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22nd Edition 

April  2013

In This Issue
Lean Construction Partnering Opportunities
The Start of A Successful Lean Construction Journey
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To all Newsletter readers: 


Dennis Sowards of Quality Support Services, Inc., a regular contributor to this Newsletter, will be taking a leave of absence from writing for this newsletter.


Dennis described his new journey: "My wife and I have accepted a call, from our church, to serve a full time mission in Thailand."


We thank Dennis for his contributions and wish him and his wife the best on their new journey.

Lean Construction Partnering Opportunities 


By Ted Angelo


You can improve material flow with better communication and with the help of your partners.




Grunau held discussions to identify opportunities for improvement with material flow in our Service area.  After investigation and a few time studies, we discovered that the amount of time spent waiting for material at supply houses could be reduced. To take advantage of this opportunity, Grunau embarked on educating workers to improve communication between our employees and the supply houses, as well as improving the daily task planning process.




We asked our employees to call ahead for all orders so the supply house can check stock and compile the order.

  • Checking stock reduces the number of times drivers arrive at a supply house and realize the required item is only available through special order, or the supplier had just run out of what was needed. 
  • Calling ahead allows the supply house time to compile the order beforehand, reducing the amount of time we need to wait for material. 



By calling ahead, our supply house partners obtain improvements in their counter times and have more time to check order accuracy before we arrive for pick up.  The improvements with Grunau employees' task planning and communication has cut the amount of material handling time spent at supply houses in half. We've set a goal of 3 to 5 minutes to collect material at supply houses, depending on will-call counter traffic. Our employees have proven this amount of time is achievable since 50% of the visits are currently 5 minutes or less. We measured the reduction in "wait time waste" as a cost savings of $12,000 in the six months since we began the process.

  Supply House Chart


Lean success was realized through:

  1. Identifying a problem
  2. Formulating a solution
  3. Reviewing with service techs
  4. Measuring the results
  5. Sharing results with the team 

This activity is an excellent example of how improvements can be made while working with outside organizations to identify a better way that benefits everyone involved. 


Have you reached out to one of your partners to eliminate waste?


The Start of a Successful Lean Construction Journey


A Goal without a Plan is a Dream! 

By Larry Rubrich

Here are a few things to consider to ensure that your Lean Construction journey is successful and sustainable:




Is there a role and need for consultants?


The short answer is yes, construction organizations need consultants, but only to get started on the Lean journey. To be successful with Lean, organizations must ultimately "own" 100% of their Lean activities. Some consultants want to "feed a man a fish" rather than "teach a man to fish" and make the organization entirely independent of them. So choose wisely. Choosing wisely means that, when a consultant is engaged, their exit strategy is also immediately developed. Ultimately, when properly selected, Lean consultants provide a lot of value and will ensure the organization starts the Lean journey headed in the right direction. Here are some guidelines for the role of Lean consultants: 

  • They have "fresh" objective eyes to tell the organization what is really going on in contrast to the Leadership Team's perceptions.
  • They will do the initial Lean training, including Policy Deployment.
  • They provide guidance on selecting your Lean Facilitator (see below).
  • They will train, coach, and mentor the Lean Facilitator. Their goal is to transfer all their knowledge to the facilitator.
  • They will make available all training materials that they use at the company to the facilitator for their use.
  • They will train the Lean Facilitator and other selected team members on how to do Kaizen Events.
  • They will schedule one-day return visits every 6 months after their exit. 

Beware of consultants who: 

  • Want to postpone the development of an exit strategy
  • Tell you Lean Construction is only about the 5S's and Last Planner/Project Schedule and Lean's principal use is only at the jobsite
  • Do not insist that you need a Lean Facilitator
  • Want only to do Kaizen Events
  • Do not mention Lean as a Business Operating System for your organization
  • Do not mention Policy Deployment as one of the first steps in your Lean journey

Organizational Assessments


Any improvement or transformation starts with understanding where the organization is currently in terms of a leadership, culture, and operational standpoint-the baseline. Very few companies have a good understanding of their baseline. Unless an organization has annual associate surveys conducted by a company outside the organization, the Leadership's Team perceptions and organizational reality are rarely close. Therefore, annual organizational surveys and assessments are valuable tools for associate feedback as a double check on leadership, culture, and operations activities.


Additionally, organizational assessments are extremely valuable to your Lean consultant. They provide an education about the entire organization that allows the consultant to hit the ground running for Lean training and Policy Deployment activities.


An organizational assessment begins with an on-line survey that is completed by a cross-section of the organization. This is followed up by a 3-4 day, on-site interview activity that develops this baseline by reviewing the status of the following three critical elements of a Lean transformation: 

  • The Leadership Team and management's readiness to change, support change, and participate in a Lean Implementation. The transformation starts here.
  • The current level of associate empowerment and teamwork in the organization (determined by the survey and the random associate interviews). To become a World Class Organization, everyone in the organization must become involved and participate.
  • A review and comparison of the organization's current goals with Lean's ability to eliminate waste and improve the organization's processes.


Lean Training and Implementation Order


There is no cookie-cutter for the Lean training and implementation order. No two organizations are alike, especially in their starting point. The following

template/guidelines are typical recommendations that may need to be revised or rearranged based on the organization's Lean exposure, Lean experience, and financial situation.


This list does not include Lean enabler activities/meetings and announcements that would be necessary if this was the organization's initial kick-off of a Lean journey.


1. Management training in the Lean concepts and tools (1 days). Based on the knowledge learned in the survey and interview baseline, a training program is developed for the management staff. This session is usually a one-day Lean Construction Overview. Because Lean implementation failures in organizations are always a result of management issues, this training must always include a review of the book How to Prevent Lean Implementation Failures ... 10 Reasons Why Failures Occur
(1/2 day). 

2. Train the organization's associates in the Lean Concepts and the Lean Construction Tools (1/2 day). Everyone in the organization should receive an initial 4-hour Lean Overview. While many organization's balk at this training because of the cost and difficulty, these same organizations are not measuring the cost of not training these associates in terms of rumors, gossip, bad feelings, and resentment. It is extremely important to get everyone on the same page at the beginning of this culture-changing activity. This Lean Construction Overview should occur before the Policy Deployment training because some individuals in this group will be involved in the brainstorming activities in Policy Deployment. 


3. Development of a LPO (Lean Promotion Office).

In the long term, the organization must own its Lean activities; they cannot be owned by some group of consultants. Therefore, in-house Lean experts must

be developed from associates already in the organization (with going outside the organization a distant second choice). Candidates for these positions should have the following basic characteristics (no recruiting or talking someone into this job): 

  • A passion for Lean
  • Good with people, excellent communicator
  • No baggage (respected by everyone in the organization)

4. Policy Deployment.

This 10-step, four-to-five day management session (it replaces the budgeting process in most organizations) integrates the organization's goals with Lean and then plans for the deployment of this system throughout the organization. The ten steps are as follows:
        1) Determine mission and behavioral expectations

2) Develop/reiterate organization's goals (Safety,

     Operating Income, Cash Flow, Revenue, ROIC, etc.)

3) Brainstorm opportunities to achieve goals

4) Define parameters to value opportunities

5) Establish weighting requirements, rate

     opportunities, and prioritize

6) Conduct a reality check-will the brainstormed ideas

     achieve the goals?

7) Develop Lean Implementation Plan

8) Cascade company goals into operational metrics and

     develop Bowling Chart

9) Determine countermeasures-A3 Team Based

     Problem Solving, Error Proofing, and DMAIC 10) How to conduct monthly Business Reviews

       -deployment follow up


5. Begin enabler activities, Value Stream Mapping, and other Kaizen Event activities as identified in the Deployment Plan. 

  • Conduct roll-out activities for the plan that management developed, making sure all the metrics are visual. 

6. Follow-up, review, and adjust on a continuing basis.


This means doing the following: 

  • Conducting monthly Business Reviews
  • Adjusting your plan as markets and customer requirements change
  • Making the Policy Deployment activity part of how the organization does business 

At the six-month and one-year points in the implementation, the outside consultant should conduct one-day reviews to look for gaps or problems in the completeness of the training or the Lean Implementation Plan, as well as to determine the developmental status of the Lean Facilitator.


In addition, remember that Policy Deployment is an annual process, just like the budgeting process it can usually replace. Start the PD process as early as possible, and for the best PD results, involve as many members of the organization as possible.

Lean Construction Overview 

One-Day Training Session

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A recent session attendee, Chris Johnson, President of Piper Fire Protection said, "This class was a real life changer for me."  


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This Lean newsletter is the result of the collaboration of three organizations:
Grunau Company
Ted Angelo, Executive Vice President

Quality Support Services, Inc.
Dennis Sowards, President


WCM Associates LLC
Larry Rubrich, President


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  WCM Associates LLC, 2013. All rights reserved.
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