John W. Tomac

On time, on budget, and on to the next project. Jobsite efficiency is a win-win for remodelers and clients. But when something goes wrong, efficiency goes out the window.

From forgotten equipment to running out of nails, Big50 remodeler Josh Shonkwiler knew small inefficiencies were adding up to big time lost. “If we had two guys on a job and six hours into the day they realized they were going to run out of something, one would have to stop and make a run to the lumberyard,” says the owner of Platinum Remodeling & Handyman Services, in Minneapolis. “That would leave the other guy with nothing to do, so he’d go along and now you’re paying two guys their regular rate to sit in traffic.” By the time they get back, it’s time to call it day, which means the crew has to return to that job in the morning instead of starting on the next. “It’s a vicious cycle you’re always chasing,” Shonkwiler says.
To combat the problem, Platinum crews plan carefully to make sure they have everything they’ll need for each day, and Shonkwiler has an on-staff parts runner for those inevitable times when something comes up.

“I got the idea from one of our plumbing subcontractors years ago,” Shonkwiler says. “They had a warehouse employee that was in charge of keeping the warehouse clean and parts stocked. If one of the plumbers in the field needed something, he would bring it to them.”

At Platinum, parts runner Joe Conan handles the same types of responsibilities. If a crew onsite needs an extra part or equipment, they call Shonkwiler who dispatches Conan to pick up the materials and run them out to the site. When he’s not running errands, Conan helps on demolition days, cleans up jobsites, and keeps the company’s warehouse organized. 

Shonkwiler pays $12 to $14 per hour for this helper position, so when the parts runner is making trips back and forth from the hardware store, the hit to the pocketbook is much less than if a skilled carpenter made the trip. When hiring for this entry-level position, he looks for applicants that are able bodied and willing to work, have a drivers license and good driving record, and can handle the organization that comes with paperwork required for each jobsite.

“The guys we’ve hired as parts runners are usually really green with little to no construction experienced, but the position gives them a great intro into the industry and everything we do as a company,” Shinkwiler says. “If you’re running to Home Depot for 2-inch #10 stainless screws, and other parts and pieces, you’re going to learn what everything is, where you can find it, and what it’s used for.” 

Shonkwiler says the parts runner is basically overhead, but it makes everyone else more efficient. “Between efficiency and our clients perceiving jobsites as being cleaner and running smoothly, you can’t put a price on the benefit he brings to the company.”