Better efficiency with detailed planning

October 13, 2019 -  By
Before crews members step foot on a site, they know what materials will be needed. (Photo: Ross NW Watergardens)

Before crews members step foot on a site, they know what materials will be needed. (Photo: Ross NW Watergardens)

Ross NW Watergardens in Portland, Ore., significantly upped its efficiency just by going back to the basics in terms of planning. The new policy has alleviated a lot of pressure on the crew leaders and crew manager of the $925,000 company.

It all started in early 2018 when the residential landscape design/build company designated one of its employees as a full-time field manager, responsible for making sure material deliveries are on schedule, hauling materials off or around project sites and ensuring equipment is where it needs to be.

“Having one person who focuses on that stuff means that our crew leaders are almost never leaving the job site to get materials,” says Ben Bowen, landscape designer for Ross NW Watergardens. “They’re able to stay where they’re most productive.”

Based on the field manager’s feedback, the company discovered it could increase its efficiency even more by developing a plan for each project.

“For a long time, we would basically show up the day we were going to start the project and then figure out how we were going to do it,” Bowen says. “Us smaller companies are often just flying by the seat of our pants … but we were essentially holding up our crews.”

Now, a few weeks before each project begins, the field manager, Bowen and his father, Ross Bowen, visit the site and explicitly spell out the quantity of materials needed, in what order the work will be performed and what type of equipment will be needed on-site the first day.

Bowen adds, “Our crew leaders are now happy because they have what they need and can be efficient. One of the best ways we measure it is by the frustration level of our crew leaders.”

PRO TIP: After having a skid-steer that sat around unused 70 percent of the time, Ross NW Watergardens started renting rather than buying its larger equipment. “It means we’re not trying to get something done with the wrong piece of equipment just because we happen to own it,” says Ben Bowen, landscape designer at Ross NW Watergardens.

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Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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