One day during break time, remodeler Geoff Martin watched as two members of his crew got into a truck to drive to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. He determined that they spent 15 minutes driving, 10 minutes at the doughnut shop, 15 minutes driving back, and a few more minutes finishing their coffee.

Their 15-minute break turned into a 45-minute break. “That was two guys. What if my whole crew regularly did that?” asks the president of Morse & Martin.

To help him find out exactly how much the extra time taken on breaks cost his Webster, N.H., company, Martin's office manager calculated the payroll costs per hour for each of the company's two divisions. He went to the next weekly meeting armed with information. He told the employees that the plumbing department costs came to $113.03 per hour for the entire crew, and the construction division crew costs were $210.71 per hour.

Martin explained that if everyone on the plumbing crew wasted an extra 15 minutes per day, it would cost the company $28.26. If the construction crew wasted 15 minutes, it would cost $52.68. Both of the divisions together would cost $80.94.

He multiplied that figure by five, and noted the waste costs for a work week at $404.70. For the entire year, that comes to around $21,000. “That is about 1% of my volume for last year,” Martin says.

“After I did the math with them, I told them that the bonus they had just received could have been bigger,” he says. “When I explained the direct cause-and-effect scenario, that had an impact.”

He immediately noticed a difference —the crews began taking standard 15-minute breaks and began policing one another. And Martin added tracking productivity to the weekly meeting agenda.