Ladder of Success

Lean Construction - Goals and Benefits

September 08, 2019 Bailey @ BuffaloConsults
Ladder of Success
Lean Construction - Goals and Benefits
Chapters
0:43
Goals of Lean Construction
1:25
How David Moved into Lean Construction
3:45
Discovering True Lean
4:53
Main Principles of Lean in Construction
8:25
Dealing with Initial Resistance
9:54
Real-World Examples
12:35
Using Lean to Improve Safety
14:03
Lean to Mitigate the Labor Shortage
16:18
Future of Lean in Construction
18:53
On-Point Lean Consulting
Ladder of Success
Lean Construction - Goals and Benefits
Sep 08, 2019
Bailey @ BuffaloConsults

We're learning this one together.  Lean manufacturing is a topic that I know, but lean construction is one that I do not.  To solve that I reached out to an expert in the lean construction field, David MacNeel with On-Point Lean Consulting.

  • 0:43   - Goals of Lean Construction
  • 1:25   - How David Moved into Lean Construction
  • 3:45   - Discovering True Lean
  • 4:53   - Principles of Lean
  • 8:25   - Dealing with Initial Resistance
  • 9:54   - Real-World Examples
  • 12:35 - Using Lean to Improve Safety
  • 14:03 - How Can Lean Mitigate the Labor Shortage
  • 16:18 - Future of Lean in Construction
  • 18:53 - On-Point Lean Consulting 
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We're learning this one together.  Lean manufacturing is a topic that I know, but lean construction is one that I do not.  To solve that I reached out to an expert in the lean construction field, David MacNeel with On-Point Lean Consulting.

  • 0:43   - Goals of Lean Construction
  • 1:25   - How David Moved into Lean Construction
  • 3:45   - Discovering True Lean
  • 4:53   - Principles of Lean
  • 8:25   - Dealing with Initial Resistance
  • 9:54   - Real-World Examples
  • 12:35 - Using Lean to Improve Safety
  • 14:03 - How Can Lean Mitigate the Labor Shortage
  • 16:18 - Future of Lean in Construction
  • 18:53 - On-Point Lean Consulting 
Bailey:

Welcome back to the Ladder of Success podcast. This is Bailey. I'm still here and I'm still working ev ery day t o make the construction industry better for myself and for my clients. Reach me through email at Bailey, that's B-a-i-l-e-y @ buffaloconsults.com or on Twitter just at buffalo consults. As a consultant. Every now and then I'll run into a very non unique problem and that being that I don't actually know everything. So when it comes to a topic such as lean construction, I am smart enough to keep experts in my network. One of those experts is David McNeil. He's a lean construction coach at On-Point Lean Consulting and true to form I'm going to jump straight into this. David, thanks for joining me. When it comes to the concept of lean construction, there are a lot of keywords that peo ple associate with that, but I want to get straight to the point to you and to your clients. What are the core goals that you aim for when you try to air fingers quote, "lean a project out"?

David:

Yeah. Well for, u h, the goals of construction are actually, you know, fairly simple. It's mainly cost and schedule certainty and or co st a nd schedule savings. So that's what people are really drawn to. Now there are other subsets of that where you can, ca n get into improved safety performance, im p r oved qua lity. But those are the two biggies. It's cost and schedule certainty is what most of the clients are l ook ing for.

Bailey:

Awesome. So you went 20 years with Baker concrete. What was the catalyst? What kind of led you into from there into lean construction consulting?

David:

Yeah. Well, I had just finished up my MBA and the higher powers at Baker concrete were hearing through their circles that there's this thing, lean construction, coming and they wanted somebody to go out and explore it, see what it was about, and be able to, what we really wanted to do was to be able to have our card punched. So if one of our clients, a general contractor or construction manager, said, "Hey, do you know lean construction", that we could have somebody that said yes and we would be able to do it. They didn't really know what it was. They didn't know much about it. But our clients were pushing us to it. So, the p resident of the company said, "Hey, let's, let's find somebody. Let's go do this." And we brought down, hired, s ome consultants in lean con stru ction. It was actually Greg Howell's company, one of the founders of the Lean Construction Institute. We brought them on board and tried it on one project and they tried it on one of my projects. So I was the guinea pig and I didn't really want to be the guinea pig. I thought I was doing things great. I had been at Baker for roughly 15 years, a ve r y good track record, very successful, always made money. I always had happy clients, nev e r got anybody seriously hurt on our projects, and really didn't want it. So I kind o f wa s p ulling the Heisman on it and then finally they persisted and said, "No, we want to do it and we want you to be the one to lead it." And I said, "All right, and well, if we're going to do and we' re going t o spe n d the money then I'm, I'm going to give it 110%." An, so the n we found a project very close to our home office where I was based and could spend a lot of time physically on the project. It wasn't one of our remote projects, and I was able to talk to my team of superintendents, project managers, and get t hem involved and support them and be there with them as we jumped in this boat together and went down this river that none of us had had t rav eled before. And so that's kind of what got us started into it.

Bailey:

So when you started going into this field, did you have any surprises or any preconceived notions that turned out to be wrong?

David:

Um, yeah, I thought it was gonna be a little more technical and have all these rigorous steps and, you know, we read the "Toyota Way" before before jumping into it to kind of, you know, study the principles of lean and I thought it was going to be very , very regimented and rigid, and I guess I was pleasantly surprised that it's very flexible and it's adaptable to some of the planning and processes that we had already had. But it was, it was tuning them up. It was, it was ta king t hem from a five or six on the scale up to a seven or eight on the dial and really saw some improvements very, very quickly. So the, the flexibility, the adaptability of it I think it was one of the big surprises. And it was easier than I thought it would be. That was a cool thing.

Bailey:

Everybody loves easy. But I got my MBA from Anderson University in South Carolina. And just based on the region they're in, they have a lot of manufacturing plants in the area, so all of their classes have kind of a slant towards manufacturing. So, the five principles of lean management, Toyota's seven categories of waste, all of those things, I studied them until they were just burned into my brain. When it comes to the construction industry do those same types of concepts carry over into construction or a re the r e sep arate set of principles that apply here? What, what are the main principles that govern what you do?

David:

Yeah, well it's really, it's really all the same, the same principles. The five fundamentals that Womack and Jones wrote about in "The Machine that Changed the World" all absolutely apply. You know, defining the value, l ooking at the value stream, making work flow. The third point, the third fundamental that they talk about that's probably one of the more focal points I would say of lean construction is really, really getting projects to flow. And what I fo u nd going around the country and asking people about good projects that they 'd bee n on in the past is one of the first things that they'll say is it just got into a flow. "We just got into a flow and w e c licked along and Company A did their thing, and company B was right behind them, and then Company C came right after them and we just flowe d." And so, so those, those principles of, of trying to get flow are, are huge. And you know, doing pull, working at the pull of the downstream customer is huge. We talk about pu ll p lanning, w here, yo u k n ow, the downstream milestone pulls the upstream work. So you do it when it's needed, not push, which is our typical system and construction. And then, you know, pursuing perfection, always trying to get better at what you're doing. So, so all of those, uh, f ive fundamentals absolutely apply to lean construction and are the same foundation to really any lean, um, i mpl ementation. Any, any lean process, whether it's manufacturing or construction. And then the seven wastes of from Taiichi Ohno, uh, t h e s even deadly wastes, I think was what he called them. Absolutely, we look for those for ways to achieve those fundamentals and achieve flow a nd, and you know, pursue and pu rsue perfection by eliminating the waste a nd, a n d k nowing that construction is wrought with w astes. Because, you know, we never do the same thing twice. Really everything we do in construction is kind of a one off. So when we can, t ake those, those activities, even though we've poured concrete before, we've erected structural steel, we've pulled wire and co nduits b efore, but never on that job with those people an d t hose conditions have, have we ever done it before. So I think lean in general and, and lo oking at the seven wastes helps you, helps you dial in your processes and gives people a new set of glasses or a new set of goggles to really look at their work and, and run through those, those seven wastes to say, hey, can we, can we really be doing this quicker, better, faster, safer?

Bailey:

Awesome, so it was all the same stuff. I'm glad to know I didn't learn that for no reason. Do y ou get any ki ckback w hen you, when you go into a n ew client's office or walk on a new project and you start talking about this, do you get any kickback from the people that may not want to change the way they've done something for the last 20 years?

David:

Yeah, there's always some form of resistance. No matter what you do in any kind of change, there is resistance. And so I'm always, I'm always kind of walking the fine line of, you know, is it, "Do you do a lot of this already?" Or "Hey, you're going to have to really focus and plan a lot better than you currently are do ing." So you don't want to scare them away with too much, but you also don't want to make them feel too comfortable in t ha t, oh, "W e already kind of do this anyway, so we'll just kind of keep doing what we're doing and we'll just call it lean construction." So the resistance, yea h , it's usually just the natural human resistance to change. We've always done it this way. We've always had these meetings and talked about these things. Um, but ma ybe they're not talking as intently about, about constraints as maybe they should be. So, the resistance again, yeah, it's, it's usually relatively easily overcome. But, people do want to revert as soon as something goes wrong. That's the biggest, hardest nut to crack is when it i nevitably does go wrong at some point, do they stick to their guns and replant an d get b ack on the horse or do they just throw it out the window and go back to kind of the old ways?

Bailey:

So I'm looking at your website onpointlean . com, and I see that you've coached so far on over 400 projects, so that may make it hard to narrow this down. But specifically, can you give me one or two issues that you found when you walk onto a site and what you or your company may do to solve those?

David:

The big issues are , you hear them all the time, are lack of coordination, lack of collaboration, nobody knows what anybody's doing, nobody, you know, commits to anything. They tell you stuff, they don't do it. They don't commit. And so there's all these breakdowns and the projects are, u h , in kind of a controlled chaos, i s the way I see it. And that's one of the things that lean and last planner system really do is bring some organization, br i ng some coordination and collaboration so that people understand what they're doing and they get them to, to commit to deadlines and having clean handoffs from one trade to the next. So that when somebody commits to say, and y es, I'll be done, I'll be out of this room on Wednesday and you can bring your folks in on Thursday, and mean it, and know that that person's going to d o e verything in their power to make that happen. Now it doesn't always happen. Of course things happen. You know, Murphy's law show s u p and, you know, the carpet doesn't show up on time or they brought the wrong color paint or whatever it may be. Things still happen in that scenario. But I think teams are much, are able to much more quickly react to the pr ob lems. But they've also thought about them a lot more keenly and they've go ne thro ugh some checklists knowing that somebody's right on their tail and you better have everything that you need, all your safety, all of your labor, your equipment, your tools, everything, everything should be ready for. So when it becomes available to you, you do your work and then get ou t of the way the next person in line. So , so that I think is one of the big things we bring in to clients is that is the communication and collaboration improves dramatically right out of the gate. And that's what I saw at Baker and that's what got me so interested in it is b ecause I saw that my concrete f oreman a nd a n iron worker foreman and carpenter foreman and operators were communicating and talking about what they needed and when they were going places and it wasn't just this constant fight. So, I think that's probably the biggest thing, wa lking onto sites and getting them back into some kind of an order and having some discipline around communication.

Bailey:

Awesome. Your website also shows an 80% reduction in safety incidents on your leaner job sites . How do you go about making that a reality?

David:

Yeah, that was , that 80% number came from our first year of implementing lean on projects at Baker. And we, w e did, we spent the first year doing a pilot project. The second year we im plemented o n five projects in the region that I was operating in and we had 15 other projects in the region that were not doing lean. So we had five that were and 15 that were not. So at the end of that year, when mos t of those projects had wrapped up or were suf ficiently wrapped up, we went back and looked at the safety records of the projects, the 15 projects that were not doing lean, and we looked at the five projects that were doi ng lean. And it just so happened to be that the ones doing lean had 80% fewer incidents and i nju ries than those that were not doing lean. So, is i t directly attributable? I don't know. I can't say that definitively, but I think it's more than just a coincidence. And we continu e to see those numbers similar to that, betwe en 80% and 50% better as we compared lean projects to non lean projects. So that's, that's d ata di rectly from our field forces at Baker.

Bailey:

So it's not, it's not just in the office or the boardroom where lean comes in handy it's onsite too . Which begs another question, labor shortage is a big issue in the industry that everyone in construction is facing right now. Lean principles, lean construction, can that mitigate the ri sks t hat comes up comes with not having enough workers?

David:

Yeah, I think it could have a dramatic impact on the labor force and in particular these days , where, where it seems like everybody's busy and there's not enough folks to do the work that's out there. And what you see is that people are able to plan and execute their work and get it done with the forces that they have. There is a, there's a case study on my site from, from my time at Baker where we were doing two hot di p g alvanizing lines and they were basically identical projects, w ith th e a hundred thousand cubic yards in each of them. And, u h , th e one project that wasn't using lean, which was what I call the traditional job, which was to just get-er-done, you know, go as fast as you can. That, that project had peaked manpower of 470 was what it peaked out I b elieve. And the, the lean project never got over 300 and some. So t here's like 150 person difference in the peaks between the two projects and that's significant, especially in today's markets. So I think you can use your folks more efficiently, which allows you to take on more work and still get it done. But you don't have those huge spikes that, with labor that, that really cau se a lot of pain and ach es to companies nowadays. So I think lean can be a huge way to, to deal with labor shortages and to get more done with less.

Bailey:

Absolutely. 100 workers, a hundred fewer workers. That's the, that's a big change for a project, both in safety, overhead and safety risks. So the answer to that is a big time "Yes." So last but not least, where do you see the future of lean construction heading 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now?

David:

Yeah, so I think with lean construction, I think it's still in its infancy. It's definitely gotten a lot of traction since I started into it in 2006, 2007, so 10, 12 years ago. It's definitely got a lot more traction. The Lean Construction Institute is a growing organization. I think my first annual conference I went to for them, there was about 110 of us in the room. And I think the last several years there's been over 1500, 1700 folks in attendance. So it's getting a name. It's becoming a st a ndard for a lot of folks. I'm seeing many more owners are demanding it. They're putting it in their specifications. I know there are specific owners out there that are intentionally seeking builders that have lean com pete ncies and they're basically being shortlisted based on that. So it's going to be, i t 's going to be a d if ferentiator. So I think much like , like you're seeing safety as kind of a standard now, which wasn't the case when I got into the business 25, 30 years ago. Uh, it was still kind of the wild west and you've seen a lot of focus and it didn't really get serious a nd safety until the owners got serious. And OSHA got serious as well at the same time, and fines went up seven fold and owners were saying, we don't want anybody with th e s afety record above x be cause o f the risk. And that, that was a wake up call to a lot of construction companies. And I think that same kind of demand or push from the owners is coming for lean construction. It's already started. It's not like it's not there yet, but it's just not in every single project, like you see safety in every single project today. So, that ' s, that's where it's going. It's, it's not going away. It's only getting stronger and there's only gonna be more demand for it, and owners are seeing that. They're seeing the case studies that are out there. They're seeing, hey, this project was done on time, on budget, and that's what they want. And they're saying, how did they do it? And they're saying, lean const r uction or integrated project delivery, the contract model and they're writing it in and they're having their contracts set up that way and they're shor tlistin g people. So I definitely see it growing.

Bailey:

All right, David, this has been great. So much to, in a short amount of time, a lot of stuff to learn. This is where my gu est a lways se em t o love this part. Real quick, tell me about your company, what you specialize in, how you can be contacted.

David:

Yeah, so a On-Point Lean is the name of the company, and we can be contacted , through the website and there's some stuff on there, some, some of the case studies I talked about today. It's www.onpointlean.com and you can email me direct. My email is dmacneel @onpointlean.com .

Bailey:

Awesome. That's great. With that, we'll call it a wrap. Thank you so much for your time.

David:

Okay, thank you.

Bailey:

And there you have it. I know I'm a lot smarter now than I was 20 minutes ago and I hope you are too. So until next time, thanks for listening.

Goals of Lean Construction
How David Moved into Lean Construction
Discovering True Lean
Main Principles of Lean in Construction
Dealing with Initial Resistance
Real-World Examples
Using Lean to Improve Safety
Lean to Mitigate the Labor Shortage
Future of Lean in Construction
On-Point Lean Consulting