Eight Jobsite Profit Killers

Norb Slowikowski

February 2005

In 2004, I conducted management and leadership training programs for 1,200 foremen and superintendents. Above all, we discussed how to be more effective on the job site, especially in regard to the area of improving productivity and maximizing profits. Through our work together, we came up with the main barriers to efficiency: "The Eight Job Site Profit Killers."

Long delays in transmitting information from the office to the job site. Scheduling and conducting a pre-job meeting with the foreman, superintendent, project manager/estimator and other key people will give all parties the information they need to perform their assigned role effectively. When this occurs, all parties walk away with a game plan.

Lack of coordination among the various trades on the job site. Foremen need to be encouraged to carry on a lot of informal communication between each other, such as what their needs are. This will help establish a cooperative relationship rather than one of conflict.

The foreman doesn’t understand the role of the project manager/estimator and vice versa. Each party needs to schedule time with the other in their respective environments. This will help them get a feel for the other person’s primary responsibilities.

Broken tools and equipment are sent to the job site. Foremen should be required to tag all defective tools and equipment specifying what’s wrong with them. Someone in the office or warehouse should see to it that the items are repaired on a timely basis. The warehouse coordinator should check all equipment for operability before sending the equipment to the site.

Poor placement of the foreman on the job. Most foremen are technically competent, but we tend to forget about their personalities; he will be dealing with the general superintendent of a general contractor. Have we identified the personality of that general superintendent, and can our foreman deal effectively with him? What about his relationship with his crew? The project manager/estimator? His boss? These are the "people" aspects of the job.

The foreman lacks necessary information to be effective on the job. Do you give the foreman the budget for the job—number of man-hours to complete the job or productivity measures? Does he understand the scope of work? The foreman needs to properly conduct the following: a two-week look-ahead schedule; location and placement of materials; work order procedures; procedure for handling extras and changes; material handling procedures; unusual job site conditions.

The foreman lacks an appropriate "skills-mix" to be an effective manager and leader. In reviewing the skills of successful foreman, we discovered that an effective foreman is a good communicator and listener who encourages input from his crew. He is enthusiastic and has a high energy level. He is a delegator and a team player. He is very organized and anticipates future needs. He is a developer of people, supportive of his people and emphasizes positives rather than negatives. He is someone who can manage conflict effectively and solve problems.

The foreman’s effectiveness and productivity diminishes because of a deteriorating work climate that includes the following demotivators: lack of sincere appreciation for a job well done; unclear goals and expectations from upper management; lack of incentives when excellent results and optimum profitability are achieved; poor teamwork between field and office; lack of pre- and post-job reviews; ineffective job progress meetings; lack of scheduled visits to the job site by upper management; job site is disorganized; lack of understanding among foremen about another trade foreman’s duties and responsibilities; and lack of promotional opportunities from field to office.

All in all, maximizing profits is no easy challenge. Many variables that affect the bottom line, and many barriers that, if not eliminated, will continue to be "profit killers." So now that you know what the major barriers entail, it’s time to establish an action plan to eliminate them. Start now.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.