Best ways to save labor and improve production landscape management gas upper stomach

Landscape companies used to be able to solve problems by “throwing labor at it.” If you were behind on a project and the client was unhappy, you could add another crew or work weekends to hit your timeline and please your customer without doing too much damage to your bottom line, says Jason New, principal with landscape coaching firm McFarlin Stanford.

That changed during the Great Recession, when there simply wasn’t enough revenue to “throw labor” at problems. Over the last few years, the scarcity of labor and increased labor rates reaffirm that it’s unfeasible to solve problems this way anymore.

“Every single thing you’re paying your team to do needs a budget,” he says. “That’s what efficiency is. When you put a budget together, it drives your team to think, ‘I only have so much time to do this, I have to figure out how to get it done.’”

Sometimes, an efficient solution to a problem can be as simple as a smart equipment upgrade. The operations department at ArtisTree went this route about two years ago when it acquired two Hustler Super 104s after being introduced to these 104-inch, wide-area zero-turn mowers by its equipment dealer.

The company, which did about $18.8 million in revenue in 2017, always has owned mowers in a variety of sizes: 52-inch, 61-inch and 72-inch. Plus, it’s operated several 11-foot-wide bat-wing mowers, although those weren’t suitable for the homeowner association clients that make up much of ArtisTree’s portfolio.

Because the 104s are a finish-cut mower with a mulch kit capability like a typical zero-turn, they’re a good fit for ArtisTree’s properties, many of which are residential communities’ common areas, backyards and around community retention lakes.

Because ArtisTree already had team members trained to mow around lakes with the bat-wing mowers, the transition to the 104s was easy, Walters says. The company’s existing trailers also could be used because the sides of the 104s fold up to an 80-inch-wide transportation size.

When Tony Canorro joined Ameriscape as fleet manager late last year, he knew he wanted to apply an aggressive,operational-minded approach to the role. He oversees all of the company’s equipment and vehicles with the support of two full-time mechanics and a part-time helper.

For Canorro, it all comes down to the question, “How are we going to make the most efficient use of our mechanics’ time and our guys’ time?” he says, which leads to another set of questions he wanted to answer: “What equipment do we have and where is it?”

The company, which did about $12 million in 2017 revenue, had been using a standalone GPS system to track vehicles and a spreadsheet to log equipment repairs, but he wanted a system that served as a “patient chart” for every piece of equipment.

Here’s how it works. When a foreman has a problem with a mower, for example, he scans the equipment’s QR code with the app on his phone and enters notes about his concerns. The fleet team can immediately access this information and assess the problem quickly—and mechanics can even order parts upfront if needed.

“It helps with triage a lot, too,” Canorro says. “When things get hot and heavy in the summer, there is going to be more equipment broken than the mechanics can fix at once. They can scroll through the system and see everything in ‘items down for maintenance,’ and they don’t have to do a lot of the initial diagnoses themselves. They can get going on the equipment that needs immediate assistance.” Efficiency hacker No. 3 | Eyeing metrics

“It’s a lagging indicator, and it starts when we build a financial plan,” says Dan Eichenlaub, president. His company, which has 75 employees, tracks this metric by department, rather than as a whole company, due to each business area’s unique inputs.

He calls revenue per man-hour a useful, “quick and dirty” gauge of productivity. The company evaluates this metric at the end of every month within a day of billing, based on revenue billed and man-hours logged. The latter comes from payroll data.

It’s important to recognize this KPI doesn’t tell you if you’re making money, Eichenlaub says. You could be losing money and have a good revenue per man-hour. This metric only indicates if you have a productivity issue around your profitability. Most importantly, once you see productivity is slipping, you need to uncover why.

“It could be as simple as having old equipment in this department and it’s breaking down, so you have several hours out there waiting for the mechanic,” he says. “But you don’t know to go looking for those things if you don’t know if you’re on target or off.”

The company has been using this metric for about 13 years, since it joined LandOpt. He said it took a few years to learn the numbers, but now he can get a report and instantly analyze whether he needs to take action based on the revenue per man-hour.

There are further opportunities to leverage this metric. For example, you can use it as a gut check for every bid that goes out the door by asking, “Is the revenue per man-hour in the right place?” If it’s low, perhaps you forgot to factor in a vital input. Some companies analyze this metric for every snow event or for each crew, though Eichenlaub opts to leave it at the department level, and he incentivizes department managers for hitting their targets.

Solution: Remember the acronym OHIO—only handle it once—and work with vendors to deliver materials directly to the job site. Consider asking vendors to take a photo before delivery to ensure plants are to specification, for example. Additionally, ensure crews have a checklist of what should be delivered to prevent callbacks. Finally, to avoid excess lost time, develop a delivery policy so crews know what to do if they arrive on site and materials aren’t correct.