The ABC’s of Job Readiness
When asked their number one concern on a job, contractors overwhelmingly respond, "job readiness." Not being job ready often leads to greater incurred costs, scheduling conflicts, and a tendency to take short cuts, in addition to general frustration for both the trade contractor and the builder.
“Builders and trades need to work together to provide a quality product at reasonable costs,” according to Bob Hill, director of certification and laboratory services at the NAHB Research Center, which runs the NHQ Certified Builder and Trade Contractor programs. “Trades will go to great lengths to accommodate jobs that are not ready,” Hill continues, “but doing so increases their costs and may compromise quality. We hear from trades all the time, and most of them agree there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“It all starts with an open line of communication,” says Hill. “The builder has an expectation that the trades will communicate their needs and concerns and vice versa. Builders and trades not only must agree upon job-ready conditions,” he explains, “but also must recognize that not having a job ready negatively impacts the quality and costs of the job.”
How can a builder know what the trade contractor expects in terms of job readiness if there hasn’t been effective communication? Since trade contractors are ultimately responsible for the quality of work as well as safety-related issues, they should establish minimum readiness standards that apply to all their jobs. These “job-ready conditions” provide a vehicle for trades to communicate with builders and consistently train their crews.
A best practice is for trades to include these policies in their bid packages and to review them personally with the jobsite superintendent at start-up. This can help ensure that both the builder’s purchasing and construction staffs understand the job readiness expectations.
Considerations for developing job-ready policies should include:
- Has the previous trade completed his work and left the jobsite clean?
- Does the previous trade’s work meet specifications for tolerances (such as plumb, level, square, flat, dry, etc.)?
- Are builder-supplied materials on site and in good condition?
- Is there any damage at the site that needs to be noted (e.g., broken curb, broken window, etc.)?
- Is there safe access to the site?
Each trade will add its specific items, tolerances, and expectations to this list.
Job-ready policies should also be developed to define steps to be taken if a job is not ready when the crew arrives, including conditions that can be worked around and conditions under which the trade will not proceed. The policy should include who is to be notified if a job is not ready; who can authorize work to begin as well as make adjustments to accommodate the situation; and when any signoffs are required and by whom. For example, installing hardwood over a subfloor with high moisture content before it is ready will void the product manufacturer’s warranty. In this case, if the builder insisted on proceeding, a best practice would be for him to sign off on that order, thereby accepting the warranty responsibility.
Trades may occasionally be tempted to ignore some job readiness issues or to forego proper procedures due to the close relationship between the trade’s crew and the builder’s superintendent. Or trades may be fearful of not getting future work. While this practice may seem harmless at first glance, it causes problems for both the builder and the trade contractor over the long term, impacting cost for the trade as well as scheduling and warranty callbacks for both the builder and the trade, which may lead to customer dissatisfaction.
A best practice is for the builder’s management to require trades to periodically report on job readiness. This requirement not only would communicate to both superintendents and trades the importance of job readiness, but also would allow management to focus attention on recurring issues.
Keeping track of job-ready issues can bring other benefits, too. As an example, one trade contractor compiled some data and met with the builder’s vice president of construction. He asked the builder how much he thought the job-ready issues had cost him over the last year. The builder estimated about $10,000. The contractor’s data showed more than $100,000. That got the builder’s attention, and things changed. Both the builder and the trade benefited from improved job readiness.
When a job is ready, everyone wins – the builder, the trades, and especially the homeowner. Homes are completed on time and within budget, and callbacks are contained.[return to top]