I started the lean process in the year 2002 but went back to school in Milwaukee School of Engineering to understand what Lean was all about, and that was in 2003.
First, I want to make sure that people understand it’s not about leaning people. Lean construction is very simply put, trying to eliminate waste and we know from many, many studies that there is a major difference between the productivity improvements in manufacturing versus the improvements of construction. And I believe, very strongly, that lean construction helped us to streamline our operations not only on a project but within the company itself.
Well, when we first started in 2003, we were not familiar with how we should approach the different tools within the lean toolbox. So, a consultant said, “whatever you’re going to do, the first event, if you will call it an “event” in connection with Lean, make sure it’s something that you will have the wow effect when people come into that area.
5S is basically an organizational housekeeping tool. So, we started in our tool room which was the heart of any and all jobs were all the tools were sent out to job sites and were tools came back into the area. So, this was not a small size event because we had a crew of about 15 people from all different parts of our company, including engineers, work men, project managers, you name it. What we did for four and a half days, we first, went and had a meeting for about a half a day and taught everybody what 5S was all about. Then we did a brainstorming. They came up with the ideas and then we voted on those ideas and then we began our process. We had a report out meeting Friday morning and then we brought all our executives prior to that. But when they first came into that tool room, Paul Grinnell said, “Wow. What a change in a period of four and a half days.” From there on everybody understood what Lean was all about. We measured what a typical tool box would take, it was two hundred and sixty-five steps. We measured after, and remember these are hundreds of tool boxes that are going out, originally it was five hundred and we got it down to two hundred and sixty-five or sixty-two steps. Almost 100 percent improvement. To this day in 2018, If you walk in that tool room it’s almost the same as it was when we finished in 2003. 5S really does work.
To be honest with you, there’s is a fair number of skeptics, because they’re used to being handed a schedule that usually doesn’t work and they feel that since they’re the experts in their field, they know how to get it done. Even though they have good relationships with other trade Partners on a job, still the fact of sitting down and now we’re going to do something a little bit different, Last Planner®. What helps more than anything else When you bring in brand new folks, is you say what the definition of the Last Planner® is. It’s not the project manager, it’s not the engineer, it’s not the construction canager, it’s not the general contractor, it’s the individual that is directing the field forces. That’s the Last Planner®. He knows What must be done. He knows if he has the materials. So, to me that was eye opening to understand just the simple definition of the Last Planner®.
I think once they understand who the Last Planner® is, and they get involved in it, by that I mean they have to have Had a few sessions and they have to see that it’s working. it’s one thing to go off to a board and put some stickies up but it’s another thing when you leave the board and you go out there and you execute the work in the field that is Proof to using the boards inside the big room.
Onboarding for us is the typical things that we would do from an administrative standpoint, but every individual that comes to our company, especially those that are more of the core group, go through a five hour course in lean and we go through all of the various tools, but we talk a lot about the culture. What we’ve done is break it into increments of two hours per week for about five weeks. The idea behind that is that it’s very difficult if you go to a full day of instruction. The rule of thumb is maybe you retain 10 percent. Let’s we say we’re going to have a two-hour session on 5S, well then, the next week we’re going to talk about value stream mapping, but we review What the 5S was about. In our training room we have 5S, we have value stream maps, we have A3s, they’re all around the walls of the conference room or training room, and that helps to solidify the importance of what we’re trying to learn. And, every two hours there’s always an activity that the team works with which helps them to understand that Lean is all about teams, not individuals.
You have to understand using the Last Planner® on all projects Can be Monumental. On the larger jobs it’s easy because a lot of the people are using it. However, for those jobs that are very small jobs, say maybe twenty thousand dollar job or a fifty thousand dollar job, we want all of our crews to use the Last Planner®. Now some Are very simple that can be done handwritten, or it can use an iPad. The interesting thing when we do our Last Planner® is, we do it by areas for a week’s worth of work and then that’s reported on. What we strive to do is, every task has a quantity of what’s going to be installed. So, we have it on the right side, what they call the PPC, what was completed that week. And we try for 80 percent. The other key is about the individual workmen that are working underneath the Last Planner®. They individually have goals. How are they doing with their goals as well. We’ve we felt that that was very important, and it becomes almost without any even thinking that this is what they’re going to do. And then those individual foremen working on those smaller jobs are sending those in. And I think one of the important things of the Last Planner® is the constraints. Many times, folks in the field are blamed for something, but It’s not about blame, and the constraint log within the Last Planner® helps them to put down whoever might be holding them up. Maybe it’s a project manager, maybe it’s design, maybe it’s the shop, maybe it’s a tool room. He takes a picture of that on a Friday afternoon for the following week’s work and he takes a picture of that and e-mails to all those people that are on the constraint log. That has been helpful in making sure that we have what we need, when we need it.
What we do when we’re looking at the job is, we’re breaking it down into areas. Areas are very important because normally schedules are designed by different areas in the building.
We also try to keep the number down to less than two hundred hours, so we really know what’s happening on the job. We have repetition that’s going on in the various areas. If we know early on, how many hours a certain area might be taking and the takt time required for that particular area, we can then adjust our schedules to find out what’s going on. Is there something that we didn’t have, or maybe there was a change because of a stacking of a trade or whatever. If you don’t do it in smaller increments, it becomes very difficult to know where you are, especially on a job that has multiple floors, multiple areas, and multiple trades.
The project that we’re currently on is a very large project with a company that is very innovative. They’re a company that has been very involved in extremely different projects. So, it might not be like a hospital or something like that, but these are always different projects, different venues, and different locations. On that project we have several contractors that are part of the entire project. I think the one thing that you see is that there is more collaboration with one another. That to me is number one, that there isn’t this infighting, but people are interested in the welfare of others, either come before them or after them.
What can we do better? Basically, we can continue to look at the waste on the job and that is true especially in the material hand handling aspect. Not that we have everything on wheels but sometimes when you have very confined spaces to finish and a lot of trades in the finishing areas in order to finish it in a very short period. If know anything about Toyota, you know of “just in time” delivery, and if we could just work at getting more, “Just in time” delivery that would be tremendous. However, on huge multi-million dollar job it becomes very difficult.
From my aspect and being on some very large jobs early on my career, and having 600 people on the job that I was responsible for I can tell you that, Material Handling could be anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of a job, and that still is an issue that we have to deal with.
I would say that percentage wise, it could be anywhere from 5 percent for the new folks and to as high as 10 or even 15 percent, but it’s critical on whether the Last Planner® is being used properly.
I would say for people to understand and the people get involved. Now some people would do this on a project first. What I didn’t mentioned earlier was prior to learning more about lean, we worked with a general contractor in Wisconsin who was excellent at vision and he started us on the Last Planner®. We did that in the field, but we wanted to bring more people together. So, when we did our initial 5S event, it was very important to get everyone from all of our shops involved. Initially we started with a smaller core group, but we knew that if we did it right, the message would spread to everybody else. Then when we got on the job site and we started, it wasn’t anything new because everybody had heard about it.
I would say one of the biggest lessons that we have learned over the years is that Lean is journey with winding roads and you reach plateaus, but never think that it’s going to end, because it doesn’t. As you begin to introduce Lean and the various tools associated with it, the culture does change and there are things happening in the organization that people outside of that area might not even know about. They have small teams and they’re trying to solve something, and the benefit is that it’s not one person that’s responsible for this, but rather the entire corporation team.
One of the success stories I’ll never forget is when we did very first 5S on our refrigeration trucks, and we do a lot of service work probably thirty five percent of our revenue comes from service. I remember when I was involved in that first 5S event and we changed everything, I asked how long it takes on average to organize the trucks. He responded with 20 minutes per day. Multiply that per day per year by something like 50 to 70 technicians, and you have a substantial improvement that can be made with the help of 5S
Another one we had changed the way we brought equipment into our yard. The equipment rather than bringing it into the yard, was very highly coordinated to go directly to the job. And sometimes our vendors cooperated with us and would hold it for us until we need it just in time. Suddenly, our warehouse crew needed less people. One gentleman retired as a result we no longer needed that additional person. That was about one hundred thousand dollars per year saved, and that was back in 2005. That first 5S cost was about thirty five thousand dollars, and there is no immediate payback but that’s the vision that Paul Grunow had.
My book is on Amazon and it’s from 2012. I’m looking at possibly doing an update because that was just our journey from 2003 until 2012.
Basically, it was designed for anybody that wants to start a journey. You may not do it exactly the way we did, but it will take you step by step through 5S, how we went into the field, how we did value stream mapping, etc.
I would highly recommend this for trade contractors. The book will outline everything that we did step by step.
Try it for yourself. Thank you.
My name is Ted Angelo. I’m with the Grunau company. Which is a subsidiary of the API group. Located in Minnesota. We’re about a 4 billion dollar company with about 44 different companies primarily in construction. I’ve been at the Grunau company for 41 years. First project that I had with the company was Miller Brewing Company in North Carolina. In the late 70s and early 80s the Grunau company built seven breweries from the ground up, throughout the United States. We did a lot of fabrication in our shop in Milwaukee that was then shipped to the various locations throughout the US. I served since 1990 as the executive vice president of the corporation. I handled many different duties, but primarily since the year 2002 I’ve been very active in lean construction. I started by going back to the Milwaukee School of Engineering to understand lean, but there was only lean manufacturing so I went back to that school for a year to understand how to apply those principles to construction.
If I were to gauge that based on the number of projects that are using the Lean process, I would say less than 1%.
One of the most important things from our perspective when we first started out on this Lean journey was, we knew that would be push back. We understood that leading change would not be easy. However, we can’t be faulted for trying to become better.
Obviously, I’ve been involved in more than close to a dozen IPD projects and I can honestly say that when you have everyone part of the contract for example that is going to make the trade partners act differently. It’s difficult at the beginning because you have a mindset of taking care of your own company but when you get together with a number of different contractors with the same idea to get the job done more efficiently then that is going to be monumental as far as getting the job done without a lot of waste and not a lot of non-sequencing that’s required.
I think for owners of businesses like Paul Grunau I think it was necessary to understand the vision of what the future would be. When we started on this Lean journey there were very few trade contractors that were involved. So, he understood the need to have this vision of something different in construction. For many years we were on different projects and we could see that there was waste. So here was an opportunity, as the president of the company, to go on a leap of faith and try something that nobody is doing.