When Scheduling Jobs, Don’t Overlook Your ‘Soft Schedule’
By Mary Alice Hewitt
When builders discuss scheduling, they typically only think about their hard schedule — the actual construction time and process.
While the hard schedule is very important, there is another type of schedule — the soft schedule — which is just as important but often overlooked.
The soft schedule is the time builders spend with the client, and it must be considered and factored into the production process before the hard schedule is developed.
The tasks a builder must complete with the client, and which are part of the soft schedule, include:
- Obtaining plans, permits and color selections from the client
- Ensuring that proper interactions are carried out between the client and the agent to sell a home
- Conducting client orientations prior to delivery of the home
All of these items ought to be properly scheduled so that construction can proceed in a timely and orderly flow.
Joe Pullen, a production scheduling, estimating and procurement practices expert with Littleton, Colo.-based Shinn Consulting, says many builders do not realize the effect that the soft schedule has on the hard schedule.
But when the soft schedule is permitted “to just happen” without the necessary planning, he says, more starts than work crews can handle may be released simultaneously. When field personnel cannot keep up, cycle time, customer satisfaction and business suffer.
A workable scheduling system is a “live system,” Pullen says. It needs to be adjustable as lead times change and new products come online — but not so haphazard that it can change on the fly after a builder has provided his customer with a move-in date.
Common Scheduling Snafus
Pullen says builders’ schedules typically deteriorate because of a few common mistakes:
- Insufficient pre-planning
- Insufficient communication with employees, vendors, trade contractors, Realtors® and clients
- Lack of commitment to a project
- Lack of follow-through
Avoid Scheduling Snafus With Better Communication
The solution for almost all scheduling obstacles is a relatively simple one — communication.
Employees, trades and vendors alike must know the implementation plan and understand the benefits of schedules for their own work and the goals of the company as a whole.
Whether you are new to the building industry or a seasoned veteran, schedules can help improve your operations and streamline your processes.
Effective scheduling requires planning up front, but the time you take to fine-tune your scheduling will help boost your bottom-line efficiency and earnings.
The Benefits of Schedules
- Failure to Plan = Planning to Fail
A schedule provides builders, vendors and trade contractors with timelines for starting and completing tasks. This not only helps them keep within deadlines, it helps them balance their workload. When trade contractors can anticipate and plan for jobs, they can stay profitable and in business working for your company. On the other hand, not having jobs ready on schedule can damage your reputation with trade contractors.
Small delays in one process can lead to large increases in cycle time and erode profits. Schedules allow you to identify potential bottlenecks in your processes ahead of time so you can adjust your staffing, starts and cycles.
- Quality Control = Customer Satisfaction
When inspections and checklists are included as part of a schedule, builders can be assured that the work done on their job sites meets their quality standards at each step of the construction process — before workers move on to the next step.
A quality control schedule also conveys to customers that your business operates in a professional manner, gives customers a clear picture of the construction process from beginning to end and assures them that they have a project completion date they can count on — boosting your customer satisfaction ratings.
Don’t forget, those customers not only include new home owners, they include Realtors® who will be more confident in your ability to deliver a quality product on time.
This article is based on a presentation by Joe Pullen titled “Scheduling — When Does It Really Begin?” For more information, call Pullen, of Shinn Consulting of Littleton, Colo., at 303-972-7666, or visit www.shinnconsulting.com.
Mary Alice Hewitt is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
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