Are you an Efficiency Engineer?
Frank Gilbreth was born in Fairfield, ME, on July 7, 1868. After high school, he became a bricklayer. He was the type of person who was never content with the norm. He thought, rightly so, that everything could be improved and made more efficient. He watched various bricklayer’s techniques and saw that some were faster than others. Primarily, he was studying who could lay bricks with the least amount of motion. In time he was able to reduce the usual 18 motions to lay a brick, to 4.5 motions (not sure what half a motion is).
He quickly advanced through the ranks, becoming a supervisor without having to go through the usual apprenticeship program. He studied all the construction trades. By 27 he had his own contracting company. His resourcefulness and creativity led to the first concrete mixer and the concrete conveyer system.
You probably don’t know the name Frank Gilbreth, yet more than likely you have heard of him. He was the father of theCheaper by the Dozen clan. He and his wife Lillian were both efficiency engineers, and they ran their family of 6 girls and 6 boys accordingly. He demanded efficiency in everything he and his family did. With twelve children I would imagine that this was mandatory. He wrote secret messages in morse code. The children learned to read Morse code so they could find the prize contained in the message. They all had their tonsils removed at the same time, so that the doctor could use his time more efficiently. He would blow his whistle and time how long it took the family to assemble. Using time and motion wisely was his destiny.
He adopted the slogan “Speed Work” for his company and expressed his goals as the elimination of waste, the conservation of ability, and the reduction of cost. Later he and Lillian created the Gilbreth, Inc. They were employed as “efficiency experts” by major industrial plants in the United States, Britain, and Germany.
I recall a story of a mother cooking the Christmas ham. Every year she cooked a big ham for the holiday. Each year she would chop off a large slice off each end. Then she would put it in the oven to cook. One Christmas her daughter asked her why she cut the ends off of the ham before cooking it. She replied that that’s the way her mother always did it, and so that’s the way she does it. The daughter, not satisfied with this explanation decided to investigate further. So at the Christmas dinner she asked her Grandmother why she cut the ends off the ham. And her Grandmother said, “That’s the only way I could fit it in my small roasting pan.”
Many times we do things a certain way because we’ve always done it that way. It’s a good idea sometimes to step back, or ‘zoom out’ as some say, and take a look at our procedures. We do so many repetitive things every day. Some of them are done efficiently, and others are not. Can they be improved? Could some be eliminated? Are they necessary? How can you make them better?
You own or work for a company, and you probably have a family. I won’t advise you to use Frank’s techniques with your family, yet his attention to efficiency would be quite useful in your work.
Don’t try to improve all your procedures as once. You’ll just get overwhelmed and stop. Just take one component of your business and think about how you can improve it. Then write it down, revise it, edit it, and distribute it to anyone who is involved in this process. Each time you do this, you will be creating more and more freedom for yourself and your staff. You’ll get the expected results – every time. Processes are the life blood of your company. Give them the attention they deserve and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Here are some areas you could examine:
- Your filing system
- Communication with your field personnel
- Weekly meetings
- Your sales process
- Material pick-up
- Project start-up
I hope you got something out of this. And I hope that next week you’ll start putting some of this sage advice to good use.
Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall
Randall S Soules
Remodeling coach, adviser, and educator
My one-on-one coaching will take your remodeling business to new heights!