THE FRACO MODEL: A New Working Environment for the Bricklayer

Words: Corinne Dutil

Words and Photos: Corinne Dutil

The advent of the mast climbing work platform has brought a reduction of the laborer-to-bricklayer ratio in the masonry industry. That situation forces the identification of new ways to work with masonry equipment. The concept of division of labor may represent a solution.

Over the years, the lowering by two feet of the working deck has forced the bricklayer to adopt an ergonomic position to perform its tasks. Today, almost all masonry work platforms are delivered with step decks. Simultaneously, a higher level of competition in the industry has forced masonry contractors to reevaluate their ways of performing masonry works. All working fields shall be investigated. It is in that perspective that Fraco, with its experience in time and movement study in a series production environment, conducted several analyses with masonry contractors a few years ago to fully understand the sources of productivity for these businesses. The result of these studies gave birth to the Fraco model, a model that promotes a new working environment for the bricklayer.

OBSERVATIONS

Studies have highlighted a few observations: first, masons are performing many tasks that are not bricklaying (ex.: waiting for flashing, angle irons, sills and others, mixing concrete, asking laborers to get tools, etc.); second, there is too much material (bricks, blocks, etc.) loaded by the laborers in front of masons and bricklayers; third, the combination of the step deck and material creates a wall in front of the bricklayer avoiding any movement and anybody to help him (Picture 1).

Picture 1: Regular Step Deck

The study of time and movement realized by Fraco brought other observations. If we agree that the spreading movement and action to put a brick on can be completed at a rhythm of 15 seconds per brick, and if we consider a 20 bricks long wall with a window in it, then it takes 5 minutes to complete a row (15 seconds x 20 bricks = 300 seconds = 5 minutes). Now, some contractors told Fraco that their bricklayers are laying an average of 500 bricks per day. What does it mean in terms of time? It means that in one day, the bricklayer has his trowel in his hand and puts on bricks for a little bit more than two hours (15 seconds x 500 bricks = 7500 seconds = 2 hours and five minutes) or 25% of a workday.

Consequences of these observations are numerous: 1) a direct decrease in productivity because too much time is spent by bricklayers in waiting; 2) the bricklayer's position is not efficient and the benefits resulting from the ergonomic design of the platform are lost. It is important to set the work environment into an ideal manner; 3) bricklayers are expecting masonry materials (ex.: flashing, angle irons, sills and others) to come to them.

THE FRACO MODEL

With the Fraco model, the bricklayer is able to affect more time to its competence and specialization, i.e., laying bricks, blocks and stones and other masonry actions. The model involves a new definition of the relation between bricklayers and laborers. Laborers are no more considered as providers of material; they are now members of a supply chain, and they participate in the overall performance of a team. This model also consists into a new definition of the workspace offered by a mast climbing work platform. The bricklayer can now benefit from increased room and better utilization of resources. 

In order to translate the Fraco model into an operational reality, Fraco has developed a production table (see pictures 2 and 3) which increases the room on the platform and allows the storage of all the components other than bricks and mortar. Tools and materials like flashing, wall ties, etc., can now be stored underneath that production table, thus creating a new workspace. This allows the mason to lay brick without having to ask the laborer to bring one thing or another. The production table is interrupted by a one foot opening to give access to the laborer. That way, he can easily access the bricklayer zone to assist in the application of wall ties, seals, windows protections and other material. In fact, the aim of the Fraco model is not to increase mason’s rhythm but to allow him to concentrate on bricklaying only or as much as possible.

(Left) Picture 2: Fraco Production Table
(Right) Picture 3: Fraco Production Table (Side View)

The model requires good planning from the foreman. Thus, at the end of the day, he prepares a worksheet (Fraco Planning Form) for the next day of work. He fills up that form by indicating the list of materials that will be needed to serve bricklayers the next day, and he provides that list to concerned people (laborers, forklift operators, etc.)

The next morning, when the laborer shows up to the jobsite, he does not need to go up to organize the workspace on the platform. He takes the time to prepare his pallet with all accessories and tools other than mortar and bricks necessary for his day of work. Once he is ready, he gets on his platform, and the forklift operator brings him his pallet. In the Fraco model, a copy of the foreman's worksheet is also provided to the forklift driver so that he knows the number of bricks, blocks and mortar pan that will be required for the day.

With the Fraco model, the initial objectives are achieved, and a real teamwork culture is being applied on the jobsite. The model also creates better planning, improved communication and greater commitment from everyone.

Picture 4: Fraco Production Table
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