Equipment World Contractor of the Year, 2012
Better Roads Staff
PMs and performance
Cosper says Vision Link and other telematics systems Granite Contracting uses have improved the reliability of their preventive maintenance and equipment utilization. “We thought we were pretty good at scheduling PM until we got on this, and its helped more than anything else we’ve done,” he says. He also says that reports can help identify under utilized assets.
The company also uses its telematics and back office software to capture direct and indirect equipment costs, performance and price history and can pull up the specs by groups or individually. “We measure every machine against the average and if one individual machine stands out, we’ll know pretty quick.” Theft prevention is also something Cosper likes about the new digital technology.
A fresh look at safety
Safety is important to any successful contractor. To Steve Cosper the most important thing about his safety program is that it be real and relevant.
Rather than use the traditional approach, which often winds up stigmatizing employees as the bad guys, Cosper believes that safety works best when it’s grounded in reality and not just for show. “Having these thick, three ring binders full of material might look impressive, but nobody reads them. They have no impact,” Cosper says. Instead, for the last 10 years he has used Robert Taylor, a safety consultant, to study his operations and make recommendations and establish common sense policies.
“We wanted to make it very specific to what we do and nothing that we don’t do. That has been a key,” Cosper says. “We tie safety performance to pay and to staying employed. New hires learn our safety expectations on a buddy system for the first six months. We don’t do things just to meet guidelines or checklists. We make it a culture. Employees are treated with respect and each employee “owns” the safety program. We want our kids’ dads to come home every night,” he says.
None of this happens without good people. And finding and keeping good people is always a challenge in construction. How does Granite Contracting meet this challenge?
“We have zero turnover,” Cosper says.
For his project managers, Cosper has frequently hired people like himself who had experience with larger paving companies, but wanted to try a better way.
In a conventional construction company one person or group does the estimating. Another group or person does the project management, another the billing. This is what some at Granite call, “over the wall management,” meaning as soon as you’re done with your portion of the work you just throw it over the wall to the next guy and forget about it. But that’s not how Granite operates.
Rather than work in isolation, Cosper’s project mangers get involved in the entire scope of a project, from estimating, bidding or selling the job; to management of the crews in the field – even to the collection of payments. “They bid it, build it and bill it,” he says.
“Pound for pound these guys are incredible,” Cosper says. “When we bid a job, we’ll pull similar jobs out of the files and do historical analysis and a very detailed estimating process. That might drive some people batty. But these guys embrace it and understand the importance. Every job we bid will have a peer review before it goes out. It takes a lot more time and we spend a disproportionate amount of money on this, but I think it’s worth every penny. It’s part of our culture,” he says.
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