Time is money in almost any business, and this is especially true for lawn and landscape companies. Labor is one of your biggest expenses, and any process or system that can make crews more efficient is likely to pay dividends. Here are five common efficiency-related problems, along with solutions that can help you increase productivity and profits.
Problem #1: Morning chaos and time wasting
You’re not alone if chaos reigns at your facility as employees arrive and begin searching for the day’s job list, assembling the tools and equipment they’ll need and hunting down the required PPE (personal protective equipment). In fact, have you considered the costs you incur each month if crews take just 15 minutes longer than necessary to get into the field each day? Those numbers add up quickly.
Solution: Successful lawn and landscape companies have developed numerous scheduling strategies. One is to move as many morning tasks, such as sharpening blades and inspecting and refueling equipment, as possible to the prior evening. Some companies have dedicated crews to this work.
In the morning, crew leaders greet each employee with a pre-shift checklist detailing items he or she needs to gather. To make finding tools and PPE an efficient process, store them in an organized manner in easy-to-access areas. Consider placing commonly used PPE such as earplugs and safety glasses on a table each morning.
Because unloading equipment, moving it into a storage building, then loading it again the next day takes significant time, some companies invest in enclosed trailers, landscape trucks with enclosed bodies or large garages where trucks and trailers can be stored overnight.
Problem #2: Fueling takes forever and ties up entire crews.
Refueling trucks and equipment is a necessity, but it doesn’t make sense for a whole crew to sit idle while a one-man task is accomplished. Worse, crewmembers are likely to wander away to browse or make purchases in the convenience store or use the bathroom. Getting everyone back in the truck can take longer than fueling.
Solution: Designate a person or group, depending on the size of your company, to handle fueling. Fill up trucks and equipment in the evenings so crews will be ready to go in the mornings. For even more time savings, invest in an on-site fuel tank.
Problem #3: Crewmembers choose the wrong machine or tool for the job.
Everyone knows high-speed, zero-turn mowers with large mowing decks are best for expansive lawns and walk-behind mowers are well suited for small, difficult-to-navigate areas, but poor site planning or holes in a company’s equipment lineup can lead to time-consuming mismatches.
Using the wrong pruning tool is another common error. In addition to taking more time, this can damage tools and cause excessive worker fatigue and repetitive-stress injuries. In general, hand pruners or pruning shears are appropriate for stems up to finger width, loppers are for thumb-sized material and pruning saws are needed for larger branches.
Solution: Have crew leaders make a list of the machines and tools needed for each property you manage and review those lists the day before visiting the property (in case something has changed or a task has been added). If you don’t own the right equipment for a particular job, buy or rent it, or consider passing up the work.
Train crewmembers to select the proper tool or machine for each application.
Problem #4: Using pruning tools, shovels and mowers with dull blades.
Jobs take longer, require more effort and are more dangerous when crewmembers use tools and equipment with dull blades. These blades also rip grass and tear bark and stems rather than making clean cuts, leaving plants vulnerable to disease and posing another threat to profits.
Solution: Put all pruning tools, shovels, mowers and other bladed equipment on a sharpening schedule based on manufacturers’ recommendations. Have crew leaders inspect tools to make sure blades are adequately sharpened before they go into the field, and train crew members to clean tools and sharpen blades, if necessary, at the end of the day.
Problem #5: Crewmembers spend too much time replacing, adjusting or untangling trimmer line.
Trimmers are essential tools for lawn and landscape crews, and chances are your employees spend a lot of time using them. How much of that time is spent cutting and replacing line and dealing with snags, breaks and uneven dispensing? Have crew leaders clock this, and you might be surprised by the amount of money you’re losing.
Solution: Store line out of direct sunlight as UV rays make it brittle and prone to break. Tell crewmembers not to run trimmers at full throttle since this generates heat that can melt line in the trimmer head, causing it to fuse together. Teach crewmembers to evenly wind line on the trimmer head while keeping the line as smooth as possible. If the line is too tight or too loose, one side can get stuck in the trimmer head.
If you want to avoid many of these issues altogether, the Oregon Gator® SpeedLoad™ Cutting System is a new option. This innovative system consists of a trimmer head, which comes in three sizes to fit almost any gas trimmer, and disks containing pre-wound line.
Crewmembers don’t have to spool or cut line; they simply pop the disk into the trimmer head. A new user can reload line in 20 seconds or less, and the disks easily fit in crewmembers’ pockets so they don’t have to walk to the truck to retrieve extra line. The disks typically last twice as long as traditional trimmer line, saving even more time.
To learn more about the Oregon Gator® SpeedLoad™ Cutting System, watch a video demonstration and calculate your company’s potential savings, visit gatorload.dfmstore.com/product.aspx.