Cut nonproduction hours

Photo: istock.com/alexeys
Twin Oaks Landscape in Ann Arbor, Mich
Photo: istock.com/alexeys
Photo: istock.com/alexeys

About seven years ago, Chris Speen and the team at Twin Oaks Landscape in Ann Arbor, Mich., realized they needed to cut back on nonproduction hours—aka “a lot of guys standing around.”

“We’re now at 12 crews, but as we got bigger—around four to six crews—it was hard,” says Speen, general manager of the $2.4 million full-service company. “We thought, ‘How can we do a better job of not losing time?’”

The answer was to create a “pit crew.” Speen doesn’t recall where the idea came from, but he knows it’s been beneficial. He estimates it’s cut weekly nonproduction hours in half.

“Multiply that by 30 weeks, and you can see where there’s a significant amount of savings happening,” he says. “That goes right to the bottom line”

Here’s how it works: Four staff members make up the pit crew—two guys from the company’s recurring division and two guys from its project division. They arrive at work 90 minutes early and prep for the day, including changing mower blades, fueling trucks/mowers and running through the morning equipment checklist. That way when crew members arrive, they just get in their trucks and go. Start times are staggered every 15 minutes.

“The guys come in no more than five minutes early,” he says. “There is no standing around.”

Other benefits include giving the company’s best laborers extra hours, efficiency gains from pit crew members becoming proficient at their routine tasks and a reduction in mistakes because there are fewer hands touching the equipment.

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