Reducing Callbacks with a Simple Photo

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Onsite Construction Managers have a habitual saying, and it goes something like this:

  • “The shingle overhang isn't straight. Get the roofer back out here.”
  • “Step on the floor and it sounds hollow. Call the tile installer and get him back out here.”
  • “The windows are streaked. The cleaners need to get back out here and finish the job.”

If you didn’t notice the common thread, it’s the phrase, “get back out here.” Otherwise known as: The Callback.

The home-building industry is competitive enough and most trades are working with rather small margins when bidding on jobs. Those callbacks eat into shrinking profit margins, especially when you count direct labor, payroll, vehicle expenses and gas. Then, there are the unseen losses, such as lost revenue opportunities and the negative good will caused by the Callback in the first place.

The truth is: Trades only get paid for doing the job right the first time. They have to absorb the cost of the second trip. So how do you reduce those dreaded Callbacks? It may sound incredibly simple, but take out your phone and start photographing problems (a.k.a“Hot Spots”). "Hot Spots" are points in the building process that can be identified as continual reasons for Callbacks. A Hot Spot photo communicates to the crew on the job-site exactly why they’re being called back. Take it a step further by photographing both the correct and incorrect way of completing a task and you can dramatically increase first time quality. Additionally, Hot Spots are extremely effective when applied to a system that’s already in place.

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For example, the quick and easy answer to reduce Callbacks is always training. More training will tie-up loose ends, shore-up lacking skills and experience, and can even pay for itself in reduced non-billable labor. Pair seasoned crew leaders with the newbie or even the crew member who made the mistake, and problem solved. Right? Not always. But, add Hot Spots to the training program, and focus on those areas that are repeat offenders, and there’s an increased chance that the newbie or under-performing crew member will have a better understanding of the expectations.

Hot Spot photos will also improve QI and QC programs. Pictures provide clarity and a deeper understanding of what to look for. With Hot Spots, crews have an added visual tool to their checklists and inspection forms, ensuring they aren’t leaving a job-site unfinished.

Hot Spot communication doesn’t end when the crew leaves the job-site though. Use Hot Spot photos in construction meetings, Toolbox Talks and even evaluations to put the spotlight on areas where new problems are occurring. It also provides a history that may shed some light on specific crews or tasks in the building system that need attention.

With FTQ360 software you can attach your Hot Spot training photos to your checklists and/or specific checkpoints. For example, if you’re a roofing contractor and you’re getting callbacks for shingle overhang not being cut evenly, you can include a checkpoint on your roofing inspection checklist such as, "Shingles cut neatly and straight along edges and gable ends". Then attach a picture of how the correct work should look.

You can track your Hot Spot and other checkpoints for the percentage of times your crews get it right the first time versus callbacks and you'll know which crews are under-performing and which ones need more training. In time, first time quality will go up, callbacks will go down and profit margins will increase.

So, yeah, just taking out your phone and snapping a few photos may seem like an overly simple answer, but those Hot Spot photos will provide information beyond what is described in training manuals and listed on QI checklists. Hot Spot photos are a tool that, when used wisely, can go a long way toward eliminating Callbacks, improving quality and increasing margins.

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