It is absolutely necessary for a metal roofing contractor to insist of excellent workmanship while at the same time demanding that the work be done in a timely fashion. While this statement seems elementary, the lack of properly monitoring either or both of those facets of a metal roofing business will insure doom for that contractor. The purpose of this article is to examine what makes excellent workmanship and how to insure that adequate productivity is maintained.
A metal roof comes with many parts and pieces. There is always more than one way to assemble a metal roof, even when the erection details are well described within the pages of a manufacturer’s installation manual. Ultimately, a person must actually take the various parts and assemble them. In so doing, there is always the possibility of doing it correct or rushing through the process and producing a sub-par finished product. If the company allows the metal roof to be installed in a below par workmanship manner, not only the reputation of the contractor will be below average, the project itself will cause the entire metal roofing industry to be tarnished. If a company will adhere to the following activities, their finished roofing projects will have consistent quality from consistent workmanship:
1) Establish workmanship expectations: Even though there are numerous sources of acceptable details, make sure that details and workmanship standards are established for each metal roofing project. This should be accomplished in the shop drawing stages of the project. Do not merely take the submittal drawings prepared by the manufacturer and pass them along to the architect or engineer. Review them at a management level to insure that they satisfy the purchasing requirements for the particular project. In addition, review the details to make sure that they will satisfy the requirements established in the bid documents. If possible, involve the foreman and/or superintendent for the particular project to get his input. This step not only gets another opinion concerning the details, it allows the field supervision of the project to “buy in” to the details prior to the work beginning. Once the workmanship expectations have been established, there is a much greater chance of creating a superbly crafted finished product.
2) Create an atmosphere of quality: If the job truck is messy and dirty, odds are the metal roof trim will look the same. Management should insist the all equipment is kept in a clean and presentable manner. This “clean and presentable” requirement needs to apply to all of the workers, also. Roofing is a dirty job and men shouldn’t be expected to keep themselves clean at all times, but they should start the day looking clean and neat and stay as presentable as possible throughout the work day. Why? A person that at least attempts to stay presentable will always do the same with his work. That is a giant step towards attaining a high degree of quality in the finished metal roofing product.
3) Monitor the workmanship: If we establish workmanship and quality standards, but do not inspect the installation to determine if these standards have been met, we have wasted our time in establishing them in the first place. Quality inspections should be performed every time that management visits a job site. Do not wait until the work is almost complete to perform a quality inspection. The earlier a problem is detected the quicker and cheaper if can be corrected. By inspected routinely, you not only correct any problems with quality quicker, you let the installation crews know that a high level of quality is required. In addition to making the quality inspections, document the findings of the inspection in the job files. Send a copy of this document to the foreman to insure that he understands what is expected as well as to leave a trail for each foreman providing information necessary for positive or negative movements within the contracting organization.
In order for the metal roofing contracting company to be financially healthy over time, they must insure that high quality workmanship is performed while at the same time insuring that the work is performed within an estimated time frame. While sometimes these two (2) elements of a metal roof project seem to be mutually exclusive, it is imperative that they occur simultaneously throughout a project. In order for the productivity part of this equation to happen, the following procedures must be accomplished:
1) Establish a realistic, yet aggressive estimate: The metal roofing project should be broken down into easily definable sections, with associated quantities and labor hours per unit of measure established for each individual section. Keeping records of past project productivity by section will yield units that you can trust when preparing a current estimate. Using a “$/SF” estimating mentality does not allow you to have control of your estimate to make sure it accurately reflects the expected direct costs for a particular project. Take the time to break the project into several sections, and then add them up to determine the estimated hours to perform the work. Involve your field supervision, if possible, when preparing a labor estimate. Just like involving them when establishing workmanship standards, this involvement provides valuable input from the people that are actually performing similar work for the company, as well as providing “buy-in” of the final labor estimate.
2) Communicate production expectations: It is imperative that the man with the screw gun know what the production expectations are for his work. Without these expectations being communicated to him, he is merely working hard, with no expectation of what he is expected to accomplish. Not only does the project budget hurt from such aimless activity, the worker cannot feel the joy of completing a task within the expected time period. People want to prove their worth by showing that they are capable human beings, able to accomplish defined tasks. Arm them with a definition of that task, along with the time constraint expectations, and you will be pleasantly surprised how well they perform.
3) Measure project productivity: After the labor budget is created and communicated, it is necessary to collect productivity information weekly (hours spent to produce a quantity of work). This information should be then compared to the estimated quantities and production rates to determine how the project is performing compared to estimate. This information should be shared with the field supervision on a weekly basis in order for corrections to be made as soon as possible.
4) Base compensation on productivity: A contractor gets paid for the satisfactory work he puts in place. If it is a fixed price contract, his largest variable in the budgeted cost of the project are associated with how fast the work can be completed. Take too long, and profits are quickly eroded. Beat the labor estimate and add dollars to the profitability of the project. To insure that the budget is met or beaten, the field personnel must share in the success or failure of this profitability. Create a job bonus program that is tied to the production of the project and production becomes meaningful for that man with the screw gun.
Excellent workmanship and quality without reasonable production will yield a few great looking projects before the contractor goes broke. Top production without good quality will yield a few bad looking projects and the contractor still goes broke. It is necessary for the contractor who wants to stay in the metal roofing market to have procedures in place to insure that both workmanship and productivity are equally important. Communicate that commitment to those who are responsible for putting the pieces of a metal roof together, base their compensation on the positive satisfaction of those standards, and you have established a necessary combination to insure long term success in the metal roofing industry.
For more information about the many aspects of how to prepare your business to be able to take advantage of the metal roofing market, contact Chuck Howard with Metal Roof Consultants (MRC) at (919) 465-1762. You can also get information about MRC at their website, www.metalroofconsultants.net.