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David Gretzmier
12-07-2008, 09:59 PM
On takedowns, I am already thinking of the boxes for storage to purchase, 3 inch Tapeguns and tape, yellow plastic tags for the c-9 lights and wreaths. we get most of our stuff from ULINE.

we need to build about 40 spools for the additional c-9 jobs we did this year, along with some shelving and reorganizing of our current storage system.

I will begin filming jobs tomorrow under a new video system. In the past, I used a mini-dvd camera to film each job and it put it on a single mini-dvd. the install crew would then play that dvd for instructions on how to put up the job. This year I will be filming using a hard drive video camera, film all of the new jobs and the jobs that have add-ons, and probably another 20-40 old jobs, just to start replacing the individual mini-dvd's we currently use with a single 5 inch dvd that will hold aprox 50-60 jobs.

eventually we will have all of our jobs on a set of 3-4 DVDs that we can burn anytime from the computer. We had about a dozen mini-dvd's get scratched this year and were unplayable. This way if the 2008 dvd gets scratched we can burn a new one.

I also went ahead and purchased a used 16 foot boxvan to add to the fleet, I figure we can really use it during takedowns. 16 foot is probably a little big for install, but the 14 footer we have has a big limitation. To carry a 32 foot extension ladder you have to leave the access door open between the cab and the box. I know I need a ladder rack system for the boxvans for a 40 foot ladder, but I have not figured it out yet.

shade tree landscaping
12-21-2008, 12:04 AM
I just take a pic of the house before take downs, bring the pic and a sharpie to the house, number each part of the lites, mark the picture with number and bag/box it all up. Has worked great for me so far. Alot cheaper and easier than buying a video camera

David Gretzmier
12-22-2008, 04:42 AM
we did photo's and sharpies when we only had about 20 jobs or so and I could be at all installs to answer questions. They were helpful to me when I put it back up. when you have crews that do install, photo's don't work for me, as they rarely contain all the info the guys need to do install. I spent 500 bucks or so on the camera, and it saves me at least ten times that per year on labor. Since I have multiple crews, I can't be there at the start of every job. The video allows my voice to be there and show them where all the stuff was on the house last year.

In about 2-3 minutes I can zoom in and show where all plugs, outlets, cords go, what size wreath, how much garland and which bushes got mini-lights.
I also talk about info you tend to forget-which outlet is good or bad, gates, locks, dogs, special customer issues, etc. It is a perfect thing to do when install is done and Christmas is not yet here.

David Gretzmier
12-22-2008, 04:56 AM
Checking off the list-

picked up the boxvan from indiana this weekend and brought it home tonight. long trip but an awesome deal and very good box van. can't wait to put graphics on it. needs a tire, a latch for the access door between the cab and the box, and a good wash, but otherwise perfect. stereo is shocking great factory job.

got about 60 videos done and will film as many old jobs as I can before takedown. I am trying to get all jobs re-filmed this year and launch the 4-6 dvd set instead of a hybrid system like I previously planned. with 100 videos to go, I may not make it.

Ordered 3, 3 inch tape guns and am switching to yellow paper tags instead of plastic. plastic tags are 40 cents each now ( was 20 or so last year), and paper is about 6. since we go through 5 hundred per year or so, and we rarely get these wet, I hope this is a good call. was able to go with a larger tag to provide more detail when we label c-9 strands.

1/3 the way done on spools. will finish before christmas day.

I need to hire someone next year for billing and collections. I can barely keep up with it with my wife's part time help and she hates to call and ask for money or knock on folks door. i am determined to hire this out next year.

David Gretzmier
01-01-2009, 12:10 AM
spools done, tags and tape guns working well, got 110 videos done and 50 more to do.

got 22 jobs down in 4 days, will try to get 138 jobs down in 13 working days when we go to 3 crews full time on friday.

hotrod1965
01-02-2009, 02:23 PM
spools done, tags and tape guns working well, got 110 videos done and 50 more to do.

got 22 jobs down in 4 days, will try to get 138 jobs down in 13 working days when we go to 3 crews full time on friday.

When your done.. bundle up and come up here!

Jason Rose
01-02-2009, 03:13 PM
Sounds like you have things VERY well thought through. That's smart with the video camera.

I only do a few houses, besides going clark griswold on my own place, and just got the others all taken down today. Glad to have good weather! Also glad to make it back in one piece. 10 months before I have to start on lights again!

David Gretzmier
01-02-2009, 11:24 PM
111 jobs to go, 30 videos to do. working all crews tomorrow since we were off Jan. 1, but off on Sunday. with great weather next week, may get done by friday next week if all crews work all 5 days and click along as they have been. This would be the earliest we have been done with takedowns ever, except maybe 2001 when I only had 12 customers in Northwest Arkansas.

Ordered a new building last week, having it built instead of building it myself, smaller than I wanted but probably doubling my current cubic footage. hopefully this will buy me 4-5 years worth of customers space. This will be 2000 square feet from 13 feet on the sides to 17 feet tall at the peak. mark my words, I will regret not building this thing taller and bigger, but it is the biggest i can afford right now. at 12 grand built on my existing pad, not too bad. In case anyone wonders, that is 6 bucks per square foot built or aprox. 50 cents a CUBIC foot built, which actually is more important to me.

of course, I hoped that 900 square feet ( but only 8 feet tall ) added last year would buy me a couple of years. I gobbled that up in a year. I also am carrying over about 450 square feet in just inventory space, which I have never done before either.

David Gretzmier
01-05-2009, 11:44 AM
89 jobs to go as of this morning. 9 more videos to do. guys lost a 400 buck little giant ladder on Sat, made them go out and find it and luckily we did. Had a complaint yesterday that was a first time ever. we took down a job on Sat, jan. 3rd, and they complained we took it down too early. They had company and wanted them to enjoy it through the 5th. This is in a neighbordhhod that HAS to be down by Jan. 11th per POA rules. Tried to apologize, but may lose him next year. That'd be wonderfully ironic- losing a customer from taking town lights too soon after the 1st.

Scheduling takedowns has got to be given higher priority once installs are done next year. All customers will be called starting the 10th of December or so. waiting til the 20th most folks are gone on vacation. apparently, 4 categories: take down before Christmas ( yeah, we had a couple of those) , take down between Christmas and new year's day, and takedown after jan 2, and THEN folks who need it later than that.

M&N Maintenance
01-05-2009, 04:43 PM
David I think it is great that you are that organized. Will be doing the pictures this year hopefully it will work for me.
Start my take downs today.

David Gretzmier
01-06-2009, 06:30 PM
At 66 left to takedown as of end of today. 3 jobs left to film. collections are a headache. hoping to get down to 20-30 jobs left by friday with no overtime. will go down to 2 crews next week, one crew foreman going back to college.

David Gretzmier
01-07-2009, 09:57 PM
53 to go as of today at close of business. good day tomorrow gets us to 36, then 22 by friday close. keeping overtime to a minimum, so no working Sat or Sun. Hopefully all will go well. going to 2 crews and weather permitting will get the rest done by friday next week. weather has been incredibly wonderful for january- low of 28 to highs in the lower 50's, and no rain or snow/ice. so far.

on takedowns, I am always worried I have forgotten someone. and I always forget how fast takedowns go as opposed to install. Having a crew taketown 4-6 jobs a day times 3 crews makes quick work of even 150-160 jobs. The giant jobs do take more time, but then the smaller jobs go pretty quick- we had one crew do 8 in one day.

the 14 foot box vans seemed overkill on install, but on takedowns they are absolute minimum. With all the ladders, spools, wreaths and boxes, the UPS van/bus and the 12 foot enclosed trailer/truck combo we also have seem a little small for much more than 4 jobs. In the future 16 foot box vans are my new rig.

hotrod1965
01-08-2009, 09:33 AM
Wow, we have a high of 25 today, with fresh snow! Next week it is supposed to be down in the teens and even more snow... we might get done by the end of Jan...

loupiscopolandscaping
01-09-2009, 10:01 AM
ive never got into this field b4....how do you charge? per man per hour? by job? id think per man per house just incase the homeowner wants to add a few things...also is it better to supply lights and dec. or the homeowners?

shade tree landscaping
01-09-2009, 01:50 PM
LOU...Kinda in your area....around here we chrage by the bulb, I only use my lites, and I store them for the customers. Worked into my per bulb charge is my material, which is pennies wholesale, storage, and so on. Very very very lucrative in the central NJ area, but also headaches along with it. Be ready for call backs when bulbs burn out, garland falls and all that fun stuff. Starting next year, all new customers will be getting LED lights only, slowy start to do away with incendecent lites since they burn out.

turf hokie
01-09-2009, 08:23 PM
We have 50 take downs left with some being multiple day takedowns.

Not good considering we a supposed to get 10" of snow tomorrow and then the highs are going to be in the 20's all next week. Gonna be a slow go for a while. Planning to finish in 2 weeks.

Sounds like Hotrod sent is crappy weather out this way.

David Gretzmier
01-10-2009, 03:24 PM
LOU and shadetree- If you guys want info on charging and whatnot, there is a ton of info on previuos threads where i amd others outling how and what we charge.

got it whittled down to 27 jobs left at fridays finish. going to 2 routes monday, hoping for a thursday or friday finish

David Gretzmier
01-10-2009, 04:11 PM
A few folks have asked me about storage and I can give you some basics-

All out c-9 spools are stored in one place on huge shelves I made myself that are from 4x8 sheets of plywood and 2x6x8's. not all customers have c-9s, but for 160 customers total the space required to store all c-9 spools is 4 feet deep, by 9 feet high( 2 levels and we stack the spools on top of each other within a level), by aprox 50 feet long, plus a 6 foot aisle in front of that rack.

we store all c-9s on spools we make from an 8 foor 2x4. take a 2x4x8 and cut into 5 equal pieces. use your table saw or circular saw to cut a 3 1/2 inch wide by 3/4 inch deep groove in middle of 4 of the pieces. they make the x's on the end, and the uncut piece is the spindle. screw together with 3 3 inch decking screws on each end. we add 40 spools each year for new jobs and to replace the ones that break. we label each strand on the spool with yellow tags, wired on, by customer name and where that strand starts and finishes. we get the yellow tags with wire from Uline.com for about 58 bucks per 1000, or 6 cents apiece. They are the # 8 size.

we store all wreaths on custom shelves, again, that we built using 4x8 plywood and 2x6x8's. The bottom row holds 6 and 7 foot wreaths, the uppers hold 4 and 5 foot. wreaths for 160 customers fill a 4 foot ( they stick out on the floor) by 9 foot tall by 50 foot length. all wreaths are tagged with customer name and, if needed also 1 of 2, 1 of 3 etc. if a customer has more than 1 wreath. all tags are located on the outside of the wreath when stored at eye level for easy reading. we exceeded this space already with another 10-15 wreaths still to take down this year. we will move all the wreaths into room 3 when it is built in March, and then use the space in room 1 for customer boxes. eventually we will move all the c-9 spools into room 3, and finally add boxes when that space in room 1 is full.

All cords, timers, mini's, light links and garland go in 48x12x12 boxes that I buy from Uline.com or boxes that new product came in. That space fills an 8 foot wide double sided rack that is again, aprox 50 feet long, but is 11 feet tall with boxes stacked to ceiling.

all odd sized items, 8 and 9 foot wreaths, 3d angels, 5 foot stars, 2-d trains, sign poles etc, go into room 2 and are tagged by customer name.

Room 2 also has racks that are 4 foot deep, but mostly that room is new stock and empty boxes.

All bins in the racks are labeled by room number 1,2,3, then a row by letter a, b, then a bin location by number, even on one side and odd on the other side of the row, then Bottom, Middle or Top by B,M, or T . all items stored are noted by bin location in the customer work file.

FINALLY, all 40 or so old welded Brite Ideas starbursts ( they don't fold flat and don't box well like the Holiday Bright Lights ones) are hung above our opened garage door by s-hooks. I had some 4 feet of space above that thing when it was open, and we just use a pole to hang them up and take them down.

so room 1 is 30 feet by 50 feet, 1500 sqaure feet by 9-11 feet tall. 3 racks, one against each 50 foot wall and one in the middle that is double with 8 foot wide. 2, 6 foot wide aisles running 50 feet along racks.

Although it seems as though all this is organized, and I have it all together, in fact it has been a huge work in progress to maximixe space. Every year I build racks and add storage space. I modify existing racks to better hold wreaths- 7 footers, 4 footers, or 3 footers, again to maximixe space. 13 months ago I puchased the other half of my property ( I was splitting a building with a friend) and got the office, a bathroom, and a small employee space, and 900 sqare feet of storage space( only 9 feet tall though ) , and it is all used. Room 3 will be a signifigant addition of a 24x82 metal building ( 2000 feet ), and goes from 13.5 side to 17.5 feet peak tall , but my fear is THAT won't be enough to buy me 4-5 years like I'd like. I may invest another 4 grand to make it 2400 feet ( 30 foot wide) , and a slightly higher peak ( 18.5) but I really don't have the funds. I need to find the funds because I like the arrangement in room 1 and would like to duplicate it.

hotrod1965
01-12-2009, 12:12 PM
Always label like crazy! There is no way you will remember a year later!

David Gretzmier
01-13-2009, 11:19 PM
yeah- Labeling is of extreme omportance to me, but not to my guys. I have to constantly preach it. Funny how they forget hard hard some installs were when they could not figure out how to put up some c-9 jobs. then takedown begins, and they turn into the same way, get them down as fast as possible and they'll figure it out next year.

updates- will basically be done tomorrow with some clean up/organization in the shop to be done on Thurs and friday. Have never finished this early, but I have never had 3 crews taking down, never used boxvans before this year, and never this good of weather. We have had no rain or snow days since Dec. 26th.

and of course, now all the customers have way higher expectations for next year.

Lots of lessons learned this year, But mostly just hiring good folks, good instructions ( video's of jobs ) , and organization. Gotta do 4 crews next year, just too much overtime on 3 this year, without awesome weather we would not have made our committments on installs. 4 crews would allow us to give crews a day off per week during November and maybe only 11 hour days instead of 12 and 14.

Shop foreman is a must now. I am spoiled- having trucks unloaded/loaded when install/takedown guys get there is absolutely critical. also it keeps warehousing responsibility straight.

turf hokie
01-14-2009, 11:31 AM
Nice David,

We have 35 to go but we are dealing with more snow storms than ever and now we have single digit weather conditions and more snow on the way.

I spoiled my customers in the past with good weather and fast take downs. Now I am getting calls as to our schedule because they are used to us being there already. Most are understanding that we can only do so much and move so fast. We put an additional crew back out yesterday to try to get us back on schedule.

But I agree a warehouse guy is key, we are not to the point of justifying one yet but man my warehouse is a disaster right now:hammerhead:

David Gretzmier
01-15-2009, 12:48 AM
my warehouse guy comes in at 5:30 or so, and his install partner comes in at 7 or so, and they get themselves and the other 2 crews unloaded/loaded by 8am when everyone else gets there. and then they install/takedown til around 2-3pm. next year I will probably have both of them coming in at 5:30 to do 4 crews in November.

David Gretzmier
01-15-2009, 12:50 AM
the guys will need one more day to finish up, about 1/2 day at most. so officially done with takedowns tomorrow.

christmas79
01-15-2009, 08:04 PM
Good for you! Well here in Chicago its COLD right now -15! My lights days are over in till it warms up above freezing.

David Gretzmier
01-17-2009, 12:00 PM
and I thought I was a wimp for not wanting to work when it was in the teens on the positive side of zero. The coldest it got here was 6 degrees one early morning. It'll be 50 here today, I'll be setting up a landscape light demonstration for a potential customer later today.

M&N Maintenance
01-20-2009, 07:21 PM
We will once again atempt to start take downs again here in Chicago. Some of the homes we can't even try snow and ice still on roof.

turf hokie
01-21-2009, 07:22 AM
For the first time since I have been doing lights we have had to leave roof lines up, cords iced to gutters and stake lighting frozen in the ground for a later time. We are getting 2 storms a week average since the new year at 1-2 inches per time and then brutal cold(for us). We have been lucky to crack freezing with temps usually in the teens. We hope to be done by the end of the month but may still have some items that are unable to be taken down unless we get some warmer temps.

Frustratingly slow this year....

hotrod1965
01-21-2009, 11:57 AM
For the first time since I have been doing lights we have had to leave roof lines up, cords iced to gutters and stake lighting frozen in the ground for a later time. We are getting 2 storms a week average since the new year at 1-2 inches per time and then brutal cold(for us). We have been lucky to crack freezing with temps usually in the teens. We hope to be done by the end of the month but may still have some items that are unable to be taken down unless we get some warmer temps.

Frustratingly slow this year....

I feel you!

David Gretzmier
01-24-2009, 02:44 PM
Man, I'm sorry you guys have had bad weather. In the past 3 years, we have finished right around Feb 1, and as late as Feb 5th or so. I feel bad for saying so, but we have had spectacular weather for us. This along with a full set of crews allowed us to finish earlier than ever. Here's to hoping that good weather comes your way !

loupiscopolandscaping
01-24-2009, 06:58 PM
thank you guys. im just looking into other fields to see if i have an interest in them. thanks again for your help

turf hokie
01-24-2009, 08:08 PM
I feel you!

I am sure you have to deal with this more than us. But I got aggravated today when the 2 lb hammer would not free up an extension cord locked in ice. I ended up cutting the thing in half so I didnt have to go back on the roof in 2 weeks.

I have no idea how my buddies in Toronto and Alaska deal with this crap. We have never been this late with takedowns and we have so many things still frozen that as soon as it thaws it will take a 2 man crew a week to go thru and pick up all the cords, stake lights and garbage that is frozen in. I am just watching the slim profits we had this year melt away:dizzy: