Larger Crews Don’t Always Improve Quality

The biggest myth in snow and ice management is that larger crews mean better quality.  It was born from the fallacy that it takes more time to do a job properly, and that speed is a detriment to quality.  It simply isn’t true.  Quality is the result of trained people operating the correct equipment according to set procedures.  In large crews where accountability is minimal, quality is often sacrificed.

Whenever schedules or targets aren’t being met, the first solution is to add more people.  Some disgruntled customers even dictate specific crew sizes and threaten to withhold payment if the demand isn’t met.  Often this “knock it out” attitude is an attempt to correct performance problems that have nothing to do with crew size.  The best solution is to use a different crew, divide the property into appropriate zones, and finish the job properly 

The idea that large crews are easily supervised is a throwback to assembly line thinking that doesn’t apply to on-site sidewalk snow removal crews.  Even a good supervisor can’t oversee five people as easily as two and keep up production quotas – it simply doesn’t apply to snow events.  The large crew supervisor must choose to either reduce his productivity to keep his group up to speed, or allow their productivity to drop to maintain his own. 

Most large crew supervisors do both, losing productivity and quality.  The best scenario is a full time working foreman with a few well trained crew members who need little direct supervision.  When large crews are divided into groups of two or three men, each taught to function as separate work units, productivity and quality will increase dramatically. 

When large properties require more man-hours than a large crew can handle, divide the property into two zones and send two crews to complete the work.  It’s cheaper for the customer in the long run, and the contractor will look much better at budget review time.

Each crew should have set production and quality goals for the specific snow event they are working.  Also, set aggressive goals so the crew must stretch to reach them.  Easy goals are easily achieved – harder goals are achieved to the betterment of the margin for that account.

Remember, bigger isn’t always the best way to improve productivity and quality.

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