The Lean Construction in Europe is a series that features Lean practitioners working in Europe. In this series, William Power interviews lean leaders and shares lessons learned. This series highlights how people are currently applying Lean in their projects and how they are progressing on their lean journey. The goal of this series is to connect people with the lean practices that they are currently using. We want to share stories about what they are learning and how they are improving their practice.

1. Tell us about your current role and how you incorporate Lean Construction?

I currently work as a construction manager for an interior fit out company here in Zurich Switzerland. I recently joined the company and have already seen some great opportunities where Lean Construction can add value. I will be doing all I can to show the proof and the benefits of Lean in construction and specifically Takt planning in the hope Lean will become a standard practice across all our projects.

2. How were you introduced to Lean Construction and what was appealing about it?

I am sure a lot of people say this, but I have always worked and thought in a Lean way but never knew what to call it. I was introduced to it through a previous employer, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity. I started to research more myself and saw that it made sense to me. I liked the concepts and the structure where materials would not be taking over our working areas, where trade partners could be involved in meetings - sharing their knowledge around sequencing, durations, and highlighting potential issues. Those doing the work had a voice through the Pull Planning sessions and could raise and share their concerns and issues.

3. What methods offer most potential and value for you?

This is an easy question - Takt. I have been studying and learning all I can about Takt planning and completed the 3-day course offered by Lean Takt. The potential value which Takt planning can add to the current projects I work on is mind-blowing. On one project using Takt we completed the project 6 weeks earlier, giving the trade partners 3 extra days across the board to complete their work and had 17 buffer days incorporated which would absorb any risks that could be missed during construction.

This time saving was just on one project, we have up to 6 projects running concurrently, so that is a huge amount of time saved for not only the client, but the trade partners too. Oh, I forgot to mention, the trade partners completed their work in a shorter time, meaning they could move onto the next project earlier, even when they had more available time to do their work.

See below visual of a Takt plan we are using on a current project.

4. How do you approach the introduction of Lean into new teams and how do they react?

This is a hard one, because everyone has heard about Lean, they know someone who has tried Lean in construction, but it didn’t work, so they gave up and went back to the traditional nightmare.

As I am currently going through this phase now and trying to get Takt implemented as the standard scheduling tool, I have in the past showed facts and evidence where possible. By showing the gained time each trade partner has over a shorter period and where the project is complete weeks earlier, it is hard to argue the numbers. In other cases, I have again let the facts speak; having materials stored onsite weeks in advance of being installed creates a logistical headache for site workers - JIT deliveries help with this of course. Continuous cleaning of working areas with 5S implementation also speaks louder than words and minimizes safety hazards. The collaborative approach with morning or afternoon huddles makes site coordination much easier when the trade partners can see and hear what others are doing.

5. What are the main obstacles you faced when applying Lean Construction and how did you overcome them?

I believe the main obstacles are humans, we do not like change, something new or different is generally looked at as something bad. Buy-in from our own team is tough at times depending on the team’s culture and mindset. Buy-in from the trade partners is also rather tough, but I have previously done it over a longer period. I focused on 1 or 2 changes for some weeks, then incorporated the 3rd and 4th change over the following weeks or months. Once people see and notice a change for the good on a construction site, they will then become an ambassador which spreads the ideas further. At the end of the day communication and relationships is what I believe to truly help with implementing something new.

6. What Lean methods are you currently applying and how are you doing it?

I am a big fan of collaboration and clarity, and I place importance on meetings like Pull Planning, morning huddles, and afternoon site manager meetings to discuss the upcoming days works, coordination, and of course the next 3-6 weeks work.

JIT deliveries is a big one for me on my current site as we have no storage room at all. This has been assisted through communication to the local council and we are now allowed to utilize a small part of the footpath for unloading materials and each delivery must be registered into our delivery form to be accepted. We have a weekly logistics meeting to plan and coordinate the following weeks deliveries and have all trade partners agree and understand what is coming to site. Finish as you go is also a big quality factor for me; through Takt planning this is made much simpler as we only want to visit one area one time and finish as you go, otherwise the flow of work will be disrupted and cause unnecessary roadblocks for the other partners when work must be revisited.

7. What advice can you offer those who are new to Lean and are just starting with LC?

To be honest, I would class myself a part of this category as I am constantly learning about Lean. The thing for me is to stick with it, if you can see the results Lean construction brings to the industry, continue with it. If others around you cannot see benefits, or have bad experiences with Lean, don’t let them bring you down to their rigid thinking. If you are working in such an environment and you are not being supported to implement Lean, move on. Change is always hard, especially when you are doing it on your own. There is amazing content out there available, and I find it helps to listen to other’s experience when you are unsure. Listen to podcasts and read blogs on your way to and from work because it is worth it.

8. What specific challenges to Takt did you experience?

For Takt, at the start it was difficult to find information. I found information on Lean Construction Blog which then led me to a YouTube channel, podcast, author, and all-round construction rockstar team called Elevate Construction and Lean Takt. It was through these guys and girls I would watch their videos while nursing my baby at night when he couldn’t sleep. I would watch the videos during the night, listen to the podcast going to and from work, and read the books on the weekends when the kids would sleep.

9. How did you overcome these challenges?

I followed Lean Takt on YouTube, and listened to Jason Schroeder, Spencer Easton, Lean Superintendent, Elevate Construction and recently Doanh Do. All these guys create and share quality content.

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William Power is an experienced Construction Management professional with over 30 years of experience in project delivery across all sectors including residential, commercial, pharma, life sciences, marine, infrastructure, underground and overhead utilities. William, a holder of Honours Degree in Construction Management and Honours Master of Business in Lean Practice, is currently undertaking doctoral research in Continuous Improvement in Construction Project Delivery in SETU, Ireland.

I'm originally from Australia but now live in Switzerland with my lovely wife and our three boys (5, 3 and 1). I have more than 18 years of experience working as a site manager, project manager, and construction manager throughout the world. When I was younger, I ran my own carpentry and joinery business in Australia. My goal in the construction industry is to create safe, stable, and efficient construction sites where people enjoy working and everyone can go home when they should, to their families and other passions in life.