BOSTON, MA — Do you want some ideas that will streamline your workload and help you to work more efficiently? John Koontz may have them for you.

Koontz is the National Director for Project Management and Advanced Supervisory Education for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Koontz travels the country doing two- and four-day seminars on project management training for MCAA contractors.

Koontz said contractors should want to improve productivity. He asked the audience the following questions:

  • How many of your companies would like to be profitable?

  • How many of your companies would like to be more productive?

  • How many of your companies have “hard set” rules and standard procedures for project planning which are implemented on nearly every project?

“Contractors should recognize that there is plenty of room for improvement,” Koontz added. “Projects need to be properly planned, which may lead to doing some things differently.”

Profitability is the end result of a well-planned and productive job. In order to reach the level of profitability that most project managers strive for, it is important to identify the reasons for a productive job vs. one that is hard to track.

Planning for productivity

“Management is responsible for productivity,” said Koontz. “If workers are lazy, it is because of management.”

Unfortunately, when times are good in the construction market, as they are now, there is a smaller talent pool to draw from, which creates a productivity problem, according to Koontz. “Better, more productive workers are available when times are slow,” he added.

Koontz cited his “10-80-10” rule, his unscientific way of classifying workers.

“The top ten percent of all workers are the superheroes,” he said. “They are productive regardless of what you do as a manager.

“The middle 80 percent are average. This is the key group because they are influenced the most by management. You need to do everything you can to keep them productive.

“The bottom ten percent are slugs. You can’t make these people productive. Superheroes and slugs wash each other out.

“The 80 percent group usually determines the productivity on a job. Plan their day — take away every excuse they come up with that results in lost time.”

Dreaded "lost time"

Koontz added that “lost time” is hard to identify because it could be something as simple as the time it takes for a person to carry pipe from a truck to a worksite. But lost time, under any circumstance, results in nonproductivity.

He said that lost time is divided into recoverable and nonrecoverable categories.

Recoverable lost time is wasted time that could have been spent on productive work. “For example, the worker carrying pipe could use less lost time to do the job, making it recoverable time.” Nonrecoverable lost time is just that, according to Koontz. “If you have done everything you can to reduce lost time, the result is non-recoverable.”

Koontz maintains 30% to 50% of total work is made up of lost time, which amounts to two-and-a-half to four hours each day. “Approximately one-and-a-half to three hours are recoverable while one hour is nonrecoverable.”

By reducing the amount of nonrecoverable lost time, contractors can see dramatic differences. “You can have incredible changes in profitability from small changes in productivity,” Koontz said.

He added that it is management’s responsibility to identify lost time. Some methods of doing that include:

  • Craft delay survey;

  • Foreman delay survey;

  • Daily time reports; and

  • Foreman daily job logs.

“Ask your people what you have to do to become more productive,” Koontz said. “And then follow up on that information. Put a list of fixes in each paycheck and then follow up on the fixes one at a time.

“If you don’t act on feedback and are not going to make the [recommended] changes, then just don’t do it. Nonaction is the great de-motivator. Identification without action and implementation is a waste of time.”

Koontz said there is no substitute for listening and working together to solve productivity issues.

“Quit looking for the ‘magic pill’ to improve productivity — it doesn’t exist,” he said.

“Get out of the office and onto the jobsite!”

Koontz can be reached at jrkoontz@tech.