Archive for the 'Skills' Category

23
Nov
17

productivity

With much talk about productivity here is a week in the life of a External wall Insulator in the South West, 2017.

There is a house to insulate in Bristol, front and back only as it’s a terrace, so not many metres. The materials should be there already. On the Monday morning bright and early the gang of three set off for Bristol. It’s a seventy three mile journey, door to door. They are all on a labour only contract, with a price for the total job. On arrival the material can be seen on the properties driveway, but none of it is covered, so the bags of render are all soaked after a weekend of rain. As on all jobs, one of the first things a Plasterer will look for is water. They find the rear entrance up a cat mess ridden overgrown lane, and on inspection they notice there is no water tap. Next door either way, have no tap either. They bang on the door front and back but the house is empty. One has found a Fire Hydrant connection at the far end of the cul-de-sac. They phoned a line manager at home, as it’s only eight fifteen, to warn him of the situation. He checks they have tried the door and the neighbours. His last suggestion is a local Petrol station, apparently they all have outside taps. With only two buckets to hand, one would need to be on a constant water run, they shelved that idea as ludicrous. On his arrival in the office he promised to send a van up the Motorway, with a Hydrant key and tap, but it would get there too late for that day, so they set off home, after earning nothing and using 150 miles worth of fuel.

Day two, on arrival the key can be seen on top of the material. They dig out the Hydrant box, the chamber is solid with road grit. The key they had been given didn’t fit, it was too big. They phoned the office, moaned about losing two days and spending money on fuel. The boss agrees to pay them a day rate for all days that they are delayed, where it’s not their fault.

Day three, they bring their own key from home and a resident van driver had left another one to try. Oddly the van driver could have checked he’s, and phoned in to say he’s didn’t fit. On checking, theirs didn’t fit either. They phoned in again to give the boss the bad news. Go to a different house tomorrow, he says, leave that one for now.

Day four, they arrive at the new address, the Scaffolder’s are just finishing. On giving it the once over, they notice the Scaffold doesn’t reach the party line between the two properties by a metre. They mention this as the Scaffolder writes out the Scaffolding tag and slips it on a tube. Apparently he’d said to the boss, £300 wasn’t enough for the houses on that street as they where longer than normal front and back. The boss had told him there was only £300 on the book for Scaffold, take it or leave it. Sliding the ladder onto his shoulder he chucked it onto the lorry. They asked as to where their ladder was, considering for a moment that it might be on the rear for safety as many get stolen.  Apparently, leaving one, would have took the bill to £360, so he wasn’t leaving one. They phoned the office, the boss was livid, he’d ticked the box on his Spread sheet, Started, so he could plan on getting paid four days later, I’ll get him to drop one off, he says. After waiting for three hours they assumed Scaffolder was having none of it. They phone in to say they are leaving site. There’s no ladder. The boss says he’s got a nice little job they can do for him, on Friday.

Day five, they wander up to Bristol again, to another postcode. It’s just a coat over, keep it tight back he says as there is only four bags of material. On arrival, the front elevation is pebble dash and the mortar is letting go of the stones, really it needs taking off, back to the blockwork. The four bags is looking slim. As they climb the Scaffold they see the resident on the phone, down below in the lounge in a Housecoat (who wears a Housecoat?). As he’s facing them, they assume he’s ranting about them, he was. He was arguing with the Salesman who had been in his house two days earlier, he’d definitely said they would take it all off before rendering. By now the four bags had been mixed and applied, even mortar that had dropped on the floor had been saved and applied. For such a knobbly wall, six bags would have been tight. At no time did the householder speak to them, so they cleared up and left, twenty metres at £5 a metre, minus 750+ miles of fuel.

On pay day the boss made no mention of his agreement to pay waiting time, they had wondered how he could have paid it, as there is only money in the pot for fitting the Insulation, nothing else. He also failed to mention that he hadn’t been paid for the recoat on the Pebbledash, the resident refused, it wasn’t thick enough and they had left the stone on. It was with some luck that they had been paid for it.

The Insulated render industry has been invaded by chancers, charlatans, blagger’s, call them what you want, from the coal face and up through management. Lots saw the Green Deal as a bandwagon apart from those doing the work. The boss who they had been working for, previously owned a sweet shop locally before jumping into the render game. Within a week most of the kids at three schools had been off with the shits. On the big jars of sweets lining the shelves, you could read with a magnifying glass the warning about diarrhoea. Within a few weeks the shop closed down, I did laugh.

Only the other day I saw the old boss sporting a full unkempt beard, a disguise probably, as running up accounts to the max at local suppliers before closing your business, is seriously frowned upon in these parts. The productivity of those three men had kept his company afloat, he never understood how unproductive rendering from the bottom up could be, the country as a whole will be better off without him at the helm of anything bar a razor blade.

A different gang of three, a different week and a different county, Cornwall.

One hundred and four miles door to door, requiring an early start. If you’ve never been to Cornwall you’ve missed out. If you’ve made it over the border you’ll have noticed the shortage of roads in the middle, if you know anything about maps you’ll quickly notice a lot of the inner roads are not major roads. Travel off the main drag needs to be kept to a minimum if possible. You will get used to the regular Post Code Satnav scenario, the Satnav says you’ve arrived but the house is nowhere to be seen, it’s actually above you, up that donkey track, or your on top of an hill and its down through that Bramble track that your vehicle won’t fit down. The other extreme is it’s in the middle of a fifteen house terrace, carved into a mountain and built out of the stone, no rear access, everything has to go through the house, can’t have your van outside the house as it’s Duchy land, and it’s not allowed, there’s a car park on top of the mountain. The workers wonder how their boss gets such shit jobs. This house is to be insulated inside so as not to disfigure the stone work. The resident makes it clear from the start that they weren’t expecting this intrusion before Christmas, they certainly won’t want the mess.

Day one, after speaking to the irate resident, they retire to the van and consume their lunchbox, as Ten O’clock sneaks up on them with no sign of any materials. They phone in, it’s coming by a big National carrier. The boss phones back, they’ve spoken to the driver, he’s close by, expect arrival, shortly. Lunchtime arrives, there’s not much left to eat. They phone in again, the boss phones back, it’s close by. They look out of the window at the weather battered cars that had their own tyre impressions in the tarmac. No lorry, nothing. They phone in, the boss phones back, they don’t know where it is, they’ve lost contact with the driver. They wander down to the house, it’s lashing down, no materials there. At two thirty they set of home.

Day two, they announce their arrival to the resident, and at Nine O’clock they phone in. Nothing changed, they reckon they still have no contact with the driver, so at two thirty they set off home.

Day three, they do exactly the same again, they are leaving their own impressions in the Tarmac now. The boss phones to say it’s been delivered. Where though, it’s not in the car park, or on the Terrace. At Two Thirty they set of home.

Day four, by chance they speak to a different boss, your where he asks, you shouldn’t be there until January, but the materials been delivered somewhere, what, who told you to go there? apologies to the resident and come home, I’ll work something out for you, for tomorrow.

Day five, the boss never phoned back until Nine O’clock and that was to say sorry and see them on Monday, luckily they hadn’t set off. Four hundred miles of fuel with no monies earned and Productivity nowhere to be seen.

 

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22
Mar
17

Productivity

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.




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