Developing a Smooth Production Process

It is unfortunate but true: the majority of home improvement companies view production in general as a necessary evil. Once the sale has been made, it seems that the “important” part of the job is over and the monotonous, problem-laden side of the business is just beginning. This isn’t the way it should be. Let us step back and view this from another angle and examine a few simple processes that can streamline your production process and limit the number of headaches you must endure during your production season.

Start by creating a culture of accountability among your installation crews. It doesn’t matter if they are full-time employees or subcontractors, a high level of accountability between: 1) your crews and company management and 2) your crews and the customers for whom they are working, can be your production department’s biggest asset.

Begin each job with a detailed walk-around between the crew foreman and the homeowner. Have the homeowner sign off that this has been completed before work began. This process is one that will limit the scope and severity of issues that will come up during that job. It ensures that all parties are 100 percent knowledgeable with regard to what is expected.

One useful tip is to pay your crews a percentage of what they are making on each job upfront, provided they turn in a completed walk-around form. Do not pay them this percentage if they fail to do the walk-around; this can be built into your contract with them and works particularly well when handling subcontractors.

Another key to a smooth production process, as well as a smooth hands-off of the customer from sales department to production department that sounds simple and obvious, is communication.

Just put yourself in the customer’s position. You have placed your confidence in the sales representative and, most likely, paid a deposit for the goods or services you have purchased; and then you wait. You hear nothing from the company and begin to wonder if you made the right decision.

This uneasiness, felt by the customer, will continue into perpetuity and make managing the production of this job more difficult. A worried, concerned customer is more likely to scrutinize your every move as work progresses, and at the job’s conclusion when you are trying to collect final payment.

Communication throughout the course of a given project is just as important. Talk to your crews every day. Have them call your production manager each morning on the way to the job, and each afternoon when they are leaving the site. If something does come up that will keep your crew from arriving on time, your production manager will be the first to know about it and has the ability to contact the customer before it becomes an issue.

Additionally, make certain that your crews are a well-oiled machine from the first moments they arrive at every project. Your customer will watch how the crew goes about their business in these initial minutes. This first impression can have a lasting effect on your customer’s perception of the crew’s work ethic, organization and competence. And remember, this crew is a representation of your company as a whole.

Picture two scenarios: In the first, the crew slides open the van door as soda cans, an empty paint bucket and other debris falls onto the driveway. One crew member goes to start taking a ladder off the ladder rack, another grabs an armful of wadded up drop cloths and another leans on his broom.

In the second scenario, the van pulls into the driveway and from the first time the door slides open, each crew member is operating with a purpose. Two workers methodically remove ladders from the roof while two others carry tools, brushes, buckets and drop cloths in an organized manner to a spot in the corner of the customer’s yard.

Now think of the difference in first impressions that these two scenarios will give the customer. The customers from scenario two will undoubtedly be easier to work with from beginning to end because their fears of being burdened with an incompetent crew have been put to rest before they were even felt.

As silly as it may sound, have your crews practice their first few minutes on-site. Ask your customers if they saw the crew when they first arrived, and give bonuses at production meetings to the crews that have caused customers to remark about this.

In an industry that is driven by leads and sales, these are a few tips that can serve to reorganize some of your company’s production goals and, in turn, increase your efficiency in completing jobs and collecting money.

Rick dudley has worked in numerous capacities over the past six years in the home improvement industry. He started out as proprietor of a start-up painting business that grew rapidly into the multi-million dollar coatings company Lifetyme Exteriors. Currently, he also works as an outside consultant to Conversion Associates, a technology and process consulting firm with heavy ties to the remodeling industry.