How We Do It: Oct. 2000, Scheduling Christmas Crews at Plantscape

Plantscape is a diversified landscaping company specializing in interior and exterior landscaping. We have become Pittsburgh, Pa.’s largest corporate Christmas decorator, winning major national awards for our work.

To effectively schedule interior or exterior Christmas crews, we follow a list of cardinal rules and refer to these rules throughout the process:

  • Finish early
  • Establish professionalism
  • Consider many uncertain variables
  • Involve advance contingency planning
  • Permit flexibility
  • Consider equipment, vehicles, supplies, type/numbers of manpower needed
  • Initiate good and frequent communication
  • Commit to excellent client service and a real concern for your staff

Before scheduling begins, we appoint one full-time leader to be in charge. This Christmas coordinator is responsible for all paperwork, phone calls, scheduling, vehicles and staff. We choose a coordinator who is available for the entire season, is well organized, has a strong background running crews and leading others, and is committed to working long hours and overseeing all aspects of the work.

If we have a large volume of work, we will appoint a full-time assistant coordinator to avoid "burning out" the lead coordinator.

In early October, we post large, monthly wall calendars in our sales department for November, December and January. These calendars are large enough to easily write on and read. We choose a maximum number of available man-hours and post them on these calendars for each day of the week and weekend. By evaluating our projected labor force for target months, we can determine our labor limit in advance.

Five Keys To
   Scheduling Christmas Crews

    1. Appoint one full-time Christmas coordinator to lead projects.
    2. Plan in advance by posting large monthly wall calendars in the sales department in early October.
    3. Sell and coordinate as many Christmas jobs before Thanksgiving as possible so the weeks following Thanksgiving are easier to handle.
    4. Close days that have reached their assigned daily job limit.
    5. Minimize travel time by grouping jobs together geographically.

We try to sell as many Christmas installation jobs as possible before Thanksgiving so crews can easily get through the crunch weeks following Thanksgiving.

Once a client accepts a job, a tracking number is assigned to it. Then the salesperson logs the job date and projected man-hours on the wall calendar. We typically have salespeople sell jobs as "week of" instead of specifying a date, and then we clearly note the job entries on the calendar as "firm" or "week of." We continue to subtotal daily man-hours and immediately mark "closed" days that have reached their assigned daily limit.

The Christmas coordinator works from the tentative posted schedule the salespeople have organized. The coordinator then makes necessary adjustments and decisions to formulate a final weekly schedule.

Next, we geographically subdivide the daily work. We group jobs together to minimize travel time, especially when there is a large workload. After our jobs are organized geographically, we decide on the number of crews needed each day, and the crew sizes/mix so we can assign crew leaders. After researching the job sizes for each crew, we then assign vehicles and special equipment.

After developing a final weekly schedule, we post the information in a central location. This schedule summarizes the jobs, crew leaders, crew members and vehicles assigned to each daily crew. Then copies of the Christmas schedule are distributed to all the key people involved.

The next step is preparing the paperwork packages each crew needs, which are organized in separate file folders.

Only the Christmas coordinator and crew leaders have access to the all the job files. Having this limitation reduces the risk of misplacing important paperwork.

The author is Christmas coordinator/landscape field manager for Plantscape, Pittsburgh, Pa.

October 2000
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