Major construction projects stay on schedule thanks to lean techniques

Courtesy of 4D Aerial

June 14, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by Journey Group.

For now, there are about 120 people working daily at the massive Avera on Louise construction site.

Later this summer and into fall, that number will double.

Those employees will work for about 40 subcontractors throughout the project, and keeping everyone on the proverbial same page takes an intentional effort.

Just listen to Journey Group superintendent Eric Bender talk about what’s going on during a given day recently, and you get a sense for the scale of managing it all:

“We have architectural precast being installed on the outside of the building, curtain wall framing for windows on the outside of the building, and you’ll start seeing the window frames and glass being installed,” he said.

“We’re still placing concrete composite slabs; that’s ongoing. Steel is pretty much complete. The duct work, mechanical and electrical in the building has started. The roofing is going to be starting within the next month.”

It’s all on schedule and running smoothly thanks in part to lean construction management tools Journey is applying on the project.

“Lean encompasses a lot of things. We as a company are building a culture around lean and using some of the tools within lean,” project manager Aaron Eich said. “Lean processes align with our company’s values as well as our safety and quality initiatives.”

One tool, called the last planner system, takes a collaborative approach to project scheduling.

“It really puts the schedule in our subcontractors’ hands to work through the details, makes sure their input is included and creates buy-in,” Bender said.

“It’s not just us telling them what needs to happen. It’s centered around making sure the subs have a say in how the workflow will work best.”

Journey has embraced lean tools as part of its culture of delivering an outstanding product to customers on time and on budget.

The process often starts, as Avera on Louise did, with Building Information Modeling, or BIM. The computerized tool allows Journey to virtually build projects, identifying ways to be more efficient when they’re built in reality.

“For example, BIM allows us to know exactly where all the pipe and duct runs at Avera on Louise, so before our crews pour concrete decks, they can put in all the anchors that will hold that whole framework system,” Eich said. “They put that in with GPS/Total Stations ahead of time, and they know they’re putting it in the right spot because it’s all been modeled.”

The team also prefabricates as much as possible and is using a lean tool called 5S to keep the site organized day to day. It stands for:

Sort – Go through tools needed, and keep what’s necessary.

Shine – Clean up the workplace so it’s efficient.

Set in order – Label and organize the space so it’s clear where everything belongs.

Standardize – Use standardized work to keep the site organized and progressing.

Sustain – Empower people to take responsibility for the space and develop new improvements.

“We’re trying to get the employees first knowing what that is and then tasking them with taking certain pieces and doing this,” Eich said. “Some of our main subcontractors are aware because they see us doing it, but we’re also trying to increase subcontractor awareness with that too.”

The more collaborative process is effective, Journey’s project leaders said.

“It’s working well out here,” Bender said. “They’re responding very well and really like that we’re trying to make it as collaborative as possible.”

There are daily huddles where superintendents and subcontractors meet to go over the work ahead. And there are weekly work sessions to talk through plans and potential issues that might affect others on the job site.

“You’re trying to eliminate the highs and lows and peaks and valleys of a job,” Bender said. “It makes it more of a straight line. When you have those fires, you’re reacting rather than being proactive, and you’re losing productivity.”

Added efficiency

Lean methods have become an integral part of Journey’s culture, and the results are reflected in many major projects.

At Dow Rummel Village, Journey is in the middle of a multiyear expansion and renovation and took a different approach to building residents’ rooms.

“We created small, workable batches, or blocks, of rooms to work on,” superintendent Bill Lienke said. “In typical construction, you’d do bigger batches. But we worked on four at a time, which meant we could move from one block to the next and not have overlap of the trades.”

Working in smaller batches improved efficiency “because you’re focused on a small area and your materials and tools are closer and easier to get to, and there’s more quality control because you’re focused on a smaller batch,” he added.

The Dow Rummel project also uses daily huddles and weekly meetings to make sure all subcontractors are coordinated.

“We have great buy-in because it’s not just our schedule we’re pushing out,” Lienke said.

“It’s all of us sitting in one room and making plans. Obviously in construction, things change a little, but having everyone explain where crews are working allows us to adjust the flow, so we’re not working on top of each other and getting ahead of ourselves or falling behind in areas.”

Using lean tools takes discipline and learning, Eich added. But once the right conversations occur, the optimal work flow is created and constraints are removed, the construction projects and the people working on them see a powerful effect.

“The two main principles of lean construction are continuous improvement and empowering people,” he said. “Those are the underlying values of that, and they fit Journey’s values very well. A lot of the processes and tools around lean go to the people who do the work. They’re the experts, and those tools allow them to use their expertise.”

Journey always is looking to add talent to support its lean efforts. To learn more about the opportunities available, check out the website, or call 605-332-5968.


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Major construction projects stay on schedule thanks to lean techniques

What’s helping keep the largest construction project in the city’s history on schedule? Journey Group shares how it’s using lean tools to achieve great results.

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