Standardize your field installation techniques to promote quality work.

Regardless of the various trades your crew members perform, you want everyone to follow the same installation procedures. When you don’t have standardized field installation systems, each person will install materials the way he or she thinks is best for the situation. When five different workers install materials five different ways, your production rates will vary, and you won’t be able to predict how long it takes to do the work. This inability to price and estimate work accurately will eventually cause you to lose money.

Get on the Same Page

To build an efficient field operation that promotes quality work within the allotted project budget, you need standardized systems and procedures for the crew to follow. When every crew member installs materials the same way, your team will improve their speed and field efficiency, which, in turn, will increase the productivity rate, standardize your cost estimating variances and give you a training tool to use with every worker on every job.

Years ago, my company had its own concrete crews with foremen responsible for building their projects with their respective crews according to the plans and estimated budget. As our company grew, we hired more foremen and added more workers. At the same time, our problems with quality grew. Slab edge cracks and flaking became prevalent on many of our projects. Some structural embeds and bolts were not installed in the right place in the foundations. And on some jobs, the slab edge was slightly buckled and not built in a true straight line. We determined that each foreman was building the concrete work based on his or her past experience and former company training, rather than according to our company standards and expected level of quality.

If a concrete contractor who installs footings and building slabs on a regular basis allows each foreman to decide how to form concrete slabs, each project will be built differently and pose potential problems. To solve this challenge, we had to determine which way we wanted to build our projects. We posed the following questions: Should the slab edge form stakes be installed at 2 feet, on center? Does the slab thickness matter? How often should we brace the stakes with another kicker stake? How many nails should the form stake be nailed with? Should the crew oil the forms right before they pour concrete or 24 hours in advance? We had many things to think about just to pour a simple slab on grade.

Decide How Your Company Builds

To develop standardized construction installation systems for your company, make a list of the most important work items you perform, the items that could cause you the most problems and the items that cost the most money to fix if not installed properly. For example, concrete contractors want to make sure footings are installed in the right location with the correct structural imbeds at the right height. They also want to reduce the potential for concrete slabs to crack. Standard systems can eliminate these costly potential problems. Start by asking each of your foremen to identify a potential problem or quality issue that can occur in your field operation, so you can fix and eliminate it.

Get Your Team Involved

For each of the standard field installation systems you want to create, gather a small team of foremen and lead tradesmen and ask them to determine the best solution for each installation method you want to standardize. After they agree on the best method to use, draft a detailed picture of the final approved company standard for this work operation. As you continue to develop more systems to use in your company, compile them in a field notebook. I recommend you assign the task of organizing and recording these systems to an office person or project engineer who can draft each one into a detailed, one-page standardized form and compile them into company field notebooks for the foremen to refer to in the field. To get your copy of “BIZ-Systems Checklist,” send an email to

To make sure your crew is following these company standards, you will need to dedicate time to train your foremen and crews. Hold field training meetings at least once per month, and review a few of these systems on an ongoing basis to teach and enforce the company-wide standards.