Since sidewalk snow removal emerged as a separate specialty business, finding the most efficient crew size has been the subject of heated debate. Given today’s competitive labor market and the need for higher productivity and increased quality, we should take another look at sizing sidewalk snow removal crews.
If you break it down, sidewalk snow removal is really a series of solo, one-person tasks which don’t always benefit from the addition of another worker. Unlike landscape installation or construction, sidewalk maintenance crews don’t handle heavy or awkward equipment requiring more than one person to improve efficiency. Given this lack of synergistic benefit on a per task basis, we should think of our teams as combinations of one-person crews.
Assume it takes one person 4.0 hours of elapsed time (or 4.0 man hours) to do a sidewalk snow removal job. Now send two people with the same equipment to clear the same area, and it takes 2.4 hours of elapsed time (or 4.8 man hours).
The two person crew did it in less elapsed time, but by spending more man-hours, they were less efficient. If your workers are paid hourly, your cost is proportionate to man-hours spent, not elapsed crew time – so you’re spending more money for the same result.
Production managers like large crews because the loss of one man doesn’t cripple the production effort. Workers like large crews because they don’t feel the individual pressure to produce. Property managers and owners like big crews because they think they’re getting more bang for their buck.
Everyone likes large crews except the person responsible for your company’s bottom line. It’s easy to blame the workers, the pricing system or the weather for a reduction of profits, but if you look at sidewalk snow removal as a series of solo, one-person tasks, you’ll determine the most cost effective crew size for every job.