It’s been decades since I spent my days seeking out solutions to productivity problems for roofing contractors. My job was selling equipment to roofing contractors, but my success came from simply showing up and talking about (and providing) solutions to whatever got in the way of a more productive and profitable roofing job.

Not only am I out of that business, but the business as it was then has also moved on. For example, the company I worked for from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s used to ship asphalt kettles in by the rail car. I doubt that the equivalent of one railcar of new kettles has been sold in this country over the past decade. 

The issue, however, of trying to solve productivity problems in the roofing trade remains the same. Only now the solutions are different.

Many of today’s productivity solutions come by way of the systems being installed. Prefabricated flashings and a variety of self-adhered products are a couple of examples. And we are witnessing tremendous growth in products — many liquid applied — that eliminate the need to remove existing roof membranes.

There are many production enhancement products emerging to organize roofing work in such a way as to eliminate lost time on projects. Imagine a world where you could roll up to a project where every move your troops make is productive. No waiting on materials or time for adhesives to cure. Not a step wasted. The technology to design these systems is not out of reach, but the discipline to work these solutions may prove challenging.

Which brings up something that may be a production killer no matter which tools or systems you adopt: Inertia. The “we’ve always done it this way” paradigm will stop your new solution way before you have any problems with the solution itself. In other words, your great new thermoplastic welding machine will never break if the crew refuses to use it, or it may just “break” if they don’t feel like using it.

The point is, don’t leave the human element out of your new productivity initiatives. Training your troops on new equipment and methods is arguably more important than the equipment or methods themselves. Take the time to sell it and secure buy-in from your crew leaders for the best results. This includes listening to what they have to say about the “new way of doing things.” In my experience, the best ideas for solving productivity problems in roofing have come directly off the roof, not an engineer’s drawing board.

With labor being scarce and promising to be even more so this year, seeking ways of maximizing every labor hour will doubtlessly result in brisk business for those who can provide great solutions. And that will run the gamut from the smallest change in a piece of production software to that fully automated sheet metal shop you’ve been dreaming about. Thanks to tax reform and a decent market, the time may be right for that next large investment. 

Scope out the Tools and Equipment section in our digital edition to see what’s new and you may find a solution to one of the production problems you’ve been working on for years. You’ll find even more solutions at our exclusive product directory, the Roofing Resource here.