Time-Saving Ideas

How much does a faucet washer cost? Maybe a nickel? Wrong...

The shower's leaking bad in cabin #3 and you've got to fix it before the kids arrive. Your well-meaning maintenance assistant jumps in the truck and heads for the hardware store. If it's only 10 miles away, she'll burn up not only a whole hour of her time at $6 an hour, but the related taxes and benefits you pay on that hour, about $2 more. The truck costs you between 30 cents (for a car) and 75 cents (for a van or dumptruck) per mile, or another $10. So that nickel washer ends up costing your department $18.05 before it even gets fixed.

What's even worse is to think of all the little jobs that don't get done because "the staff just didn't have the time." It usually results in poor service for our guests and everyone scratching their heads, "How did we fail?"

So let's back up and start again.

Start with a facility review. What things do you know will go wrong? Washers, doorknobs, windows, doorsprings, screens, toilet parts, lightswitches, bulbs, waterheater thermocouples... then either order them from a wholesaler (remember how much picking them up yourself really costs?) or have your Home Improvement type stop at the home center some night off as entertainment on their own time! (Spending money is fun. Why pay someone to do it?)

Then keep the stuff organized when it gets back to the shop: Keep the parts in labeled boxes or cans in segregated sections of the shop -- Electrical, Plumbing, Hardware, etc.

Even the "poorest" center should recoup their $200 investment in saved wages the first month. But the true benefit is in the customer's satisfaction because more projects are actually getting completed.

"Wish I'd thought of that..."

Don't we have any nails?

Of all of the stupid reasons to not finish a project, not having enough nails or screws has to be the worst. The next time you order building materials or head for the Home Depot, decide what nails you use most often: 16d cement-coated sinkers for standard framing, 12d galvanized for building decks, galvanized roofing nails, ring-shank siding nails... whatever... and buy 50 pounds at a time. They're downright cheap when you buy the full box rather than the outrageous price for the per-pound packages.

Then when you get back with them, dump the whole 50 pounds into a five-gallon pail that you've kept the lid for. Label both the pail and the lid with a waterproof marker. Now your nails won't rust, the box won't fall apart, and you won't let a buck worth of nails keep you from finishing a project ever again!

"Wish I'd thought of that..."

Rubbermaid Garden Cart

"I NEED TO USE A VEHICLE" is the phrase that strikes more fear and trepidation in my heart than all others. (Except for maybe, "Sure I know how to paint." But that's another story.)

We've all got stories of how the front window of our station wagons were blown out when the program staff backed into a tree and pushed the ladder hanging out the back, out the front.

Or, why the floor is still red and sticky where the cooler of "bug juice" dumped over. Or the banged-in door that "nobody" knows how it happened. Arrrgh!

I can't afford to be giving both driving lessons and smart lessons, so I bought insurance; or actually the appropriate technology (who can argue with using appropriate technology?).

I started with two Garden-way plywood carts. They worked great. They hold almost as much stuff as the back of a station wagon. The inflated wheels roll easily over any ground, and better than a car or truck, right up to the door or onto the beach! It actually saves more time than a truck!

So now only the maintenance department drives the truck, and everyone else, program staff and guests and cooks and even me, use the garden carts. Everything from hay and firewood to P.A. equipment and tools. Our guests use them to wheel their luggage from the parking lot to their cabins.

The Garden-way carts worked well but fell apart too quickly. Enter "Don't you wish everything was Rubbermaid" with the cart. Maintenance-free except for air in the tires. Camp Jewell now owns 18 of them, and paid about $150 apiece by ordering them in lots of three or more from our local feed store.

But even the list price of $250 would be worth it. They come in two sizes: be sure to get the larger one. Grangers carries them, too.

Bryan BuchkoComment