a mix-up in the directions given to the driver and the crew is standing around for one hour before the material shows up.

6 Workers x 1 Hour Waiting =

6 Total Waiting Hours

If Average Hourly Rate = $30/Hour (Fully Burdened Rate), then

6 Worker Hours x $30/Hour = $180

So, the cost for having labor waiting on materials is $180. Are there other costs? Probably, but they might be lessened depending on what other parts of the project can be worked on before the material truck arrives. And if the crew needed this delayed HMA to finish a section then the wait might result in a visible seam between the previous pass and the soon-to-be-finished section.

You might think that one mistake costing $180 is no big deal. And you’re right, if this only happened once in a while. Unfortunately, problems like this can leave employees waiting around for five minutes here and 15 minutes there. If the project was priced to make $800 - $1,500 profit, pulling $180 from the profit just increases the pressure to make more money on another project. And imagine what this robs your company over a year! Contractors must do a better job of not only providing clearer direction and instruction but also involving workers in learning how to determine direction for themselves.

Consider some contractor-tested tips to reduce worker-wasted time:

  • Require Weekly “Look Ahead” Schedule & Crew Huddles. Come on, man! Take the gloves off and make weekly scheduling (a “look ahead”) and crew huddles mandatory. Project scheduling and customer expectations are just too critical not to have a weekly plan and then a morning and afternoon “stand-up meeting” in place. You can reduce planning-related time-wasting events by 30% - 40%.
  • Make Phone Numbers Available. Contractors and their supervisors should not be the only people with critical telephone numbers. A laminated card of all-important numbers can be provided to each employee or attached to each company vehicle. This is the easiest tool to use, and it should be updated monthly, quarterly or at least annually.
  • Job Cost & Track Performance. There is no excuse for any contractor, of any size, to not monitor performance and costs associated with each job. I have found the larger the contractor the more likely he will track productivity and then conduct job-costing “debriefs” with those involved with the project. The secret here is to make this a consistent effort and use the information to determine what you’re doing right and what needs to improve or change.
  • Create Job Tools & Materials List. Complete this for every job, itemizing every tool and material needed. Some contractors include this on the backside of their Look Ahead schedule.
  • Make Preventive Maintenance a Company Priority. Equipment that runs without breaking down will mean more profits and happier employees. Put all equipment and vehicles on a preventive maintenance schedule and watch how much more work you see getting done… on time.
  • “Stage” Your Jobsite at the End of Each Day. Do you need diesel in the vehicle tomorrow? Fill up the tank before calling it quits today. Need hand tools and striping equipment on your trailer? Load it tonight before you send the troops home. Getting the job or worksite ready for the next day’s performance will save you time the following morning and warn you if you are missing anything.
  • Conduct Weekly Project/Schedule Update. Include all laborers, not just the leaders. This meeting should look at the schedule, tough upcoming jobs, jobs with different needs, safety reminders, high maintenance clients etc. You can address technical issues and also help build teamwork by keeping people informed, something many contractors are accused of not doing very well.


Brad Humphrey is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting firm specializing in the construction industry. For more information about PDG, go to www.pinnacledg.com. Also, check out www.pinnacledgccid.com for more information about industry trends.