Lean Construction: The Road to Operational Excellence

This week marks the 19th LCI Congress, an annual conference with an overarching goal of transforming the Built Environment through Lean implementation. Skanska is a founding member of the Lean Construction Institute and applies Lean approaches in many construction sectors focused on helping clients realize their vision. To learn more, click HERE.

Lean Management is a key component of our journey to Operational Excellence.  Lean management enables our projects and our people to work more efficiently. It is empowering our people to lead change and to work collaboratively to make our work better and deliver higher quality projects, and it is teaching us to evaluate traditional ways of doing things and identify waste that can be eliminated from those processes.  The result is cost-effective projects, reliable schedules and a team-oriented work environment.

One of the ways we have been successful in implementing Lean construction practices is by empowering our people to always look for ways to be better. When we talk about empowering our people at Skanska, we mean that we give them confidence in knowing they have a voice. By giving each person and team a voice and holding them accountable to make decisions, they become invested in the outcome and take ownership of the processes and their decisions. That also fosters an environment in which we are able to be more nimble, innovative and quick to adjust to changing conditions demanded by our clients.

We use several tools to facilitate and empower our teams:

Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIWs) – Facilitation of workshops designed to dramatically reduce the waste in a process with immediate implementation.

Lean Committees – These committees help champion Lean implementation efforts in local offices.

5S – An organizational tool that fosters teamwork and efficiency.

Pull Scheduling – Collaborative planning process done by people that have their hands on the work on a daily basis.

Kaizen Events – Small team workshops designed to create incremental improvements within existing processes.

Our Lean culture, along with the implementation of these tools, benefits our projects, our people and our clients in many ways, three of which are as follows:

Efficient and safe jobsites

Through jobsite organizational improvements, reduced material inventory on the jobsite, reduced travel time, and less labor intensive ways of working our jobsites are more productive and support a safer work environment.

Significant reduction in waste

Waste is prevalent in the construction industry and can come in many shapes and forms such as waiting time, over processing, over production, extra inventory, wasted motion, and defects.  By using Lean principles we can not only identify these wastes, but we can reduce or eliminate them as well.

A few years ago, one of our offices looked at the work that went into a project startup. Based on legacy procedures, the method being used took a few weeks to move things from contract signing to work in the field. Through a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW), the team was able to identify inefficiencies and address them, bringing the new process for startup to less than a week.

Jobs are completed more collaboratively

As a result of collaborative planning efforts, such as pull scheduling, processes such as design, preconstruction and the construction process itself are planned and executed by the resources that are closest to the work.  This leads to a more efficient plan that is fully bought into by the people that execute the plan.  Not only does this make the work more efficient, but it makes the schedule more reliable and eliminates the waste that often occurs at handoff points in the work.  This provides more cost-effective projects with reliable schedules for our clients.

At Skanska, Lean is viewed as part of our culture. Skanska’s implementation of Lean management has allowed us to deliver high-quality projects for our clients more efficiently and with reduced waste. Our executive leadership chartered a National Lean Committee to grow our Lean culture. Respect for people is a big component of this – it’s about valuing the knowledge, experience and ideas colleagues have to contribute. Respect also extends beyond Skanska’s borders into everything we touch – our customers, our trade partners, and our communities. Everyone is responsible and looked at to do their best and accountable to achieve results.

Lean construction is a journey, and we’re proud of the direction we’re headed in.

Our team at the recent LCI conference. Left to right: Amy Jones, Alex Abate, Michael Zeppieri, Rob Penney, Kyle Krueger, Matt Hadfield, Jeff Payne, Eric Martin

Amy Jones

Amy Jones

Amy Jones is the Director of Continuous Improvement and Benchmarking Services for Skanska and Vice-Chair of the National Lean Committee

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