Our company applied Lean techniques to hurricane planning and preparation in advance of the 2017 hurricane season, which turned out to be one of the most active and destructive hurricane seasons of all time. The teams involved followed a Lean process: plan, do, check, adjust. The result was a host of lessons learned that were applied to planning efforts for the 2018 hurricane season.
When two major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, threatened Florida and other coastal communities, our safety team collaborated with stakeholders from nearly every area of the company, including the Lean department, to plan for the storms and protect our people and our jobsites—many of which were in the potential path of the storms across several states. Senior leaders joined involved parties from a wide range of regions, departments, and divisions to discuss specific areas of focus, identify employees who might be most impacted by the storms, and determine what steps needed to be taken in anticipation of that impact. This meeting allowed the group to devise a company-wide communication strategy that was launched shortly thereafter.
DO:The company took actions to ensure that employees would have access to funds and lines of communication in the event that banks, ATMs, and phone lines were down as a result of the storms. We deployed debit cards, cash, and satellite phones to employees in potentially impacted areas.
A check-in protocol was established for projects, teams, and employees in the path of the storms, both prior to and immediately following the events, to determine where aid was needed. Group texting was set up for employees in impacted areas once the final path of the storm was established. Proactive measures were taken to remind employees about health insurance benefits available to them, including Teledoc, a telehealth provider, and the Aviation department was alerted and prepared to assist employees in need of air transportation. An employee in each affected area was selected to serve as local champion to help with coordinating these efforts.
Work was halted a few days before the storms were projected to hit to provide two days for the project teams to secure the jobsites and a day for them to secure their homes. As the storm approached, openings were boarded up and material was banded together and secured to slabs and columns inside of the buildings. Loose material on the sites was placed in Conex boxes or inside of the buildings and secured. Fuel containers were filled and secured to provide fuel for our equipment and employees, and available generators from the jobsites were taken to employees’ homes. Equipment and Conex boxes were placed in front of the buildings to secure the openings and prevent wind and debris from blowing into the buildings. Dumpsters were removed several days in advance to prevent debris from becoming airborne and damaging surrounding areas, and temporary fencing was pulled down and banded together.
Additionally, B&G Equipment and Supply was deployed to jobsites where cranes were mobilized to assess the situations and take prompt action if needed to protect both people and property.
Figure 1: A jobsite photo of the preparation before the storms
After the storms passed, the damage was assessed. Fortunately, our protection efforts were successful and our jobsites only experienced minor water and wind damage. Work resumed within one to two days, but full production did not resume for one to two weeks after the storms passed. Some employees had difficulty getting to work initially due to fuel shortages, trees blocking roadways, and curfew.
The Lean department facilitated a retrospective following the hurricane season that included all key parties, including the Safety team, Risk Management, Payroll, Accounting, and Legal, among others. We used the Lean retrospective process: keep doing, stop doing, and puzzles/wishes. The structured but open format encouraged dialog and transparency.
Figure 2: Lean retrospective process: keep doing, stop doing, and puzzles/wishes
Through the retrospective process, the team identified a number of improvements that are now being implemented for the current hurricane season, including:
- A plan for emergency communication and messaging for employees
- A one-page checklist for project teams preparing for storm events
- A one-page checklist for project teams preparing to resume work/return to jobsites following storm events
- An emergency procedure plan for cranes
- Improved plans for helping employees access funds in emergency situations
One of the most difficult things we experienced leading up to and after the storms was finding unleaded fuel supply. We are currently working with multiple departments to develop hurricane prep / relief Conex boxes that will include fuel and can be dispatched and delivered to jobsites before or after storms. These Conex boxes would also include PPE, chainsaws, plywood, 2x’s fasteners, gas cans, generators, tarps, batteries, and lights.
Overall, the plan, do, check, adjust process was an effective approach to hurricane planning and preparation. This success story is a testament to how Lean methods can be applied by any team to a wide variety of situations.