Obviously, panels-per hour worked is a crude but understandable measure. Corrections can be made for oversized ones and those with surface treatments which require additional labor (and command higher prices). But once the corrections are made, precast executives have a simple, effective measure that is easily communicated and understood.

Astute precast managers look beyond direct labor productivity. They focus on overall productivity by including other workforce segments in their calculations. By adding additional classes of employees, precast executives can quickly determine their effect on overall productivity and profitability as well.

SUPERVISORY EFFICIENCY

There are two reasons why few precasters drill down to measure supervisory efficiency and the effectiveness of their managers or make many efforts to improve either of them. First, it is hard to measure results and second, inertia. It is easier to blame “lazy” workers for mediocre profits than to upset long-term supervisors and mid-managers who are set in their ways.

Those trying to upgrade their supervisors often buy inexpensive training programs. While these generalized courses might be a good introduction for bewildered “newbie” supervisors, they give more experienced ones inured to the inevitable little reason for change. Teaching supervisors how to deal with sassy employees is fine, but does little for productivity. Constraint theory, real-time scheduling to coordinate and track panels from setting-up the frames through pouring and finishing, does. After all, isn’t improving departmental efficiency why supervisors are paid?

You can rectify these deficiencies by retaining a knowledgeable trainer who takes the time to understand existing supervisory practices and attitudes before making recommendations to improve them. This can be accomplished by interviewing supervisors to determine how they perceive their work environment and then talking with mid-managers to obtain an overall view of how operations are conducted. Then plans can be made about the content of the training, how to set proper goals to measure its effectiveness, conduct training with enough pizazz to keep jaded supervisors awake, and measure the results over time and communicating them back to the supervisors in question.

MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS

Improving managerial skills through development efforts is a fraught subject. The most obvious skill most managers need is making better use of their time. Effectiveness can be improved by helping individual managers define their key objectives and then teaching them how to focus their time on those.

Effective training then begins with helping managers set their key goals with input from upstairs. Then, after managers are asked to demonstrate how they actually spend their time, a trainer can show them where they are spinning their wheels and when they are devoting their time to their activities that contribute the most to their key goals. Managers can be shown how much each of their activities contributes to all of their goals. Then, managers can be shown how their activities contribute to their goals. Once internalized and re-enforced, managers will use their time to their maximum advantage.

One can sympathize with the executives of precast producers, especially smaller ones, who constantly juggle the day-to-day realities of maintenance breakdowns, ineffective managers, and weather delays at construction sites. Some of these problems are the eternal nature of precast construction.

Other problems are self-inflicted. It is easy to sympathize with harried executives immersed with day-to-day problems of juggling customer demands that they delay challenging internal inertia within their own companies. This long-term threat to their companies’ future can be overcome by rewarding outstanding performers and sanctioning mediocre ones at all levels. If you don’t do it, your competitors will finish first.

Woodruff Imberman is president, Imberman and DeForest Inc. Telephone 847-733-0071, e-mail info@imbdef.com.