Barclays Bank, The Guardian, The Times and FT.com amongst others have covered it recently, it’s even been discussed in the Houses of Parliament and on the news. Here’s a snippet from the Guardians Phillip Inman, “There are generally two ways to improve productivity. One is the purchase of better machinery. The second involves a new process, which allows a worker to increase the speed or quality of what they are doing. Quality matters as much as quantity when firms can charge more for higher-grade goods.”
Having worked in Germany there is a bigger use of tools as men are dearer than tools. Here in the UK tools are more expensive than the workers. In Construction, for the Plastering trade there has been improvements in the tools, in the quest to shrink the skills needed to get it flat. There hasn’t been a pay rise after 1979/80 and if we take account of the effects of Privatisation and .com then the money in your pocket has been under constant attack since that year. Increasing speed started in Thatcher’s years, it had too, the family needed food. Firstly the Time and Motion book was re-written and the prices shrunk, then they had privatisation to pay for, and Privatisation to suffer as it hasn’t made anything cheaper. Lately they have had cheap immigrant labour that bosses have used to drop wages across the country. In my trade ten untrained men on £30 a day with food and lodgings have been doing the work of two fully trained men, but the quality levels reached wouldn’t have been paid for years ago. When a boss looks at the spread sheet and says “you need to speed up, these immigrants are faster” get another job. Your arms can only go so fast with a wet product and you will eventually wear out joints and Tendons.
Laughing I saw the latest House builders quality issues with one company putting aside 7 million in the hope that’s enough to put right all the problems. Imagine standing in your new house and asking the representative “is it really ready” and then proceed to note all the problems you can see just from where your standing. Self auditing is partly to blame, and management. News today, workers are retiring without a pension, really, I wonder why.
Real life, Devon this week.
A team turned up on site to unload materials for the system and start the job on a Subcontract basis. The materials didn’t turn up until Tuesday, even though it said Monday on the order, so no monies earned. On Tuesday the materials turned up without a forklift, 3.8 ton of materials. It says Forklift on the sheet as EU rules say it’s too heavy for handballing. After unloading and stacking they notice one key starter item is missing to be delivered on Friday, a ranting phone call to the system suppliers brought that forwards to Wednesday, no monies earned. Wednesday 10.00am the starter track arrives and they start work. After a few hours they realise the tradesman in front is way behind as he’s running the job as well. Wednesday afternoon they release a man from their team to speed him up. As work progressed they had noticed a problem, the scaffold wasn’t suitable for their install method. Who was it designed for? the Roofers. What is the Roofer doing on a scaffold? he climbs up it and accesses the roof and often its where he stores materials, especially on the top deck. To make sure he doesn’t fall down the 100mm inner gap a handrail has been installed around the internal, which blocks access for 2.4×1.2 metre sheets, limited monies earned. Thursday spray paint the trims that will be on show for the shocked client and generally sort out the system, what goes where etc, limited monies earned, but they have materials on the wall at last. Friday a system surveyor turns up on site, he says there should be a membrane on top of the other trades work to act has a barrier, “it’s not written down in the specification, not on your web portal, how where they to know?, “take it all off, install membrane, refit, not sure why it’s not in the specification” Surveyor says he’ll make a note. No monies earned.
Friday, foul weather but it’s all systems go. The Site manager, bald as a coot, has many long scars and scabs on his head, as the scaffold height is at 5ft 9” anyone over 5ft 5” isn’t wearing a helmet, the manager is visibly about 5ft 8/9”. As the team leave the ground floor and start floor one much swearing takes place, much banging of hammers and banging of heads, they can’t get past the 100mm gap and can’t feed past the inner handrail. Limited monies earned and an extra dinner had to be consumed. Over the weekend the scaffold is going to be altered and put back up at 6ft 6”. How long have people regularly been seen at 6ft or above, anytime after the 1950’s, I shall blame meat and protein eating, after the wars ended munch, munch.
Now where in amongst all that would faster workers have altered productivity? Are the workers not working as fast as they can? all those on a metre price especially. Plastering along with other dusty trades have just been slowed slightly by the forced clean shaven rule and a Facefit mask, to be worn at all times, the clean shaven rule is rigidly enforced, any bum fluff and your sent home.
A team roll up onto a private house on an estate to install an Insulated render system. Day one unload materials and clear garden rubbish so they can access the scaffold. They note there is no outside tap, no water, and the occupant is at work. They phone the office, can you use a standpipe they ask, yes they had sourced a fire Hydrant close by on the street, one will be delivered to site tomorrow, No monies earned and a 120 mile round trip with fuel costs. Day two, 10:00am and the standpipe is delivered. Over an hour spent opening and cleaning out the hydrant, it’s an old one and the new pipe doesn’t fit. A local controller offers to bring water from a local garage, the team laugh at him, they need a constant supply and lots of it. Would the garage be ok with this? An adapter is promised for the day after, no monies earned and more fuel costs. Day three adapter arrives, it doesn’t fit, the team go home and source their own, no monies earned and fuel costs and adapter costs added.
Day four it’s all systems go. Time to earn some money. The firm refuse to pay a previously agreed waiting time payment. Where did that project go wrong? The initial survey/management should have noticed the house had no tap, the local controller could have cleaned out the hydrant and sorted a tap before they arrived. Workers need better protection from robbing bosses. Water is still a necessity for Plastering and has been for years. It’s the first thing a Plasterer looks for, seconded by access. Often the boss might think you are 9ft high or have really long arms.
Construction has seen a marked increase in bosses who don’t know what the job is , Geography teachers, Woodwork teachers, History teachers, Opticians, and Ex Council managers to name a few.
“Oh this looks interesting, never seen it before, easy is it?”, “who are you?”, “the system Auditor”.
News this week, Suicides amongst Construction workers is at an all time high, could this be the thought of having to increase productivity, again?, I’m guessing £7:20 an hour is partly responsible along with wage theft and crowds of management with no idea, slowing up their jobs and affecting their money, having to cancel their pensions and working conditions similar to a passage from Animal Farm, never mind all those saying they need to speed up. “Where’s the toilet”, “under the bosses arse”, “where’s that”?, “about two miles away, go down here turn left, then right, follow it on until the second right, first left, then cut through a field, you will see his office in the distance, make sure you wear your hi-vis vest and helmet, all the way”, “what, even in the field?” Willmott Dixon management wear Pink hi-vis vests, just to add to the ambience.
Productivity could be improved by running, except running whilst your bursting is a recipe for a disaster, hence the smelly carrier bags of fouled jeans left in peoples gardens on a big job in Plymouth and Bristol last year, and those odd looking fellows back at work in the wrong size Primark trousers. How about centralised toilets or mobile ones?
There was no mention of management in the Guardian or the Times, or Barclays piece on the subject.