The Lean Approach

Sonny Sicat
As Faithful+Gould Technical Director, Aviation & Infrastructure, I recently presented at the Lean Construction Institute Congress in the DC area on October 9.

I was joined by representatives from McCarthy Builders, and the Re-Alignment Group to address the congress.

The panel presented on Using Last Planner on a Hard Bid, Multi Prime on an Airport Project Expansion to Complete the Project On-Time.

It is popularly held that Hard Bid projects (where the price given is the final price of the project, plus or minus change orders) are won by those who make the most mistakes at bid time.

With Hard Bid projects, everyone involved has presented the lowest possible number to win the project. This is great for owners, but it creates an environment where asking for anything that’s not in the contract becomes an opportunity for fee enhancement: change orders.

The panel considered these questions:

  • How can a hard bid project achieve the benefits of integrating CPM with Pull Scheduling and still comply with the CPM contractual requirements?
  • How can project teams function as an integrated project without a contract specifically requiring it?
  • How do multi-prime contractors, with no contractual obligation, work together to complete the project?

The panel then explained how using a Lean Approach on an international airport expansion program had enabled the team to collaboratively work through project challenges and restructure operational processes. This reduced waste and increased value by integrating the work of the Multi-Prime Contractors. We integrated Pull Scheduling (PDF) with the contract schedule requirements, to successfully meet the project goals.

Activities that were not completed were tracked in a Variance Report for follow-on use in Root Cause Analysis studies, enabling proactive correction. This enabled continual schedule improvement and a heightened understanding of the parties’ inter-related dependencies, thus fostering a collaborative team environment.

Lean theory, principles and techniques, taken together, provide the foundation for a new form of project management.

Lean construction is a new way to design and build capital facilities. Lean theory, principles and techniques, taken together, provide the foundation for a new form of project management. From roots in production management, lean construction has produced significant improvements particularly on complex, uncertain and quick projects.

Key differences between lean construction and other forms of project management:

  • Control is redefined from "monitoring results" to "making things happen." Planning system performance is measured and improved to assure reliable workflow and predictable project outcomes.
  • Performance is maximizing value and minimizing waste at the project level. Current practice attempts to optimize each activity and thus reduces total performance.
  • Project Delivery is the simultaneous design of the facility and its production process. This is concurrent engineering. Current practice, even with constructability reviews, is a sequential process unable to prevent wasteful iterations.
  • Value to the customer is defined, created and delivered throughout the life of the project. In current practice, the owner is expected to completely define requirements at the outset, for delivery at the end, despite changing markets, technology and business practices.
  • Coordinating action through pulling and continuous flow, as opposed to traditional schedule-driven push with its over-reliance on central authority and project schedules to manage resources and coordinate work.
  • Decentralizing decision-making through transparency and empowerment. This means providing project participants with information on the state of the production systems and empowering them to take action.

Last Planner, and Lean Construction concepts made a major impact, contributing to  the successful opening of John Wayne Airport to airline passengers and the Orange County public.

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