“To build a tilt-up crew the first thing is to understand the product,” says Shawn Hickey, president of SiteCast Construction, Ottawa, Ontario. “Lots of contractors get overwhelmed by the whole project and end up using too many workers. The key is to break it down into tasks and determine how many you need for each piece and get rid of those tasks that you don’t have the expertise to accomplish.”
For example, he says, take a complicated window. Rather than using unskilled labor to build the box-out onsite, you might have a carpenter shop build it instead. And he works to build in simplicity. “Understand the task at hand and build-in repetition and get the guys who know how to do each individual task to do the things they are good at and trained to do. But then make it simple. Keep everything as basic as possible.”
On tilt-up projects, Hickey’s crews will typically only do the framing of the panel forms and erection of the panels. “On a framing crew we may have upwards of 15 workers. We’ll sub out the rebar — the bar busters — that’s a different crew. Then the placing and finishing guys come in. Some contractors might have their own crew to do that but it’s a special set of skills and I can’t keep a crew busy doing just that. Then we come back and do the erection, although that can even be subbed out in some places, like California. It depends on how much work we have. If there’s too much or too little, we’ll do things differently.”
Hickey emphasizes that you need to know the capability of the members of your crew. “For example,” he says, “if we’re installing thin brick on the panels, and I don’t have a guy that’s skilled at that, I would call a tile guy to come out and cut and position the brick.”
And he will work around guys that understand part of the project but need help with other parts. “We lay out and set the bottom bulkhead, then work from there to locate the top bulkhead and the windows and other features in the panels,” he says. Sometimes he will have workers who have trouble using a tape measure, so he makes them a stick from a 1x3 and paints lines for different measurements like the size of windows. Then they can just walk around with their stick and lay out the panels.
On the erection crew he usually will have six workers, although, he notes, “you could almost do it with two — one on the panels and one to signal the crane operator. Being on the erection crew is a point of pride and they don’t want someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”