September 25, 2017

Cornerstones: Productivity

The Joint Venture team at Contract E in New Haven has driven itself four months ahead of schedule. At the most ambitious highway project ever undertaken in the state and the byword for productivity, the work of Carpenter Foreman Ryan Young has gained special notice.

Young and his small winter crew frame various large concrete structures: bridge decks, abutments, parapets. They build the wooden frames and forms that hold the wet concrete while it takes shape and then strip off those forms when the concrete is cured. Young’s is one of six carpentry crews that work at Contract E.

Young is youthful for a foreman. In his thirties, rugged and looking the part of a leader, he is very uncomfortable if he is not pushing his assignments forward, even on ice-cold winter days. He’s been with O&G since 2007 and was promoted to foreman at Contract E two years ago.

Carpentry has been all  Young  has  set his hand to since high school. He recalls his years in residential framing where his work ethic was formed. It was a do or   die, invaluable, mind-setting experience. “Framing houses is go-go-go,” he says, “and if you can’t keep up with the pace you’re gone. To have a very productive mind to  do carpentry it helps to have a residential go-go-go background. You learn how fast things need to get done in order to make money.”

Bob Nardi, Structural Superintendent at E, seeks carpenters with a residential production background. “I’ll hire those guys all day long. They know what it takes to get the work done. They can pick up bridge work easily, but they bring that drive.”

Young deliberately learned from foremen at every job he’s worked for O&G, boosting his competency. “I’ve  worked with a  lot of good ones. I’ve learned three or four different ways to do everything.” So he’s not daunted by challenges, whether it’s a specification, a working environment or a schedule. He also has a brotherhood of experienced foremen and superintendents he can bounce ideas off of.

Young pushes any accolades for his productivity toward his carpenters and laborers. A camaraderie that fosters cooperation that leads to productivity flows down from Young. “I have good guys working for me, a really good crew. It’s all about the guys.  If you can get the guys who do it once and it’s done right the first time, you don’t have to go back and change things. That’s a perfect world.” When Jerry Meskun retired two years ago Young inherited his crew. He has two of those men – “Ziggy” Lata and Armando Machado – with him on E along with laborer Charlie Guzik and Wayne Ritchie, a carpenter foreman helping out until he has his own crew come spring.

Turning out work quickly only counts if that work is good work, Young knows. Push- ing productivity without pushing quality would be to build a house of cards. Young, who laughs when he says, “I’m OCD like crazy,” sees doing things right the first time as the only acceptable way to build. “If you’re getting the work done on time and it’s coming out nice, that’s the number one thing. I don’t want to cost the company money. I want to make them money, then we all benefit. I really, really, really care about how things come out.” He calls it a perfect mixture when he hits that sweet spot between “making it really nice and keeping the task moving.”

What Young says of his crew he extrapolates to the company as a whole: do good work that comes out nice, finish it on time and you’re always going to have work.

What happens to productivity when winter weather rolls in? “It takes a huge toll but we keep moving ahead,” he says. This winter has been mild; the winter of 2015, the coldest recorded in the state, was the worst he’d ever experienced. “Machines are not meant to run in those temperatures. Power cords cracked, saws were dying faster. Plus it’s harder to move when you’re all bundled up. For weeks we framed an abutment, fifty feet high, and we had a sustained 20-mile-per-hour wind funneling through that corner every day. That was unbelievable.

But Young’s crew refused to bow down before the weather, the work continued and today, due to the steady accumulation of such days logged by Young and others at E, the strategy to drive ahead of the schedule has held solid.