Would you like to save thousands of dollars a year per crew without reducing manpower or buying additional equipment? It starts with a simple change in perspective, eliminating unnecessary steps, and thoroughly orchestrating your patterns.

Consider this. Most crews wisely store their laser levels in the cabs of the work trucks. You don’t throw a $50 or $100 finishing broom or a four-foot level in the back of the truck either. The logic is these are big ticket items, so let’s take care of them. But by year’s end, your $15 come-along and your $20 extension cord can end up costing you way more money than a new transit. How? When your crew wastes time daily untangling a mess in the work truck to get to the tools they need, it repeatedly wastes precious time. Five minutes here or a few minutes there of wasted time and pretty soon you’re paying for several manpower hours weekly, without any return or productivity.

Using an economy of movement goes far beyond a well-organized work truck. I’ve worked with multimillion dollar companies that have well-stocked, spotless work trucks but that also allow disorganized jobsites that hinder production. An economy of movement also includes strategically placing all of your materials.

Think about the wasted man-hours that add up over a year when rebar has to be handled multiple times before it ends up in the concrete. This also applies to placing your forming materials. Another time-wasting step is moving your gravel when it’s time to grade it because it wasn’t dumped properly in the first place. Obviously, not respecting this principle when you are pouring each and every load of concrete complicates matters even further. And sadly, after the job is done, some crews load the scrap lumber onto their work vehicles, only to throw it down on the ground back at the shop, just to have someone else pick it up off the ground and finally get it into a dumpster. Why not just pour gas on your wallet and burn all your money?

This principle also applies to fueling your equipment. Often when you are at the pump, instead of just fueling up your work trucks, you could top off any equipment and fill the fuel cans you are hauling.

Time to lean, time to clean

Small increments of wasted time are comparable to death by a thousand cuts. Stop the flow by observing how you handle the small things. You’ve heard the sayings, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” and, “Measure it twice and cut it once.” Add this one, too: “Don’t be a dunce, only move it once.” Consolidate your movements and eliminate duplicating any process you can do once and be done with it. Your crews will be more effective and they will harness their limited energy for the things that count.

A child’s rocking horse has a lot of movement, but it doesn’t make one inch of progress. If your crew is walking in circles, it’s not hard to do the math. Simply put, ignoring the principle of an economy of movement is like heating your house while leaving your windows open. It drains your bottom line every time.

Leaders must develop effective habits that will help everyone succeed and continually model the habits of an economy of movement. Storing your tools, placing your materials, and cleaning your jobsite using the least amount of steps as possible shaves time off the clock and puts you several steps ahead of the competition.

Craig Cottongim is certified in conflict resolution and is a long-time concrete finisher who is also a writer and communicator. E-mail craigcottongim@gmail.com.