Myths About Large Crews

Facts-Myths

Increase in man-hour efficiency is only one of the many myths about large crews.  Another popular legendary myth is that large crews insure quality work.  This was born in the belief that it takes more time to do quality work, and non-quality work is faster and saves time.  Neither are true.  Quality is the result of a process that includes trained people operating the correct equipment according to a set procedure.  In large crews where accountability is minimal, quality is often sacrificed.

Owners/managers like large crews on site.  When you are behind schedule, the first solution is to add people.  Desperate owners may even dictate specific crew sizes and threaten to withhold payment if these demands are not met.  In most cases this “knock it out” behavior is an attempt to correct performance problems and force the contractor back on schedule.  In this situation don’t increase the crew size; bring in a separate crew, divide the property into appropriate zones, and then “knock it out”.  Once back on schedule the owner/manager will become accustomed to, and accept fewer people on the site during a snow event.

The myth that large crews provide better usability of supervision is a throwback to factory or assembly line thinking that really does not apply to on-site sidewalk snow removal crews.  The notion that one strong supervisor can supervise five people as easily as two and still keep production responsibility does not apply during a snow event.  Some supervisors try to keep the men together.  Supposedly they are easier to supervise, but in reality the “herd mentality” further reduces productivity.  The ‘large crew supervisor’ must make a choice to reduce (or eliminate) his own productivity in order to keep five men up to speed, or allow their productivity to drop to maintain individual productivity.

The ‘large crew supervisor’ must make a choice to reduce (or eliminate) his own productivity in order to keep five men up to speed, or allow their productivity to drop to maintain individual productivity.

Most large crew supervisors do a little bit of both and lose both productivity and quality.  This is unfortunate as everybody loses when this happens.  The combination that seems to work best is a full time working foreman with one or perhaps two crew members trained to require very little direct supervision.  Divide large crews into smaller two and three man crews and teach them to function as separate work units.   Productivity will increase – sometimes dramatically.  When large properties require more man-hours than a three man crew can generate, divide the property into two zones and send two crews to produce the work.  It will be much cheaper for the customer in the long run – and the contractor will look much better at budget review time, or when it comes time to determine if a viable profit has been made on that particular account.

Each two or three person crew should have production and quality goals for the specific snow event they are working.  Even though they may be in competition on the same property, they should be evaluated on that particular snow event’s performance.  And, they MUST be evaluated often enough to changes may be had as/if necessary.  Also, set the goals aggressive enough that the crew must stretch to get there.  Easy goals are easily achieved – harder goals are also achieved to the betterment of the margin for that account.  Remember – it is all about the margin……