Steve Taylor and John Habermeier, co-owners of Synergy Builders, in West Chicago, Ill., were using Gantt charts (which illustrate project schedules) on Microsoft Project to schedule jobs. “But,” Taylor says, “it was difficult to look at [a lot of] projects at once,” which would be helpful when scheduling the company's staff of eight field employees as well as trade partner labor.
Two years ago, the pair decided to put all their jobs on a giant magnetic whiteboard and plot out four weeks — 20 working days — at a time. “I can see, for example, that four jobs — which may have started at different times — might have the trim phase happening at the same time …. It’s been life-changing for our scheduling,” Taylor says.
On the whiteboard, Taylor lists every client and writes in information on which employee is doing what job on which day for each project. The names of all the employees are on magnets posted at the bottom of the chart so they can easily be moved into place.
Project managers are in charge of the board and can see where each job stands during the month. The primary focus is “to make sure their labor allocation is correct so they can have 10 or 12 jobs Gantted out for a month,” Taylor says. “If I don’t have anyone in three weeks to install a shower door, for example, “we know we need to move the shower door to a different time in the schedule or sub it out to someone else to do it.”
Scheduling this way has helped Synergy Builders shave time off individual projects. With the big picture, project managers can see that “[maybe] prime and sand can happen on the same day, and we can move up other phases of the job,” Taylor says. And it helps when ordering materials. “If I know when I’ll need things [like cabinets for instance], I know when I’ll need to order them.”
The board is kept in the production office for all to see. “It changes every day,” Taylor says. “It’s a living thing.”
—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.