ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.
Q: Have you ever heard of the concept of a “floater,” a manager within a company who is utilized in multiple areas throughout the entire company’s? This person can be used to fill in for account or project managers who leave the company. He is also trained in business development so he can write bids and use his skills when all managerial positions within the company are filled. In other words, this manager is never given a full-time position. He is used wherever needed within a corporation. Is this common in the industry? Is this something any of the larger corporations are doing?
A: I have heard of the floater used in several ways:
1. Some companies hire new college graduates and use them as floaters to rotate through different positions to gain experience doing a variety of things in a company. At the same time, the company can evaluate the floater’s skills to see where he or she might fit best and also make use of his or her training in the most productive way.
2. I also have heard of using floaters as trainers who can also fill in for crew leaders that are on vacation or other employees who may be out of the office on a given day. Floaters sometimes fill in when a crew is shorthanded. They spend the bulk of their time training but can fill in where and when needed. This helps the position to pay for itself.
3. A third way is to use floaters to fill in if a crew is behind schedule. By using floaters, you can avoid adding permanent people to a crew when a full-time person is not needed. So, for example, if you run two-man crews in the winter and three-man crews in the summer in your market, you can transition from two to three by using a floater during transition months until the person is needed during the peak growing season.
Bruce Wilson, Wilson-Oyler Group
Q: I am looking into buying and implementing a whiteboard for the construction phases of our design/build firm. What layout has worked best for your members and is there a vendor preference for purchasing the whiteboards?
A: The number of crews you are running will determine what size board(s) to get. There are a few different theories regarding sizing. One is to go big and get a 4 ft. x 6 ft. whiteboard, and the other is to group smaller (four 2 ft. x 3 ft.) boards together to get the same dimensions. Some contractors like to write on them while they are mounted to the wall, and others are more comfortable unhooking them and writing on them on a desk.
The board should be magnetic, with a porcelain surface and a steel or aluminum frame. It needs to be durable, so expect to pay $100–$250 per board.
Most companies also use a colored magnet system to differentiate crews and, oftentimes, color coordinate the magnets with their hand tool color. (Companies have each crew paint the handles of its shovels, rakes, etc., a specific color so the tools don’t get mixed up between crews). The magnets should also be dry erase so you can write the name of the project on the magnet. If the project is being broken up by construction phases, each phase might be a different color (i.e., irrigation “blue,” plantings “green,” hardscape “red”).
Other than that, just make sure that the dry-erase pens are only accessible to a few people, and limit who is allowed to make changes to the schedule board to avoid potential problems.
If you want to have some fun with it or make it more graphical, print clip art or pictures of the foremen onto labels and apply them to the magnets. For example, a picture of an excavator or skid steer can be used for days when crews are excavating or grading. If you want to be literal, you can put magnets that look like the actual machines on the schedule so everyone knows what equipment is being used and when and what is available.
Lastly, if you Google “schedule boards” and select images, you can find some layout ideas.
Jody Shilan, Trailblazer
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