Video Transcriptions

I was on one of PCL’s first jobs to implement the Last Planner®® system – a handful of years ago. That was the original time when my lean journey kicked off. Before that I was doing some stuff that could be considered lean, but I did not recognize what is was and the value of it all.

 

What is you professional background?

I had started framing houses when I was fifteen years old. I owned my own construction company for a handful of years and then got hired on with PCL and have been building ever since.

 

How far along the lean journey is the construction industry?

Industry wide – at least in the U.S. – I would grade it on a whole to be on the adolescence side of the spectrum. There may be one-off groups and organizations now that are becoming more sophisticated in practicing and understanding and leveraging lean techniques.

 

Why is it important we embrace Lean principles?

If we going to talk strictly productivity, I’d say lean provides an amazing amount of opportunity for better and smarter work to happen. Like creating flow in what we do. Efficiency and effectiveness is one thing – but for me personally it is the work-life balance. That means working in an environment that is healthy and doesn’t burn people out. It’s all about doing it right and building it once.

 

SUMMARY

 

What is your overall view of Lean and how many years have you been doing it?
  • The industry is still in the development stages towards lean.
  • Lean is about working better and smarter towards creating flow.
  • Personally, I think lean is about work-life balance.
  • Lean is about doing it right and building it once.

I am Eric Lusis – National Lean Manager – at PCL construction.  My role is to support our national Lean program and the entire organization with developing and adopting a Lean program.

 

What is Lean Construction?

Lean construction obviously has grown from a lean manufacturing stance and has been formatted to support the needs of the design and construction industry. Lean focuses on activities that add value for the customer with the least amount of waste.  A couple key components that PCL focuses on are collaboration, respect, awareness and continuous improvement.

 

Are you using the 5S system?

5S is pretty new to our organization. We are slowly adopting it but we are starting to incorporate it in some PCL contracts.  We are currently developing training on this and increasing the awareness of this. 5S – Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain – is a methodology about organizing our workspace, improving our workspace and allowing us to be productive with what we do.

 

SUMMARY

 

Tell us about Eric Lusis and what PCL is doing regarding Lean?
  • Lean, having started in manufacturing, is now adopted into the design and construction industry.
  • Lean focuses on activities that add value for the costumer.
  • PCL focuses on values such as collaboration, respect, awareness, and continuous improvement.
  • 5S is being incorporated into some PCL contracts.
  • 5S is about organizing our workplace and allowing us to be productive.

Industry wide, here in the US, I would like to grade us more towards the adolescent side of the spectrum. Definitely, there are more and more organizations are becoming more sophisticated as far as practicing and understanding and leveraging Lean techniques.

 

Why is it important that we embrace Lean principles?

In terms of productivity, Lean provides an amazing amount of opportunity for working better and smarter with what we do. Efficiency and effectiveness is one thing, but for me personally it is the work/life balance. It is working in an environment that is healthy and doesn’t burn people out. Lean is all about the work experience, and then doing it right, and building it once.

It begins with establishing and building some kind of relatedness amongst the team by getting the team to recognize what everyone’s purpose really is. Establish a family setting and understand each other’s function so we could get across the finish line at the same time.

 

What advice do you have for trade partners?

Trade partners needs to provide their people the opportunity to make decisions and leverage their expertise and allow them to think and provide solutions to what they do. Support everyone’s development through training. If we are not training these people to improve then we are just going to be working the same way we do every day.

 

SUMMARY

 

What advice do you have for trade partners engaging on a Lean job?
  • Get the team to recognizing what everyone’s purpose of being there really is.
  • Establish a family setting and understand each other’s function.
  • Provide opportunities for decision making – use everyone’s skills.
  • Support everyone’s development through training.

On our previous project, the San Diego airport expansion, I wish we were leveraging the Last Planner®® system. Typically, our projects teams have some awareness of the Last Planner®® system but actually executing and leveraging it on the job less so. Every job that we have done, the feedback that we got from our teams is that – they don’t want to go back to the old way.

 

How long does it take to learn the Last Planner®® system on the job?

We start the awareness journey with the Villego® simulation to build relatedness amongst the team. We’ve got smaller workshops that lasts for an hour or two. We find that at PCL it takes about 4-6 weeks for project teams to learn the mechanics involved in the Last Planner®® system. There is always some kind of maintenance with the team. Theoretically, we’ve had project teams where a new trade partner comes on board and pick that up pretty quickly.

 

SUMMARY

 

About the Last Planner®® System.
  • The team that engage with the Last Planner®® system don’t want to go back to the old way.
  • We start awareness journey with the Villego® simulation to build relatedness amongst the team.
  • It takes about 4-6 weeks to learn the mechanics involved in the Last Planner®® system.
  • A new trade partner can come onboard and it up relatively quickly.

It begins with establishing and building some kind of relatedness amongst the team by getting the team to recognize what everyone’s purpose really is. Establish a family setting and understand each other’s function so we could get across the finish line at the same time.

 

What advice do you have for trade partners?

Trade partners needs to provide their people the opportunity to make decisions and leverage their expertise and allow them to think and provide solutions to what they do. Support everyone’s development through training. If we are not training these people to improve then we are just going to be working the same way we do every day.

One example is the $400 million power plants expansion that we kicked off Last Planner® in 2006. The executive field manager who was leading the project said that, “The project when we start the Last Planner® was $20 million in the hole.” They just did their forecasting last month and they are $2 million up. They also logged back 90 plus days using Last Planner®.

He told me, “Eric, I have been running an industrial job my whole life and this is the first job that was actually easy for me. The planning and execution is better using the Last Planner® system.”

 

Is maintaining a takt plan critical to being productive?

YES. Over the last handful of years, it is becoming clear that repeatable cycles of work allow us to create balance between our trade partners. A takt plan helps us better understand how we can load and level our crews, and plan the work so we create flow with what we do.

 

SUMMARY

 

Are there significant changes since the introduction of the Last Planner® system?
  • By running the Last Planner® system it has made my job much easier.
  • Repeatedly cycles of work allows us to create balance between our trade partners.
  • Better loading and leveling our crews allows us to create flow on the project.

Measuring the success of the takt plan really begins with identifying the flow of the takt. First, identify road blocks and hurdles that are preventing you from meeting the plan. Once those roadblocks are identified then there might be a need to re-calibrate the plan.

 

How do you get back on track?

There is a lot of ways to get back on schedule but remember that using overtime and adding more people should be the last resort. More typically there are underlying challenges or opportunities such a project team working with our clients to identify changes and not having pencil down points. Allowing people to change the plan is really one of the underlying elements. What we do is regroup with the entire team, then do a retrospect to determine if changes to the plan are an option.

 

What went well and what could have gone better on your last project?

In my last project, what went well was collaboration and using visual aids in planning the work.  It was more so increasing the awareness of what we are building and developing a flow and a rhythm to executing the work. However, the challenge is we had a couple participants who would react to challenges and change the plan frequently which impeded the momentum of the team and created secondary challenges that people had to manage.

 

SUMMARY

 

What can you do if you are not achieving takt plan success?
  • Use on visual aids as a powerful to towards planning with work.
  • Always gauge if you are creating flow and rhythm.
  • Finally, be aware of participants changing the plan to frequently causing further unnecessary work.

I have definitely applied Lean, whether its 5S or having a different method to planning, to my home life.

One day I was looking for the toothpaste and I couldn’t find it. I was going to the bathrooms, drawers and closets and ended buying one only to find out that in a drawer we have 5 things of toothpaste just sitting there. One day, got fed up, dump all the drawers into my bed, got zip lock bags, organized everything in categories, put them in clear boxes, label the boxes and now all of my toiletries in my entire house are in one space. Believe me, my wife freaked out when this happened. Now I know what I have anytime and I know exactly where to go. That was a silly story but quite frankly even the simplest things have worked for many years.

At work, applying Lean to listening and speaking has helped me become a better communicator. Lean has help me build other people – such as improving the projects they work on, and really working together. Even just how I organize my notes and everything I do, I experienced drastic changes over the past years.

 

SUMMARY

 

What benefits have you personally received by applying Lean principles?
  • I have applied Lean to my home life.
  • Even the simplest things have worked for many years.
  • At work, applying Lean to listening and speaking has helped me become a better communicator.
  • I have experienced drastic changes over the past years.

We cannot do construction without people. We are never going to have robots slamming studs and throwing rock up. I did see a drywall robot but first question I had was – can that thing climb a ladder? No, we will never get away from having people in construction. If we don’t have effective people, we can’t have effective projects.

 

SUMMARY

 

Will robots ever replace people on a construction site?
  • No, we will never get away from having people in construction.

It is really important to call our subcontractors as “trade partners” because we are partners when we work together. I consider anybody who is on one of my projects part of the team. If we don’t treat each other like partners, we are going to be having it more adversarial and challenging work environment.

I would say build people just as you would build your children. Have the mentality that we are partners, and possibly even family. If we don’t have mentality with our project teams, then we are going to have lots of challenges understanding each other and working together. At the end of the day, that leads to a better balance. I’ve got project teams that go home on time that don’t work on weekends. This will allow us to commit to each other and work well together.

 

SUMMARY

 

What advice do you have for trade partners?
  • Have the mentality that we are partners, and possibly even family.
  • This will allow us to commit to each other and work well together.

The first thing that comes to my mind is – teach one to teach others.

One of my big aha moments was visiting a project team that we kicked off Last Planner®® system. Maybe it was nine or twelve months prior to me being at this experience. I walk in the weekly work plan meeting and there is a gentleman wearing a vest and he was coaching the team like one of the PCL superintendents – getting the people to participate and make commitments to each other. After the meeting, I found out that he wasn’t one of our superintendents on the project site. He was actually the framing foreman running the foreman’s meeting and getting the entire team to participate and work together.

That was my big aha moment where a lot of my jobs have been a challenge because sometimes I have felt that some of the teams I have worked with needed guidance. What I learned was that people can do this; take ownership; and look out for each other on a project site.

 

SUMMARY

 

What one value helps you guarantee success on your projects?
  • Teach one person so they can teach others.
  • A good example was a trade foreman who engaged the entire team to work together.
  • People can do this – take ownership, and look out for each other.

It all begins with respect for people. If we don’t respect the people in our work environment, we are going to have a lot of challenges.  At the end of the day, what we are trying to develop is trust. You can’t have trust, you can’t make reliable commitments to one another and be accountable without that underlying respect for people. Definitely, start with respect for people, then having awareness of what we are doing.

We all have looked at the drawings and have a certain level of awareness but there is always another step further into understanding what we are doing. We should strive for continuous improvement. I have people saying, “I have been doing this for many years. I know what I am doing.” In the back of my head, “If you’ve been doing it for ten years you haven’t been getting better.” Continuous improvement with everything we do is a critical mindset with how we operate. A quick reflection can lead to knowing what we can do better next time.

 

SUMMARY

 

What values would you try to bring to a project?
  • It begins with respect for people.
  • This will allow us to develop trust.
  • Then, having awareness of what we do.
  • We should strive for continuous improvement.