Robert Ullman

Checkout lines may be shorter, but trips to the building materials store are still time wasted and money lost. “When they’re going for materials every day or every other day, somebody is not planning the job well,” says Michael Stone, of construction industry business management training company He and remodelers with an eye on cost-effectiveness recommend you:

Pre-order for a scheduled pickup or, better yet, delivery. “Work with a local lumberyard that wants to work with you,” says Greg Antonioli of Out of the Woods Construction & Cabinetry, in Arlington, Mass. “Our lumberyard will deliver to our jobsite first thing in the morning, for free, as long as we get the order in by 3 p.m. the day before.”

Show them the money. Open-book management practitioner Antonioli believes in educating staff on the true cost of just about everything, including lumberyard trips. Besides the actual costs of time, gas, and vehicle expenses, “we talk about the opportunity cost: work they didn’t get done and revenue they didn’t earn,” he says.

For example, cutting four 45-minute trips per week for a year would save 156 hours — nearly enough time to complete a $25,000 project. Add the actual cost of the wasted labor ($6,240 at $40 per hour) to the $1,747 net profit (at 7%) the extra job would have earned, and the true cost of those unnecessary trips totals almost $8,000.

Make it tangible. Then show staff what they could do with that money. Taking just half of the money saved in the example, Antonioli identified a variety of ways it could have been spent: a quarterly company outing; an extra bonus for each employee; an additional paid holiday; and more.

Use peer pressure. In staff meetings, “we discuss the successes as well as the less-than-spectacular results of the previous week, and how to be more fabulous the coming week,” says Diane Menke of Myers Constructs, in Philadelphia. One carpenter went to the supply store only twice in the last month. What can he teach the carpenter who went five times?

If you do need to travel to the supply house, avoid morning lines, Stone advises. And, make sure your driver has the following when picking up materials: a waterproof tarp, tie-down lines, and an appliance dolly, “so they can handle the loads without something breaking.”

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.