Identifying opportunities and overcoming challenges: The proactive implementation of Lean tools in construction

Skanska is attending the 21st annual Lean Construction Institute Congress event, October 14-18. The theme of Congress this year is “Overcoming Our Industry Challenges with Lean Solutions.” One of the first steps in the application and adoption of Lean practices is identifying challenges and roadblocks. It is within these challenges that opportunity lies.

Being proactive and identifying opportunities early by implementing Lean methodology, such as pull planning, has become a great strength at Skanska.

Identifying opportunities: Proactive vs. reactive

Over the past decade, as Skanska’s culture of Continuous Improvement has grown deeper, we have learned the value of implementing Lean tools proactively, not reactively. Specifically, within the last four years, we have dedicated resources during project definition, design, and early works phases to set our projects up for success. This benefits Skanska, our clients, design partners and subcontractors, as it allows us to overcome challenges in all shapes and sizes, from planning and design issues or waste in process and behavior. Being proactive and identifying opportunities early by implementing Lean methodology has become a great strength at Skanska.

Setting up for success in K-12: Defining our design and early works process

In Seattle, our office has a deep history in the K-12 market sector. We work closely with many school districts, not just during construction, but in the early stages of planning. Currently, we are working with the Auburn School District on four separate school projects. The projects stagger their start dates, each beginning a year after the previous project. Knowing that we would have a long working relationship with the client, design partners, trade partners and community, we proactively started performing Design Phase Pull Plans. Our phase pull plans take place roughly a year out from the start of construction. We engage all parties involved in the project, including, but not limited to, the client; architect; landscape designer; structural engineer; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire engineer; and key subcontractors. Our collective goal as a team is alignment.

As we approach the end of our second year of an owner, architect, contractor (OAC) relationship, the collective team has become a well-oiled machine in how we approach new projects and align our goals. One year out from each of the K-12 projects, we gather as a group and have our first pull plan. This pull plan is a half-day lean scheduling session where we focus the milestones towards our design deliverables and sequencing. We make reliable promises regarding when we will have design and construction documents, when procurement will begin and what deliverables are needed when. One year out from the project, we have already communicated what the next 12 months of work will look like for each party.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • The design teams enjoy the ability to accurately forecast which design deliverables are due when, freeing them up to spend more time designing.
  • The owner can precisely coordinate their schedules and funding.
  • Skanska has a fully coordinated project team.

Setting up for success in K-12: Planning through permitting

At the six-month mark to start of construction, the project team meets for an additional four-hour pull planning session. At this mark, we check how we have delivered on our commitments over the past six months. We re-adjust or act as needed for items that were completed early or pushed to later dates. Now, we can focus on design completion through permitting and early works or early release packages.

Much similar to the first session, this use of lean scheduling allows each party to have a sense of calm and excitement leading into construction. There is no rushing. There is no uncertainty or anxiety. It is a relationship where we have full alignment on the path forward, how we get there, and what we need from one another. This use of planning our design and early works process has paid back its value ten-fold.

On the Pioneer Elementary School Project for the Auburn School District, we reconvened six months before the start of construction to sequence and plan our approach to the project. At the surface level, our initial planning sequence still applied and was complete. However, digging into it, we found opportunity to add critical detail.

As in most sequencing, we had familiar milestones such as constructability review, value engineering and facilities review. For a seamless delivery, we needed to define what each of these stages actually consists of, ensuring that each party has crystal clear alignment as to what is expected at each step of the way and when the events occur. The end result was a legend that accompanied the pull plan (pictured below) and accurately defined each step along the way. This provided clarity for each party and helped ensure we were comparing apples to apples.

Review Milestone Definitions When and What
Value Engineering Review Based on Schematic Design; once estimate is available
Building Envelope Review 80% Construction Documents
Commissioning Review Mechanical, electrical plumbing 80-90% designed
Building Permit Review 11/22/19 and 1/15/19
Facilities Review 10/1/19 Submittal with eight week review
Health Dept. Review Submit 90% permit with four week review
District Review 80% documents 95% specification

On the Pioneer Elementary School Project, our team developed a legend that accompanied the pull plan schedule, which accurately defines each step of design and construction. This technique is now replicated as a standard on all our planning efforts.

Integrated design-build: A story of adaptation and collaboration in higher education

Construction projects come in all shapes and sizes. For some of our clients, in this case public higher education projects, there is often framework and rules that must be followed. On the Kincaid Hall Renovation project, currently underway at the University of Washington, we were faced with the challenge to make the project as lean and collaborative as possible. We were unable to leverage integrated project delivery, as the method is not compatible with the delivery of a public sector project. Instead, our team found the solution within a methodology that the University of Washington is leading the charge in defining and proving: Integrated Design-Build.

On this project, Skanska, architect Perkins+Will, and the university operate as a Project Working Team and Project Executive Committee. Both teams were formed prior to the Project Definition phase and have equal representation from all partners. As a single unit, we defined and designed the project and brought on trade partners. The project is currently entering construction with a completion date in Q3 2020 and has successfully leveraged this new delivery method for over a year. Through the Integrated Design Build process, the teams meet on a regular basis utilizing a SCRUM project management approach to make decisions, reevaluate progress and course correct together.

The Kincaid Hall Renovation project is living proof of how collaboration and a proactive approach sets the project—and the relationships—up for success.

The 21st LCI Congress event will be held from October 14-18. This annual conference has an overarching goal of transforming the Built Environment through Lean implementation. During the event, owners, designers, trade partners and general contractors will share their Lean successes and challenges and discuss how to advance Lean project design and delivery, improving design and building performance. Skanska is a founding member of the Lean Construction Institute and applies Lean approaches in many construction sectors, focused on helping clients realize their vision. To learn more, click here.

Last updated: 10/10/2019