Once the master schedule has been developed, the next step is to identify tasks to be completed on a week by week basis."We do a very detailed look at the next week, and we ask for commitments. It's a rigorous process of making promises and keeping those promises," Reiser explains.
Vendors and suppliers are a crucial component in the process. In construction, roughly 95% of time is spent on activities that add no value to the customer, notes Reiser. About half of that time is spent on required activities, such as moving steel from a truck to the point of installation. The rest is wasted on re-handling of materials placed in storage, waiting on parts, etc.
“It's real important to engage the supply chain - to get the supply chain involved in the planning and commitments," says Reiser."Just-in-time material delivery is a very important concept. You really cut down on re-handling."
A period of adjustment
While change can be good, it's not always easy."The biggest challenge with any change in an organization is breaking down resistance to change," says Reiser."There is a transition period and you have to get people to give up old habits."
Another hurtle was convincing employees that going lean did not mean eliminating jobs."The lean process is not used to get rid of people. Lean is intended to build in more capacity using the same amount of people," Reiser explains."What we want to do is increase the capacity so we can deliver more projects faster."
Boldt implemented an awareness building campaign, which included classroom training."It worked to get the concepts out there," says Reiser."Now, we have more and more projects rolling and more people who have worked on lean construction. Our approach now is on a project by project basis."
Training today tends to be via implementation rather than the classroom."It's more effective to be ‘knee to knee' with someone experienced in the process," says Reiser.
The company also found it necessary to adjust certain components of lean construction to the needs of its project teams."We have highly skilled people working for us, but they're technical skills. They're not always skilled in facilitation, leadership, communication," Reiser states."We had to find ways to get people to collaborate in a form that is conducive to how they do work."
For example, when the Last Planner system was first introduced, planning meetings for the week were held for up to two hours once a week. Meetings are now held for 15 minutes each day."If you change it from one two-hour meeting to daily 15-minute meetings, they're very concise and work like clockwork," says Reiser.
Boldt applies lean construction at varying levels on different projects. Full implementation on every job would be the ideal, but Reiser believes this is unrealistic, particularly for a company this size.
"If you're a smaller contractor, you can put your arms around it a lot faster. The principles apply to all sizes of companies, all sizes of projects, from the smallest to the largest," he comments.
But the complexity of the Boldt organization makes full implementation more difficult."We have 10 regional offices. They have multiple projects scattered out - the network is very large and complex. And every project is like its own little factory," says Reiser."It's hard to get the same level of implementation everywhere."
The next phase
For Boldt, lean construction has shown recordable results."In our best, most rigorous applications, we've seen 10% to 20% improvement in scheduling and productivity," Reiser states.
Yet, he is quick to add that such success can't be attributed to lean alone."When you get people who embrace the process, they're also willing to embrace new forming systems, 3-D modeling, new ideas," he points out."It contributes to faster project delivery and a productivity increase."
Boldt is now applying lean principles to other aspects of its business, including project design. "There are all kinds of inefficiencies in the design phase," says Reiser. "If we can engage the design and build process, we can find better ways to build."
In lean design, the contractor and suppliers are involved up front with the architect in order to expedite the design process, says Reiser. This eliminates redundancies in developing plans, plus identifies and corrects potential design problems early on. The result is substantial time and cost savings.