The 2022 Excavator Perspective Summit took place during The Global Excavation Safety Conference in Phoenix, AZ, at the beginning of March. Four excavation industry veterans, including moderator Larry Berwanger of Badger Daylighting, came together to discuss communication issues in the excavation process. More specifically, to point the panel towards solution-driven discussion, they ventured to answer the question, “What can be done to improve communication?”
Moderator: Larry Berwanger, Upper Midwest Region Manager, Badger Daylighting
William Alex, Construction Manager, Henkels & McCoy
Sandi Garrick, Area Construction Manager, Markham Contracting
Larry Krummert, Director of Quality, Mears Group, Inc.
William Alex, Construction Manager at Henkels & McCoy, explained his company’s emphasis on building genuine relationships with area locators. Project foremen make an effort to gather and use the phone numbers of locators working on the project and stay in active communication with them. This can relieve the tension that tends to build between locators and excavators who can both come into the situation feeling like the other is either delaying their work or unfairly increasing their workload. Opening a channel of communication above and beyond the standard ticket procedure helps build trust for both parties on top of improving efficiency. The result is safer, faster projects.
Sandi Garrick, Area Construction Manager as Markham Contracting, agreed.
“If you wait until there’s an issue between excavators and locators, you’re going to fail.” – Sandi Garrick
As an example of established relationships positively impacting a project, Sandi relayed an experience Markham Construction had with Southwest Gas. Markham Construction discovered a shallow gas line located at an airport. Because of the established relationship with Southwest Gas, they were able to easily communicate the issue, expedite the process, and have the line lowered the very same day. Establishing a relationship did not cause either party to bypass any of the normal safety procedures, but the trust and communication built over time helped a difficult job get done faster.
Larry Krummert, Director of Quality at Mears Group Inc, pointed to the fact that industry jargon varies geographically, between stakeholders, and even person to person.
“Each company has their own jargon. Even the same utility can have different jargon from state to state.” – Larry Krummert
The source of the jargon? Everything from regional preferences to the public utility commissions, which makes it a particularly tricky problem to solve in the short term. Individual states are trying to tackle it in their immediate areas, though. Sandi Garrick is a part of an Arizona Coalition to clarify the process. She emphasized that they’re working on unifying jargon to eliminate communication issues within the state.
Improve Ticket Communication
One solution came from a summit audience member, who suggested that the excavator put as much detail about the project as possible on the ticket. Tickets that are too broad or are unclear can cause a cascading time waste across the system. You can do this a few ways:
• Clear communication between the project foreman and whoever is creating the ticket
• Train office staff in a consistent ticket creation process, starting with the basics and emphasizing clarity
Even with the extra ticket detail, it’s important to also consider white lining. Ticket notes can get lost or disregarded as the project moves through a game of telephone. Despite that possibility, it was agreed upon that it’s far better to air on the side of an overly detailed ticket than one with too little information.
“You can’t go wrong with over-communication.” – William Alex