The reasons range from the culture of construction to the enormous complexity of most construction projects. Nonetheless, the slow pace of change results in waste, stress and financial costs that would be unthinkable in other industries.
There are, however, companies taking the lead in doing things differently. Vancouver Island’s Kinetic Construction is one of them.
Kinetic began its journey to lean when president and CEO Tom Plumb attended the Lean Construction Institute of Canada’s inaugural Lean Convention in Calgary in 2015. He saw the potential to transform the way the organization worked with other stakeholders in the complex multi-stakeholder environment of construction projects.
Lean thinking encompasses a variety of concepts: increased communication; collaboration or autonomy; reduced inventory; more efficient process and flow; the drive for continuous improvement; but, above all, it is about reducing waste.
In lean, waste is understood to take many forms. John Hurrell, Kinetic’s lean field integration manager on the Island, describes one of the greatest wastes in construction: “Work waiting for workers, and workers waiting for work.”
In Kinetic’s framework, the hallmarks of a lean project include:
A rethinking of the relationship between all the stakeholders.
The level of collaboration, risk and benefit sharing, is remarkable. Kinetic refers to the sub-trades they work with as trade partners. Site meetings are collaborative and kept highly effective through a “one version of the truth” framework called the Last Planner System that provides direct line of sight information on every aspect of a project, for all stakeholders.
A measurable reduction in waste, especially wasted time.
Using a metric, PPC (Percentage Plan Complete), Kinetic and its suppliers and trade partners manage schedules with greater reliability, resulting in less stress and better margins.
The ability to navigate unpredictable impacts on a construction project.
The real-time monitoring, communicating and collaborating allows Kinetic and its partners to see issues sooner, and work collaboratively to find solutions.
A typical North American construction site usually only sees 50 per cent of the tasks promised for completion in any week actually completed. In the current phase of its lean journey, Kinetic’s lean projects are at 65 per cent and climbing.
Hurrell credits the success of the company’s lean thinking to president and CEO Plumb’s unshakable persistence in executing a vision through daunting challenges. Hurrell also credits his team, especially Ritu Ahuja, Kinetic Construction’s lean integration leader, and the growing number of site superintendents in the firm leading lean projects. He acknowledges Kinetic’s trade partners for trusting Kinetic to lead them all through this uncharted territory.
For recommendations to other companies wanting to start their own lean journeys, Hurrell points to committed leadership as being non-negotiable. He also shares that the lean practice community is supportive and accessible through social media and other channels.
Finally, he says, “You have to start at the coal-face.” You have to start where the work is done: on the job site, with your site supers and key trades partners. The employees and trade partners are Kinetic’s ultimate source of success on the lean journey.