I am Nick Loughrin, Director of Business and Project Development at Boldt. I have had a long career around the Lean world. I started my career about 20 years ago in the late 90s, with Boldt. I was lucky enough to start with Boldt one of the first projects we implemented the Last Planner®® system.
In the late 90s, that is when Boldt started our journey on the Lean path. I helped out and got some learning on the basics of the Last Planner®® system. Through my career I have continued to use the Last Planner®® system and learned other Lean principles such as pull planning, 5S and Kanban boards. For the first 10 years of my career I rose to the ranks of project management, then continuous improvement group for about 2 years where I was able reflect and learn what Lean construction really was all about. I was able to take Lean construction to project teams and coach them on some of the Lean principles.
From there I returned into operations and I led the Akron Children’s project being the target value design manager and then production manager. Lately, I focused more on the project development side – building teams, target value design process, and coaching teams the Last Planner®® system. I make sure that our built-in quality processes and safety processes are set up correctly from the start for the team to achieve construction success.
I am currently working on a $200 million project at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. We are utilizing our Boldt trademark integrated Lean project delivery on that and we’ve got our target cost set and we are working through target value design.
The Boldt Company has been doing Lean for 20 years. I think we do a lot of great things but we have identified many gaps and areas of improvement so we still have a long way to go. Boldt is at the leading edge of implementing Lean in design and construction. We have had a lot of successful projects utilizing Lean processes both in the operations and execution sides of our business. I do think that as an industry we would be at 10 out of 100, at Boldt we would be 20.
Lean is about making your job easier and life better every day. I love Lean because it is making work fun and quickly identifying problems so the team can solve them.
Trade partners who have not done a pull plan have competing ways of doing the work. I have been fortunate enough to work on a few Integrated Form of Agreement (IFOA) type of projects where we have taken down barriers, but it doesn’t happen just because you have an IFOA agreement either
On a Lean construction project, we typically get the group together and talk about it. We ask a lot of good questions to the trade partners that must work together like, “How would you build that wall?” The dry wallers are not going to go through and just build every single wall. The HVAC guys are going to come in and they are going to say, “Well, we want to put all our ductwork in.” We know that that doesn’t work, so we will ask them both, “Show me how you want to build that?” Then they’ll start drawing pictures and start talking through together and come up with the solution. It is usually not me as a facilitator or a coach, it is simply asking them to start talking and start drawing it out, and visualizing what they are doing. By doing that, our trade partners are able to create solutions together.
A Lean culture is about getting the people that work together to solve problems. It is not for me or whoever the people in the office are that aren’t actually putting work in place to solve the problems. It is us to just set up the environment, ask good questions and get them to solve their own problems.
We do the Boldt production system wherein we hold daily huddles, weekly Last Planner® and weekly check-in production meetings. For us to move forward quicker, trade partners should know what work they have to do on a weekly basis and understand what their constraints are. We come to those meetings and ask them, “What do you do?” If they came in prepared, then meetings will be more productive and end up talking about solving problems.
Generally, trade partners should come into the weekly meetings prepared. They should understand how to do the Last Planner® process on their work, come in with the open mind to the team about their constraints so that we can discuss solutions to those constraints. If trade partners come in prepared, then we’ll have a better plan and accomplish the work faster.
The first value is to be humble. The fact that we don’t know everything and there are a lot of experts in the room; no one knows everything about electrical, about HVAC. Even if that is the name on your name tag that says you are the HVAC contractor, the electrical contractor or general contractor, you are not the expert in anything. As a group though our team is an expert.
They should be good at asking questions and helping others. They should care about what they are doing. If they care about what they’re doing they’re going to do better, be more productive, more safe and adding value to the team.
Another thing I look for in people is they should want to be part of the team – that they just don’t want it their way. If they don’t want to be part of a team, then they’re probably not going to be on one of my projects.
Lean is about identifying what is about identifying wastes and figuring out more efficient ways of doing things. The simple way I look at is I look for smiles on people’s faces. If people are enjoying what they’re doing it is probably because they don’t have barriers in front of them. They don’t have the problems that you encounter when you see people frustrated all the time.
If people are coming to work and smiling and enjoying each other’s company, it is probably because they are working together well, they’ve identified their barriers and are focused on improving what they are doing on a day-in and day-out basis.
We primarily use 5S from a site logistics stand-point. We prioritize(sort) by understanding what needs to happen and what doesn’t need to happen, and what are areas that we need to create for whether it is lay down space, bathroom space, charging station space or any of those things you have on a site logistics plan. We really try to do a deep dive of where things need to go.
We set in order by organizing. We don’t want people wasting time looking for the bathroom, or where to charge their tools, or to find equipment. If it is a multi-story building, we want to put those on every floor in a place where people are working. We want people to have their tools within arm’s reach.
We shine by making safety and cleanup part of everyone’s work. It is not a separate task. For example, you are not done pouring concrete until the area is clean ready for the next person. As we are looking over our site logistics plans, we are making sure that the cleaning materials and dump carts are in the right spot, so cleanup is easier and makes for a safer working environment. There is also increase in productivity as the area is already ready for future work to be done.
We standardize and sustain by implementing programs and check them on a weekly basis. We meet with different craft workers on job sites to really understand what is bugging them and what we can do to help improve the site. That helps sustain it and improve it because we are checking in from the people that are actually encountering the obstacles on the site on a weekly basis so that we can implement and fix things quickly.
For my experience, people that have already been involved in the Last Planner® coming to a project is very low. Typically, Boldt is the team that knows how to run Last Planner® and do pull planning. Less than 10% of the team know the Last Planner®® system so we usually train the trade partners, the engineers, and the architects. As we are growing markets and working in different markets with similar trade partners obviously that brings up the industry and it makes it less of a coaching. We work with trade partners that have worked with us in the past so that we have more coaching support to speed that process of implementation.
Depending on the phase of the project, we have different trainings and on-boardings that we use. In the design phase, we’ll have training sessions immediately about the target value design process, validation phase, set based design, choosing buy advantages. Basically, all the tools and processes we use during the design phase of a Lean type project.
In the construction phase, our onboarding is focused on production, safety and quality, and on those methods and processes that we will use to create a Lean operating system. We hold several kick-offs with periodic check-in discussions to reinforce our Lean culture. We are not just going to have one kick off and be done because that won’t help anything with the culture we are trying to create.