During the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated closures, we all learned how vital technology is in making landscape companies tick, especially when it comes to scheduling.
In fact, some landscape company owners, like Marty Grunder, have said they could not have run their businesses remotely without cloud-based landscape scheduling software.
Even though it’s 2020, many landscape companies still manage their schedules manually with whiteboards or spreadsheets. These methods offer little flexibility for changes and no visibility into job tickets. Without insight into the costs and budgets associated with each job, it’s nearly impossible to accurately forecast and manage labor hours, much less overtime.
Landscape companies that use an integrated scheduling software know the benefit of seeing the progress and costs of their jobs on the schedule in real time. Ultimately, they can better manage labor costs and drive profitability.
Here are four ways landscape scheduling software enables landscape professionals to do that:
- Reducing unproductive time
- Maximizing the scheduler’s time while minimizing mistakes
- Anticipating hiring needs and understanding crew capacity
- Monitoring overtime
Reducing unproductive time
A landscape scheduling software program like Aspire helps you see whether crew members are performing billable work or adding unproductive time to jobs. Because the schedule is integrated with the crew’s mobile device, which doubles as a time clock, it’s apparent how much time is spent on site vs. driving.
For example, let’s say you have three crew members in a truck for 10 hours a day. They’re consistently taking 30 hours per day to do their work, but they only have 20 hours of productive time logged. You can conclude they’re spending too much time driving around, which gives you the opportunity to troubleshoot their routing or train them as needed.
Along those lines, integrated scheduling software allows you to generate a report so you can share estimated hours vs. actual hours with your crew members. They can’t make better decisions or set goals to be more efficient without that information. Even better, you can use this data as a motivational resource and potentially incentivize them for hitting their budgets.
It’s common in the landscape industry for a client to demand a specific service day or time – and for a salesperson to agree to those terms to win the sale without fully understanding whether there’s room in the schedule to meet the request.
When you’re using a manual system like a whiteboard or a spreadsheet, it’s difficult to visualize your capacity for new clients or understand where gaps exist for you to combine tasks or jobs to increase efficiency from a routing or resource management standpoint. This scenario leads to you to agree to a daily or weekly schedule that adheres to your promises to clients but may drive up costs because it’s not as efficient as possible.
Scheduling software that allows you to plot crews’ job sites on a map and also see the entire schedule at a glance—days, weeks, or months in advance—leads to better routing decisions, ultimately reducing travel time and labor costs.
Maximizing the scheduler's time while minimizing mistakes
Let’s face it, manually scheduling jobs takes a lot of time and leaves a lot of room for error.
With scheduling software, you don’t need to live in fear of someone erasing your whiteboard or accidentally deleting a cell in your spreadsheet.
In a system like Aspire, a signed contract turns into a work ticket that’s available to go on the schedule. A production manager or operations manager may choose to add these jobs to the schedule one by one, but in Aspire he or she may opt to use the recurring schedule feature. With this capability, you can schedule out an entire contract year’s worth of services in just a few clicks.
For example, if you’re going to mow weekly and it’s always going to be on Monday, you can set the whole year’s schedule at one time. Additionally, when you renew a maintenance contract, you can choose to hold the schedule from the prior year, eliminating the need to reschedule the work tickets, saving your scheduler a lot of time and hassle.
Furthermore, additions and changes are as easy as dragging and dropping the jobs onto a different day—no need to completely wipe the board and start over. The system updates crews about the changes in real-time via the mobile app. It’s also nearly impossible to miss or forget to schedule a job with landscape scheduling software like Aspire. The system will automatically flag a work ticket that hasn’t been scheduled to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Anticipating hiring needs and understanding crew capacity
With full visibility of the work tickets in your pipeline, you can plainly see your upcoming resource requirements rather than taking the schedule for granted or basing your decisions on your gut instinct alone.
For example, at a glance you can view whether you truly have a full week’s worth of work to justify adding a new crew, or if it’s a partial week and you can massage the schedule to avoid hiring a crew and incurring the added costs.
Or perhaps your schedule is full for several months out, but you’ve won some enhancement work and you need to execute several large mulching jobs in a short period of time. With scheduling software, you’ll know months in advance that you need to hire additional temporary staff or bring back your seasonal staff earlier than anticipated.
In my experience working at a landscape company, tulip bulb planting was a challenge for us every fall. With scheduling software, I could see how many man-hours of planting we had to do on top of our regular work and evaluate whether I had the manpower to get it done. It was often a combination of rearranging the schedule and hiring.
In tandem with hiring, scheduling software makes it easy to anticipate if or when you’ll need to book more sales or lay people off.
All landscape company owners and managers know that overtime, when it’s not used strategically or intentionally, can be a profit killer. Landscape scheduling software keeps you informed about overtime with up-to-date data about your crews’ hours.
With a whiteboard or spreadsheet system where the work ticket isn’t tied to the schedule, you often don’t have a good idea about when you’re getting into overtime territory. A scheduling software program like Aspire alerts you when a crew is in overtime, allowing you to monitor and manage those extra labor costs and make better decisions about hiring or scheduling for the future.
Hopefully, the pandemic will soon be in our past and we won’t need to run our businesses from home anytime in the near future. Regardless, the benefits of switching to a landscape scheduling software to help you manage labor costs are tough to ignore. Don’t wait for the next crisis to investigate your options.
At Aspire, we understand that when you’re running a landscape company, it’s important to have the right tools for the job. That’s why we’ve developed an all-in-one, cloud-based solution with the functionality you need to keep your entire business running smoothly—and profitably. If you’re ready to take your company to the next level, contact us today!
Need help finding the right business management software? Download this helpful buyer’s guide to learn everything you need to know before selecting a solution, from initial research to final decision.
For other tips for achieving consistent and sustainable growth, read our article, "5 Simple Strategies to Grow Your Landscaping Business."
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