Most of us would agree that there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. There is always some sort of fire to extinguish, the unexpected phone call that takes longer than planned, or pleasing your customer who wants to add more work to the project just when you were planning to call it complete.
The work is on the schedule and needs to be completed as planned and promised. But how do you squeeze more time out of the clock or jam more stuff into the available time? The answer is time management.
Wikipedia defines time management as: “The process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity.” Further, planning or forethought is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal.
In order to apply these principles in the tile trades, an installer must develop a plan of action by either building the project in his or her head prior to beginning the work, or by sketching it out on a piece of paper. Having a plan in place is the roadmap to a successful project completion.
Plan ahead with a grid pattern for layout
The use of a grid pattern for floor tile layout is a good example. It may take a little more time to mark the layout on the substrate, pop key lines, and grid it out, but once in place, all the perimeter cuts can be made. Making these cuts on a snap cutter saves more time. In this case, almost all of the cuts, with the exception of “L” cuts, can be made right where they will be installed. No need to walk to the wet saw, make the cut(s), dry the back of the tile, and walk back to the install point. Additionally, once the mortar is properly mixed, the grid pattern allows multiple installers to work in the same area, which really increases productivity.
When cuts need to be made on a wet saw and the installer is working alone, mark as many pieces that can be safely carried to the saw and make all of them at one time. Making multiple trips to the saw with only one or two cuts can devour a huge amount of time.
Better-grade materials can save time
Using a better grade of setting materials that have thixotropic (becoming flowable when moved in a back and forth motion) characteristics will yield better mortar coverage and transfer to the back of the tile. Many times, these products will eliminate the need to back-trowel (formerly known as back-buttering) the tile with additional mortar.
Something that wasn’t even a factor ten years ago is now a significant drain on the productivity of a tile installation. Not surprisingly, a smartphone and Facebook bring new challenges to the workplace. Everyone needs to be connected these days, but the jobsite should be just that, with nothing to interrupt the thoughts that went into the plan. When focus is lost, so is the valuable time that is needed to get back on track and keep moving.
One more thought; show up to the job early each day well rested and ready to go. Establish your plan and stick to it.
And finally, the Evaluators of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program routinely stress this phrase to the installers preparing to take the hands-on test: “Use your time wisely!”
Scott Carothers is the Acdemic Director for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) and is responsible for the creation of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program, and is involved in the creation of the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program as well as providing training to others in the tile industry.
Carothers has been involved in the ceramic tile industry for nearly 40 years and was the owner of a successful retail and installation firm prior to CTEF. He has served as President and Chairman of the Board of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee, was named the NTCA Tile Person of the Year in 2005, and the NTCA Ring of Honor recipient in 2013. He is a voting member of the ANSI and the TCNA Handbook committees.