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Effective Job Site Management Tips

Apr 27, 2008
The average profit margin on a typical construction project is 5% to 10%. That's a pretty small return on investment, especially when you take into consideration the multitude of problems that could occur on a day to day basis. Managing every job site is critical to the financial health of any construction contractor.

One of the largest job sites I ever managed was a complete remodel of a city shopping mall that had been mostly destroyed during a major earthquake. Our small construction company acquired a contract for half of the project and I was assigned the superintendent position for our particular trade. We built 180 stores in under 9 months with a crew of only 8 men. By comparison, the other contractor in our line of work required almost 40 men to accomplish the same amount of work in the same amount of time. I've often been asked how I accomplished such a large volume of work with only a fraction of the manpower. My answer has always been simple: organization.

When you have potentially 180 places to be and a crew of only 8 men to delegate tasks to, you had better be extremely organized or the entire project could crumble under your feet. I used a spreadsheet to manage every project and created a 9-month time line. I knew exactly where we had to be every day of the week.

The mall was two stories high with the amount of work split equally between both floors. I setup two, 2-man crews for each floor and provided each crew with a complete, portable set of their own tools and machinery. Every day we would meet at a makeshift office on the first floor and discuss the goals for the upcoming day. Afterward, each crew would get started on their assignments and I would spend thirty minutes scheduling my own day.

Part of the success of that one project was the delegation of assignments and allowing each crew to focus only on their assigned tasks. The entire job site must have had over 1,000 men working on it every given day, and my men were instructed to only work on their specific project. If any other trade asked my men for help or assistance, my men were to refer them to me. At absolutely no time was any member of my crew to invest any time into solving problems that had nothing to do with their daily assignment. I handled all the miscellaneous job site details.

I believe that by letting each worker focus only on his given tasks, productivity was much higher while at the same time maintaining a relatively low stress level. Sure, we had 180 jobs to complete in a short amount of time, but that didn't' matter because we focused on only one project at a time and on a day-to-day basis. And I think my crew particularly enjoyed telling any other tradesman who asked a random question, "I don't know, ask my boss". That attitude allowed my crew to keep their day simple even though they were working on a relatively large-scale project.

In my opinion, only one person should take the bulk of the stress when it comes to working on a large scale project. That person should have the capacity to create and manage a realistic time line. By organizing that job site in such a manner, I was able to complete that project without my men having to work a single hour of overtime. They worked Monday through Friday, 8 hours per day. Of course, my day was a little different; I typically worked 10 hours per day but never once did I work on a Saturday or Sunday during that particular project.

The entire, 180-store remodel was ultimately completed in a timely manner and my employer had a nice profit for our efforts. Although I worked a lot of hours, in the end I felt it was worth it.
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