HVAC Residential Market / HVAC Light Commercial Market / HVAC Commercial Market

My Two Cents: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Develop a Routine and Implement it

Butch Welsch
Butch Welsch

The saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” is attributed to Ben Franklin. While I wasn’t around to hear him say it, it’s a statement that certainly applies to HVAC contractors. In the past, I’ve talked about the need for long-range planning, and that need is still there. Today, however, I want to talk about planning for that next replacement job. It is important from the contractor’s profitability standpoint, as well as the customer’s satisfaction, that the job is planned out carefully in advance. As a contractor, you need to have systems in place to ensure the proper planning is done for every job.

Once the sale has been agreed upon, our next step is to arrange an installation date in order to have the job on our installation board. The salesman and replacement foreman determine the skill set needed for the job and assign the job to one of the lead installers with those skills.

Next, a job ticket is generated that details all the pieces of equipment, zoning items, controls, etc. that will be required. The job ticket also includes the planned installation date and installer. Naturally, things occur that may change the install date and/or installer, but establishing those in the beginning provides a good starting point.

As soon as possible, one copy of the job ticket is given to our person responsible for purchasing. That person then verifies which items are in stock and which need to be ordered to make sure we are prepared on the install date. It is important that all of the details the salesperson has agreed to with the customer are shown on the job ticket. Put it in writing. Don’t count on someone remembering that he said this or that.

At this time, if the purchaser encounters a problem, he or she needs to get with the salesman so that everyone is aware of the issue and any alternative necessary arrangements can be made.

If there are any significant duct-work modifications, such as the moving of supplies, returns, or similar installation functions, we’ve found it cost-effective to have a foreman stop by the home to obtain all of the necessary measurements. Although our install trucks have the capability of making some fittings, we have found that, to provide the finest in quality and efficiency, having the fittings and parts made in the shop is the best method. When the foreman returns to the shop, he prepares the detailed shop drawings as well as the complete list of all material items that will be needed on the job. This includes gas line materials, electrical items, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe, fittings, etc.

Since the install date is clearly on the job ticket, the shop foreman knows when to have the materials fabricated for the job.

The day before the installation, all of the items we will be sending to the job are collected together in a location assigned to the installer who is scheduled for the job. Those locations obviously need to be as close as possible to the warehouse doors.

It is extremely important that the materials for each job are clearly separated from the other jobs. In the rush and hectic pace that typically occurs in a contractor’s shop in the morning, clearly marked and separated items are crucial to timely operation.

Depending upon several factors, such as job location, type of job, etc., we will have either the lead installer or the helper go directly to the job while the other comes to the shop to unload yesterday’s trash and load the items that are in his assigned location for today’s job.

If there are any special instructions, in addition to them being shown on the job ticket, our replacement foreman will explain those instructions to the installer at that time. This step is extremely important. Customers expect their particular requirements to be performed just as they outlined them with the sales engineer. Making sure communication is excellent between the sales staff, the replacement foreman, and the installers is probably the most important factor in proper planning.

In our business, things change at a moment’s notice. As a result, I can’t guarantee that planning like this will cure all the problems that might occur on an installation, but I can assure you that by taking these steps you will greatly reduce a number of avoidable errors.

Publication date: 7/14/2014 

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