Preventing Senseless Costs and Wastes of Time

Waiting at the jobsite for any reason costs the contractor and the customer.

A few years ago the Center for Construction Engineering and Management at the University of Michigan conducted a time study to determine the amount of time construction workers are simply waiting to work.

The average time lost waiting for equipment, materials, tools and information varied among the construction disciplines. Bricklayers waited on average about 45 minutes, carpenters about 62 minutes, roofers about 75 minutes, electricians about 80 minutes, and plumbers about 83 minutes.

While these times are not necessarily indicative of the time your people might spend waiting for materials, or equipment, or directions every day, this time study does raise an important issue. Waiting at the jobsite for any reason costs the contractor and the customer. Anything we can do to prevent any waiting will increase productivity and profits.

What are the costs associated with having workers waiting around?

Consider a sealcoating contractor who who suddenly finds his five-person crew without sealer to apply; there was a mix-up in the directions given the driver of the bulk delivery truck and the crew is standing around for an hour before the material shows up. At an average hourly rate of $10.50, it costs $52.50 for having five workers waiting on materials.

Are there other costs? That depends on the step in the process. For example, if the crew needed this late-arriving material to finish a section of the parking lot, then the hour wait will cause a delay in job completion, will delay the striping, and ultimately might delay opening the lot for the customer.

You might think that one mistake costing about $50 is no big deal. But problems like this happen all the time for one reason or another, leaving employees waiting around for five minutes here and 15 minutes there.

One more calculation is worth noting. Imagine that every employee you have spends approximately an hour a day looking for "stuff." The stuff could represent things like brooms, brushes, lutes, squeegees, paint, safety tape, cones, time cards, and more. Now consider that you have 10 employees with an average hourly rate of $15. That's 3,000 hours "looking" over the course of a year, or $45,000 lost by each employee looking for "stuff" one hour per day.

Sensible time-saving techniques

Here are some successful field-tested ideas that can cut down on wasted time.

Schedules that "look ahead." There is simply no excuse for not planning ahead. It enables you to think through the difficulties of the next week, taking into consideration any out of the ordinary locations your crews might be working at or identifying that hard-to-get tool or piece of equipment that will need to be delivered to the jobsite.

Daily huddles. This requires daily communication with workers to make sure that everyone has what he needs for the day's efforts. Such huddles should be conducted in the morning and late in the afternoon. Again, there is no excuse for not conducting daily huddles that promote assertive and proactive prevention discussion.

Formalize job folders. Contractors need to formalize their job folders and require the stimator to be more thorough on directions to the jobsite, needed contact numbers, local material suppliers, local dump sites, secure trash bins etc.

Pre-job check sheet. This internal document can clearly identify what tools, equipment, materials etc. will be needed on the job. This job should be made part of the job file.

Post-job punch list. Every contractor no matter the specialty should walk every inch of the completed job and make a list of any items that need to be corrected or refinished. Ideally this list should be finished prior to actual job completion but certainly should be done to encourage greater attention to quality.

Brad Humphrey, president of Pinnacle Development Group, is a regular contributor to Pavement and a top-rated speaker at National Pavement Expo and National Pavement Expo West. For more information about Brad's firm visit