Using Lean in Preconstruction

Nov 15, 2018 | Insights, Lean Construction

By Justin Brodnax and Jake Snyder, Preconstruction Managers

While we’ve been implementing a lean construction mentality in the field for a while, our preconstruction team in Austin wanted to adopt lean practices to make our processes run more smoothly. We started work in January 2016 and by early 2017 our team was using a version of collaborative planning to improve our weekly preparation.

So, how did we do it?

First, we had to have a true understanding of our process. We created a value stream map, which is a visual way to show our current processes. This was done at a high level but was exactly what we needed! Through this, we found we could save a lot of time by eliminating waste in our workflow.

From there, we decided to make one change that would improve our process. In preconstruction we manage many projects at once, and one struggle we had was managing work plans for multiple projects at the same time. So, we started at the same place we start in the field – using a weekly work plan and daily huddles. Using a weekly work plan increased our internal planning and communication but did not eliminate all the waste. It focused on the individual more than the process, and we needed a way to evaluate the process. So, we continued to look for ways to improve.

It was time for our old lean favorite – Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA). We had to decide if some of our ideas were worth continuing or if they simply needed adjusting. A couple of ideas came from this process:

  • Daily huddles only work when you have them regularly, so we needed to hold ourselves accountable to keep that schedule.
  • We also had to get consistent with everyone on the team filling out the plan before our meetings and doing what they said they were going to do when they were going to do it.

As we looked to “relentlessly pursue improvement” (to take a phrase from our core values), we held a retrospective to evaluate ourselves and determined that creating standard work would be key to improving. Using the A3 methodology, we identified new processes and adopted standard preconstruction tools. The first things we standardized were our kickoff agenda, our build-it meeting agenda, and our milestone schedule. You would be amazed how fast you can improve standard work and standard tools!

The outcome? We’ve seen a focus on team engagement and an increase in the quality of our work product and scope coverage. When we follow the standard process and use the standard tools we have more opportunity to solve problems, and that adds value for our clients.