Editorial
 
Bang for Your Buck
Getting the Most Out of Your Current Labor Force

At the recent WSRCA convention in Last Vegas, Nevada, in June, we noticed several

material and equipment suppliers introducing new products designed specifically to

speed up the roof installation process.  These products include equipment that seams

single-ply faster, allows for better truck organization and storage, and makes nails

guns quicker and more accurate.  New roofing materials also include improved cranes

and roof loading equipment, pre-made flashings, larger nail strips, and light hand tools that reduce worker fatigue while increasing productivity.


All these have gradually been introduced to the roofing industry in the last few years, but the process has been stepped up recently.  If you are still doing business the way you did a few years ago, you are at a disadvantage.  While some swiftly embraced this idea, other attendees were quick to point out that while these products save time, they also cost more.  “It’s a wash, with no advantage,” stated one contractor.  “You end up paying about the same for the job.”


Well, yes and no.  While the job costs may be a wash, it gets the crews off that job and on to the next one that much faster.  With finding qualified labor still the number one concern to most roofing contractors, what better way to effectively increase your existing labor force than by getting them from one job to the next more quickly? 


Here’s an example.  Let’s say the material costs you 20% more but saves your crews 20% in time.  While the job costs are the same, that same crew that took five days to complete the roof can now do it in four.  That means they can move on to the next job one day sooner.  In the course of a month, the same crew has done one extra job; five jobs rather than four.  With this example, you have essentially increased the size of your labor force by 20%.  You won’t get 20% more people walking in your door this next week looking for a job on the roof, so this is a pretty good deal.  Now obviously, not every job is done in four or five days, but you get the idea. 


Since we’re in an expanding economy, and you’re probably telling some of your best customers that you can’t get to their project just yet, this approach could help solve some of your labor issues.  Additionally, this would increase the number of jobs you complete, as well as your income, by using your same properly trained crews without increasing your labor force. 


As an added bonus, your overhead, fixed costs, rolling stock, and equipment costs would remain the same.  Also, variable costs such as labor, unemployment, workers comp, and insurance would be the same.  Your crew wouldn’t be working more hours, just less hours on each job, and moving on to the next that much faster.  In a few years when the construction economy slows, and you know it will, you won’t have to lay off those extra new hires because you never increased your labor. 


Ok, we can say that my 20% example is off base and highly optimistic, but the premise is still correct and you get the idea.  While this may all sound theoretical, it’s based on sound principle, and I’m certainly not the first one to express this idea.  In a time when your number one problem is labor, this is an alternative approach.  Even if it costs a little more now, it’s time to take advantage of the new, faster materials and equipment on the market, and get your crews on to the next job.


Marc Dodson

editor