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. Hi Fergus, introduce yourself and tell us about your construction experience.
I left college in 2009 after completing a BSc Hons in Architectural Technology from WIT (now known as SETU). From there I worked in the Netherlands on a large wind offshore windfarm project & Qatar on the new Hamad International Airport in Doha before coming back to Ireland to join Ardmac. Working with Ardmac has allowed me to operate in several roles across multiple sectors in Ireland, the UK and Europe including pharmaceutical, microelectronics, Data Centers and more recently Electric Vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing facilities. I’m currently Associate Director of Project Management and am really enjoying the role. I have been fortunate to work on some fantastic projects for some of the world’s largest companies. I have also completed an MSc in Construction Project Management from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and attended Post Graduate courses in MIT Boston & Trinity College in recent years.
2. What is Ardmac’s role on projects and how do they view Lean in the project delivery process?
Ardmac works either as a general contractor or specialist contractor depending on the sector. We have seen the benefits of Lean Construction over the last number of years and would have a very positive view on the use of Lean to reduce waste and increase productivity.
3. Where did you first encounter Lean Construction and what were your initial thoughts?
We were first introduced to Lean in 2015 when one of our pharma customers asked us to use Last Planner (LPS) on a project in Cork. We were open to learning and we found the entire project team embraced LPS. We quickly noticed the benefits to the point where we decided to adopt Lean Construction across the organisation.
4. What is your current role and how do you incorporate Lean Construction in your projects?
As Associate Director for Project Management I am accountable for the safe delivery of all Ardmac’s scope of work on the projects I work on. I’m currently working on several projects across the UK and Europe between the EV Battery Facility Manufacturing and Data Center Sectors. The use of Lean Construction on our projects starts with support from senior management who have invested in training and in the creation of a Lean Governance team that support projects to set up Lean principles on their sites. This allows us to be consistent across projects.
5. What Lean methods or tools are you currently applying and how are you doing it?
I find Last Planner to be a key tool that I use on all projects I’m involved with. I like that it is easy to explain, it’s a collaborative system and encourages everyone to participate. When its implemented well, everyone can see the benefits which really adds momentum to a project. We also use BIM as a Lean tool to extract quantities, reduce clashes and plan our works which allows us to be more efficient. We also leverage technology to support Lean Construction principles.
6. What methods do you think offer most potential and value for you?
I can certainly see an increased appetite for off-site assembly to reduce labour hours on site - completing the works in a workshop environment improves quality and safety while reducing waste. The potential for improved value for both customers and contractors is significant. I think offsite assembly and other Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) have a big future in the industry.
7. Do you find teams receptive to the introduction of Lean or what challenges would you witness?
In general, I find that people need time to adopt new ways of working but are open to learning. Patience is needed to work with people as they adjust. When the pressure comes on, it can be easy to revert to what you know. It takes support from the top to implement Lean on a project or within a company.
8. How would you generally deal with such challenges or obstacles?
Training and coaching are how we have overcome most challenges with Lean implementation. We have multiple Black and Yellow belts trained and they support everyone else as required. We are still working on our Lean journey, but we have come along way since 2015.
9. Ardmac work across many countries, do you see a difference in the acceptance or adoption of Lean methodologies in different areas?
In Ireland we are lucky to have a high number of multi-national organisations that have driven the implementation of Lean Construction. Construction companies have taken this learning and spread Lean methodologies across the industry. Other European countries didn’t have this exposure and it is reflective; I see a variety of levels of Lean adoption across different jurisdictions. However, from experience, I find people are willing to adopt Lean if it’s implemented in the correct way.
10. Is there specific advice you can offer those who are beginning a LC implementation?
Following our own initial research, we joined Lean Construction Ireland. They supported us by providing external training. I would strongly recommend that any company considering Lean should start here and build from that.