Still using time cards? Design them so they earn money for you.

The purpose of construction field crew time cards is to keep track of employee hours so you can pay them properly, right? Not entirely. If you also want to know your job costs, your time card can become an important business tool to help you make more money. You may opt to use software applications to track employee hours, but if you are still tracking hours on paper, you need to make sure that you are making the most of your time card. To make this happen, design your time card to reflect how you do business.

Designed properly, your time card can be an invaluable tool to track labor production, field quantities installed, equipment usage and materials consumed. After gathering information from time cards, you can create a production tracking system to give your field foremen and superintendents updated job-cost data so they will know how well they’re performing every week. To design an integrated time card to work for you, have your estimator, project manager and foreman gather together to determine which work-task cost codes you want to track.

When you bid a job, the estimator calculates exact quantities of work for each part of the project. For example, to bid a new concrete slab warehouse floor, the estimator “takes off” the amount of labor, material and equipment to form the slab edge, place concrete material, finish the slab, strip the forms and clean up. Each of these operations requires a bid estimate of crew hours. Your time card cost-code categories must match how you estimate and bid so you have the information required to estimate different parts of the job. 

On every time card, the work should be broken down exactly as the estimator bid the job. By having the codes match the time card, you can calculate the hours required to perform each task after project completion to see if your production rates are accurate for the sake of future estimation.

When team leaders know what they are trying to accomplish, it is easier for them to hit their targets. In order to motivate your foremen, they must know the quantities they are trying to hit and receive a weekly update of how well they are doing. Before the job starts, the estimator should meet with the project manager and foreman to review the bid and quantities allocated to perform the job. The foreman then will have a budget goal to meet. To keep track of how well the crew is doing versus the job estimate and budget, make sure your foreman records the quantities installed every week as noted on the time card. This way, the foreman and project manager can review the progress weekly to see if they are staying on budget.

Estimators also calculate the number of equipment hours required to build projects. The time card can be used to track equipment usage as well. Set up your time card to include a listing of all of your equipment, and have the foreman record which equipment is used on the time card. Your accounting manager can then job charge your equipment usage weekly to the correct jobs, based on where it was used. At the end of the job, you can review the estimate of equipment usage versus the actual hours spent on the projects. Your foreman and project manager can also monitor the budget versus actual cost for equipment if given a weekly update of these numbers. You can do the same thing with materials.

At the end of each weekly pay period, add up the number of hours spent in each cost-code work item, and compare it to the job budget. Review these numbers with your field foreman every Monday morning to make sure they know where they stand and what they have to do to keep the job on budget. Your estimator is the best person to prepare this weekly recap because he or she clearly understands the cost codes and job budgets. Plus, the estimator will be the first to discover whether the estimate is correct. By discovering any hours that are over budget early, the field team can make immediate adjustments to bring the job in on budget.

Tracking production is easy if you design your time card properly. Have your foreman turn in every field employee’s time card daily to maintain accuracy. Keep your costs updated every week, make sure the foreman knows whether the job is on budget and then start making more profit.