“Show me the money!” That well known line from a famous movie is familiar to us all. We may find ourselves wondering as each quarter closes why we aren’t making more money? Where does it all go? The rising cost of energy is most likely a factor, as is the burgeoning cost of healthcare and the ever-rising cost of materials. These problems can be counterbalanced by adjusting the way you price a job. Adding more for installation and allowing more profit on sheet goods will help, but be careful not to add too much or you may price yourself out of the project.
Another common way that money can slip through your fingers is through employee mistakes. In fact, that may be the biggest profit killer in a surface shop. In our trade we don’t enjoy the huge profit margins that other trades experience and that is why it is imperative to get work done right the first time. While keeping in mind we aren’t perfect and there will be times when jobs have their problems, there isn’t any reason we can’t increase profit percentages by following a few easy steps.
There’s a book called Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Demming, the father of the Japanese rise to industry dominance when it comes to quality. I highly recommend you buy this book because in it one point that stands out is that it’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality. What we as surface shops need is to get it right the first time because as Demming says, production comes from less rework.
It is just common sense that getting something right the first time prevents having to do it a second time. Here is an interesting example of the “do it right the first time” mentality: The first time a Sony television is ever plugged in and switched on is when the consumer takes it out of the box. It is not tested at the factory. The company has complete confidence in their ability to manufacture their product right the first time.
How can we increase confidence in our own products turning out right the first time? In my opinion, 95 percent of all mistakes can be avoided if certain key steps are taken with each job.
Before scheduling a template, you must make sure certain requirements are met: first of all, the entire work order must be properly filled out. This includes the color, edge, sink information and stove cutout. On the day of the template, we need the sink in our hands. Otherwise we will not start the job. This may seem harsh, but we have been following this policy for a few years with good results. We haven’t lost a customer yet. In fact, we have gained more customers. Have you ever taken a customer’s word on a sink model to find out later that it was the wrong sink? That is a frustrating and costly mistake. It is much easier to start with all the correct information.
Next, let’s consider how to cut down on mistakes in the shop. Consider making up some standard operating procedures (SOPs). We do this for the template, fabricators, installers and sanders as a way to provide uniformity to the operation and instill quality into the product.
These SOPs contain information on various topics, such as the proper sandpaper to use on a certain color or how wide to cut MDF buildup strips. The procedures don’t have to be complicated. Sometimes just a few sentences are sufficient, but make sure to keep them available so employees can refer to them.
Now let’s head out onto the road. If you have to go back to an installation more than once, then you probably aren’t going to break even.