Lean construction is not about efficiency and process but much more about employee relations, insisted Tracy Lucero at the recent Concrete Executive Leadership Forum (CELF), sponsored by ASCC. As Phoenix-area manager for mechanical contractor JB Henderson, Lucero was able to use lean construction techniques to increase productivity by 30% to 40% over two years. The process is based on a feedback loop that moves from Plan to Do to Check to Act with the most important part being the daily check to see how the plan worked in the field then acting to achieve gradual but continuous improvement to the plan and then to what workers are actually doing.

Lucero emphasized that the success her company had was a long journey to implement lean techniques. Through daily planning meetings and weekly review meetings, Lucero was able to “make finding waste like a scavenger hunt…make it a game.” Her team became Kaizen warriors, finding and eliminating wasted time and expense. She recommended getting the book “2 Second Lean” by Paul Akers.

In follow-up roundtable discussions at the CELF, concrete contractors agreed that many of these ideas could improve their productivity but also emphasized that crews and jobsites are all different and may require different approaches. Convincing the heavily Hispanic crews common on concrete construction sites to buy in to the lean approach could be a challenge. And having materials and equipment in the most convenient place on a site depends on relations with the general contractor and the other subcontractors.

Other aspects of Lucero’s message also drew interest, such as using technology to reduce waste. One contractor noted that he had achieved significant savings by installing big screen monitors in job trailers and providing all foremen with iPads. This equipment paid for itself quickly in savings from not printing multiple sets of plans and from having everyone working off the most up-to-date drawings.