Wisconsin’s Lean Construction Institute Event

Encircle HealthCan lean manufacturing practices really be applied to architecture, engineering, and construction industries?  How can building “widgets” in a climate-controlled production facility relate to building “one-off” buildings in an unpredictable environment?  Well, this is what the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) has set out to do. 

The LCI, founded in 1997, is dedicated to researching and developing knowledge regarding project-based production management in design, engineering, and construction industries. Through the years, local and regional “Communities of Practice” have been organized to share ideas and spread the word about the successes and failures of lean in the construction industry, and one of the newest has been formed in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s inaugural event was held in February 2011, and drew about 90 participants from all areas of construction including those in education, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and owners. Over the summer months, a second event was held over two days focusing on design and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and just last week, a third event was held focused around the theme “Sustaining Lean and Creating a Lean Project’s Collective Enterprise.”  

The core of last week’s LCI event was changing culture to sustain a lean shift. Larry Rubrick of WCM Associates facilitated a discussion centered on this topic. His main concept focused on lean as a business strategy, a business “operating system” for running your organization, and developing a set of tools and techniques that can continuously improve safety, quality, productivity, and project delivery while reducing project lead times and cost. This technique is implemented through the training empowerment and participation of the entire work force.

The execution of this concept was demonstrated in a follow-up presentation presented by Thedacare, Boldt Company, HGA, and Faith Technologies. The four organizations shared how their different theories on executing lean came together to deliver an IPD project for the Encircle Health building located in Appleton, Wis. They discussed lean, and leveraged the benefits in a way that best aligns with their core business.

ThedaCare (owner): “Healthcare Lean Transformation” focused on better healthcare at a lower cost than other communities. It focused on PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and utilizing the A3 problem solving method to pinpoint value added and non-value added activities, and identifies the waste in current processes and workflows.

HGA (architect): “Knowledge Based Design” is a philosophy that embraces and leverages an integrated approach to provide high-value design. It is a way of working with clients (external processes) for clients (internal processes) and creating a more creative, Idea-driven, innovative, entrepreneurial solution.

Boldt Company (construction manager): “Integrated Lean Project Delivery” focused on promoting and enabling engagement, open candid, and respectful communication through Interactive scheduling / production planning, continuous safety improvement, and target value management (a project development design and construction methodology).

Faith Technologies (electrical subcontractor): Keith Verstegen, Group Manager, discussed Faith Technologies’ “Faith Performance Advantage,” which focused on project preplanning and early design involvement, prefabrication of repeatable components, 30/30 Rule (tools and materials within 30 feet and 30 seconds of the work), centralized purchasing, and productivity time studies.

Due to the inherent cultures of each organization and where they have the highest impact during the development and design of a building, each company has created their own way of tackling lean.  Whether it is the internal operating process within the four walls of a building, or prefabricating a singular component of it – each company has found a way to apply principals that grew from the manufacturing industry.

How can you apply lean to your business?