By Walt Stoeppelwerth. For many years, the toughest job to fill in a remodeling company was that of production manager. The production manager is the person whose job it is to turn a sales contract into a finished project, meeting all the customers' desires and wishes along the way.

It used to be that the maximum production a single manager could run was about $750,000 a year. As the cost of remodeling and the average size of a remodeling project have both increased, this benchmark can now exceed $1 million.

In the past, many growing remodeling companies would hire a second or even third production manager to handle their increased volume. Each of these managers was empowered to run his own production business, basically independently of the others. Often this meant, or could mean, a substantial difference in the quality of the final product and, of course, in the level of customer satisfaction. That's a problem, because consistent quality and satisfied clients produce the repeat and referral leads that drive business for many remodeling companies.

Photo: Mark Robert Halper

Photo: Mark Robert Halper

Lead carpenter revolution

The use of lead carpenters, now fairly common, especially at larger companies, has not only revolutionized how field employees work but it has greatly affected the responsibilities of production managers. The lead carpenter concept has shifted the day-to-day responsibilities of job progress away from the production manager and onto the shoulders of the leads. Today, lead carpenters are responsible for running a project from pre-construction conference to completion. That doesn't mean the position of production manager -- more aptly described as production coordinator -- is obsolete. In fact, a production coordinator, with perhaps an assistant or two, can achieve more within the lead carpenter system than the traditional production manager.

Today the function of the production coordinator is to support the lead carpenters in many ways. This support is key. For example, production coordinators generally perform the following important tasks:

  • Ensure that all permits are acquired
  • Send and confirm all subcontractor prices and contracts
  • Order special order materials and follow through on delivery
  • Work with lead carpenters in developing material lists of all items, place orders at the lumberyard or distributor, and get confirmation from same
  • Follow up with customers on the choices and decisions that have to be made prior to the pre-construction conference
  • Select the right lead carpenter for a project and schedule a field visit to the jobsite by the lead to ensure that all specifications are correct and there are no surprise problems in the contract
  • Consistently satisfied customers

    What's more, production coordinators can provide additional services to the company, such as the following:

  • Keeping abreast of the many new products and services being developed for the remodeling market and evaluating and selecting for use those best suited to the company
  • Monitoring the performance of subcontractors used by the company
  • Planning and scheduling the ongoing training of leads to achieve the high standards that are vital for the workability and profitable success of the lead carpenter concept
  • Perhaps the most important function that lead carpenters and production coordinators have is to make consistency possible in larger remodeling companies. Consistency in procedures, training, management, and installation will mean consistency in the quality of the work produced by that company. That, in turn, provides what every remodeling company wants and needs: consistently happy customers.

    --Walt Stoeppelwerth is a publisher of management and estimating information for professional remodelers. (800) 638-8292;;