In a quest for success, the construction industry has been making rapid strides over the past several decades to build process improvement into their culture.
Take for example the case of 116-year old Turner Construction Company. Company management says that the only reason they became a global entity was due to incorporating principles of process improvement. They focussed on planning and collaboration between departments, which resulted in an uninterrupted workflow, less waste and maximum use of time.
Here are six things that construction companies who adopt process improvement gain in the long run.
- They learn to cut waste from the work process
- They use their people more efficiently
- They plan their operations and projects better
- They cut transportation times
- They keep their people safe on the sites
- They create value that is transferable to employees and clients
Here are four methods to implement culture process improvement in your company.
Value-Stream-Mapping or VSM is a methodological approach to observe and track, the value and efficiency in every aspect of the construction process.
A Malaysian based construction company named AME Industries decided to use VSM to find a solution to problems faced by the operations department. Before the process started, the Value Added (VA) ratio of the production was 0.4297. The VSM analysis showed that the critical issue is the queue between the QC inspection and the Painting Primer Coat Process caused by the unbalanced process. Remediation followed which resulted in the VA ratio gaining 11.63% against 0.4297 by reducing the high queue time between the two operations.
The stress in this method is viewing the larger picture and find a route towards it. By encouraging the construction management to literally and figuratively walk through each process, they can learn workflow performance, identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies. The end product being a detailed operational map, VSM enables management to make the right decisions to eliminate production waste.
2. Gemba Walks
Gemba Walk recommends the management team to walk informally in the work site and interact with the employees and learn about the challenges they face. When employees see that the management is taking an interest in them, it will instil a sense of value in them.
Gemba Walks holds a special place in culture process improvement. This is because the method involves the contribution of every employee engaged in the project and considers them as an important stakeholder.
This doesn’t mean that employees own the project but that they are inspired to have a vested interest in the project. You see, the word Gemba in Japanese means ‘actual place’. The management is encouraged to learn about the ongoing project from employees who are doing physical labour at the ‘project site’.
PDCA or Plan-Do-Check-Act is a fascinating concept in process improvement because of its capability to make huge impacts without compromising on the project completion timeline.
Under this technique, a construction process, for example, introducing safety measures, is selected. Titan Cement Company, a leader in cement production, used PDCA to do this.
Instead of trying to teach the entire site crew new procedures, they were divided into small teams and taught one at a time. Meanwhile work continued with the safety procedures that already existed.
At this stage, the change was small enough not to disrupt the entire operation but large enough for management to study the results. Slowly more and more teams were introduced to the new safety measure till it replaced the old one completely.
The result was the completion of all projects without disruption, adoption of better safety standards, clear communication and leadership and zero incidents in 6.5 million man-hours.
An advantage of PDCA is upgradation of processes without it being a stress on employees and management.
4. 5 Why’s
Under the 5 Why’s method, construction management should ask ‘why’, five different times and it helps them find the problem and solve it. Though it sounds simple, this is a method that has been tested and proven succesful multiple times.
Asking ‘why’ will not solve the problem, but it will potentially lead to an investigation and finding the root cause. Construction companies have solved large issues like a financial discrepancy in the accounting department to the reason for a delay in the supply of construction materials, by implementing the 5 Why’s concept.
Let us say for example a fleet vehicle refuses to start and if the transportation department uses the 5 Why methodology, here are the possible outcomes:
5 Why’s is an approach that encourages to dig deeper to find the root cause, and it comes quite useful many times. However, just like any other lean methodology, the success of this tool depends on the user’s ability to implement it.
The construction industry has a tremendous opportunity to grow and expand by adopting process improvement into their culture. The 4 methods discussed here have brought results in the form of increased productivity, boosting employee’s value and satisfaction, making stakeholders happy and bringing happiness to the customer. With a growing population that demands urban expansion, construction companies are in huge demand by developers and landowners. However, in the new era of construction productivity, only the companies that implement process improvement on an ongoing basis will survive.