Routing Tasks for Efficiency

If you have not read the first part, please go back to Saving Labor to read information on the project I am talking about

I printed off a map from google maps and highlighted the different tasks that had to be completed.  I labeled the people A and B and went to organizing a routing system that should limit the waiting and wasteful time.  Some of the routing seemed obvious and some seemed counterproductive, but we went with it anyway.  For example, I had one person with a backpack blower blowing the entire entrance road while another person was trimming the pond by themselves.  We would complete work outside of our fence before we would trim the fence.  I even scheduled a point for breaks that placed them at our breakroom without wasting extra time. 

We came up with some new standard operating procedures that eliminated the time lost from string replacement and fueling.  One set of replacement string was to be kept in their pocket, and equipment was to be fueled every time that they came back to a cart.  If their speed was appropriate, they would be at a cart every 40 minutes or less, so they should never run out of fuel.  (We have now eliminated this by switching to cordless equipment).  It may sound cruel, but we set a policy of not helping an employee finish their area unless there was a serious mechanical breakdown.  We instituted a team mentality.  The goal was not to finish the individual parts, but to complete the whole. 

Test day arrived and I had kept the new routing a secret until the morning meeting.  After receiving the expected push back, the crew set out.  Within minutes I could tell that it was working.  Within the first hour and half, they had completed what would normally have taken about 3 hours to complete.  They the complex sections hit and the pushback really hit.  Each of the crew members were visibly upset that they did not have help on the longer sections and complained that they were taking longer.  However, they did not realize the combined effort that was going on.  For example, our pond was taking 45 minutes to complete with two people.  Individually, they were completing it in about 55.  And while one person was trimming the pond, the other person had blown the road and completed work outside the gates.  They shared the fence and it finally hit both of them that we had found something good.  The entire task was completed by noon that day, a savings of 8 more man-hours from the previous week. 

Practice, training, and faster employees have shortened this task to 8 man hours over the following years.  There have been a few times that the job was completed in 6 hours.  It no longer is a major job to be feared, but a simple task that has become a badge of honor among new trainees.  The full time crew has made finishing all detailing by 10:30 an initiation of sorts.  It is also a training benchmark that I use for these employees. 

I have had employees make suggestions about changes to the routing and we always try them.  Some have been added to our program, and some have not.  Either way it has fostered good relationships between our crew and me.  I have mixed feelings about this task and our results.  Was this an example of a great job of management or was it an example of fixing a horrible job of management?  It probably was a little of both.  Use it as a learning experience.  I did end up losing an employee out of this, so it was not as perfect as it may seem.  Some people cannot handle change at all.  I now have a crew that is extremely flexible and has learned to accept that I will always try things.  I will also always try their ideas.  It worked for me, and it will work for you.  Take a look at your routine tasks and find the wasteful points.  It becomes a lot easier to find the labor hours needed for a composting program if you can save 20 hours on a weekly task.