My title

Key Takeaways from the Lean Construction in Practice Conversation

Key Takeaways from the Lean Construction in Practice Conversation

An auditorium classroom seminar hosted by Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering was today's setting for industry leaders to gather and discuss the future of infrastructure development. Representatives in attendance derived from a myriad of industry backgrounds, including general contractors, trade contractors, designers, engineers, technology entrepreneurs and legal consultants. However, despite the vast breadth of industry fields, all arrived to hear one topic: Lean Construction in Practice.

The near-philosophical concept of lean construction practice is closely tied to the integrated project delivery (IPD) systems, where all facets of project delivery are shared between a group of stakeholders to align goals, maximize efficiency and minimize risk. It's an idea, activity and culture that tears away industry silos, eliminates waste, focuses on holistic issues and fosters a community of sharing. As a result, project teams can establish faster delivery, lower costs, higher quality output, clearer designs, improved relationships and higher profits, just to name a few. Whereas the traditional contractor wants to protect privileged information and fight collaboration, lean contractors join together to discuss schedule, barriers, ideas and innovation, holistically improving the project for corporate and individual reward.

The headliners for today's meeting were Chicago-based Tim Cooper (Pepper Construction) and Michael Doiel (HDR), industry titans who have long-standing reputations of success and innovation among their peers. Doiel and Cooper highlighted their corporate initiative and respected roles in implementing lean principles on Pepper-HDR's Advocate Christ Medical Center Outpatient Pavilion project on Chicago's south side.

They didn't mince words about their initial struggle to create an atmosphere of acceptance for their new collaborative approach, but after some up-front education and positive results from the field, project contractors quickly changed their stance and adopted this new methodology. Doiel joked that it's the experienced, long-tenured construction workers who require to see the proof, while the millenials "don't need convincing" and the generation-x'ers "do their own thing anyways." The proof is easy to see, especially with all the pull planning sessions, open-forum discussions and project team integration. Soon, everyone on-site saw the improved designs, the cost savings and the distinct absence of project roadblocks. It's the trickle down effect in action: the owner is enthusiastic about the high quality end-result, project managers enjoy the profits, foremen find value in uninhibited work zones and the field crews are more productive. Everyone wins, for different reasons.

Both Cooper and Doiel were unabashedly convinced that integrated project delivery is the future in construction. Companies that fight this new way of thinking may be able to maintain their success in the short-run, but long-term success is dependent on a collaborative and lean culture. 

Google+ Google+