Having materials properly allocated at the jobsite saves labor, time and money.

Last month we discussed the critical value of your management team's office quartermaster corps. Their organized efforts will guarantee that everything your workforce needs will be at your jobsite when they need it. In addition to proper tools, equipment and materials, they must coordinate offsite shop work to assure that all prefab and pre-assembled materials are delivered on time. Some unions will require a union label on prefabbed items.

Your biggest dollar saver, time saver and labor saver is your jobsite distribution quartermaster corps. Your on-site foreman must accept this responsibility and lead and control all of these critical and costly daily operations:

  • Safe and secure storage must be obtained that is convenient to the specific work site. Trailer locations must be coordinated with the general contractor and the site contractors. As the building progresses, much of the material can be palletized and stored inside the building.

  • All of this material should be inventoried and located on the blueprints to assure easy access and control. Bag-and-tag pallets should be located on the proper floor level as convenient as possible to their installation destiny.

  • Material-handling equipment should be coordinated with cooperative contractors to minimize costly rentals. On-site tools and equipment such as generators, pumps, welding machines, cutting torches, safety equipment, etc., need to be protected and maintained daily. Volatile fuels and pressure tanks must be properly stored and located near fire extinguishers.

  • At the beginning of each shift, each worksite must be mobilized to provide crews with enough material, fittings and proper tools so they can work efficiently. Before the end of the shift, all of those essentials must be relocated to the next worksite. At the end of the shift, the jobsite foreman must de-mobilize and return all of the tools and fittings to the secure locations.

    All of this mobilization, de-mobilization, tool equipment and material control happens every day on every jobsite - so what's the big deal about a quartermaster corps?

    I call it simple math! You are a profit-making company and you need to monitor and control your labor costs. Many of you already cost-code your labor to monitor actual costs on specific phases of your projects. Have your foreman enter all of the time spent on quartermaster duties so you can clearly understand what it is now costing.

    You also need to consider how many craftsmen work hours you lost on installation. While your workers are hunting for tools and fittings and carrying all the necessary items to and from your trailers, they are not installing anything. They are also not motivated.

    What's even worse is not having everything they need at their site. You can only imagine what that costs!

    Finding Your Own 'Radar'

    When you calculate what job mobilization, material distribution and de-mobilization are costing in wages and lost production, you need to consider what your options will cost. You should treat your craftsmen and apprentices as true professionals by utilizing tenders for all of your quartermaster corps duties, just like the masons have always done. How much help you will need will vary with the size and complexity of each job and the number of craftsmen or crews.

    A good tender must be an intelligent self-starter who is dedicated to fulfilling your needs. He or she can communicate and coordinate every function with your foreman. You need an assistant like Corporal 'Radar' O'Reilly on TV's “M*A*S*H,” who paid attention to everything his superiors - Lt. Colonel Henry Blake and Colonel Sherman T. Potter - did and out-predicted their needs.

    When the Colonel asked Radar to write a letter, Radar handed it to him ready to sign. When the Colonel asked Radar to call someone on the phone, Radar had that person already waiting on the line.

    Keeping in mind what it costs to find and provide this quartermaster corps person, your options will vary with distance and availability:

    1. Your best option is retired or semi-retired craftsmen - especially those who formerly worked for your company - who can work only the hours that you need. A big advantage is that they already know the trade and understand exactly what each craftsman needs to do his or her job. They also appreciate the opportunity to provide this valuable service and make some extra spending money. When there is a lot of distribution involved, you can schedule temporary manpower to assist them.

    2. Another great option for part-time help is college students. They can mobilize your job before their classes start and de-mobilize when their classes are finished. They can coordinate their classes to meet whatever time you desire. They can also recruit and bring you extra help whenever you need it.

    3. You can also recruit employees from local supply houses to work part-time before or after their normal shifts. The same is true for the do-it-yourself retail outlets.

    4. On projects in or near larger cities, you should recruit professional fireman who work odd shifts to cover seven 24-hour days. Typically they will work 24 hours on and 48 hours off. By recruiting more off-duty fireman, you will have someone to cover whatever hours your project requires.

    5. Your own apprentices may be willing to start early and stay late to earn some extra money. This does not interfere with their full-day internship and actually helps them learn more about your project.

    6. There are helpers, laborers and even some of the craftsmen in other trades on your jobsite who would also be very interested in earning some extra dollars. In addition to coming to work early and staying after work hours, they would be available during the day for emergency needs.

    This opportunity is especially attractive for any of those employees who are living away from home on subsistence. They also have access to their company's material handling facilities.

    7. Regardless of where your jobsite is located, you can find ample good help from people who have jobs with flexible hours that could fill your needs. Generally, shopping malls do not open until 10 a.m., many retail stores and service centers open at 9 a.m., likewise with the majority of business offices. Your early- and late-hour requirements would suit them perfectly.

    8. On many projects, you can hire full-time helpers who should start early to mobilize and work the entire day doing tasks that do not require a seasoned journeyman. They can dig and backfill your trenches, cut out and patch concrete and masonry, drill holes, build scaffold, install fasteners, etc. This provides a full-time opportunity for your craftsmen and apprentices to put in a profitable day's work.

    This helper would also be available to run errands, make costly trips back to your shop or to the supply house for something you forgot. He or she can also assure that extra materials are returned to the supply house and rental tools and equipment are sent back as quickly as possible.

    If all of this quartermaster corps material distribution sounds complicated, you simply need to ask any brick or block mason how he does it.

    When you do your basic math and consider the attitude and effectiveness of your journeymen and apprentices, you will clearly understand why they do it.