During a recent Lean design implementation, Ernie, a solid project manager of nine-plus years, shared his pain with me.
“A few weeks ago, I got this call from Tim, our concrete guy, saying the plot plan for lot 10 did not match the foundation plan. He had his crew on site and nearly at a stall; he needed to get this figured out fast. So I put a call into the engineer to try and figure it out, but it was 7:30 in the morning and their office was not open yet. I called our office and that just created more confusion, so Tim and I decided to go with the plot plan. That just cost me 45 minutes! Irritated, I went back to the construction trailer to move on to my next fire. Two weeks later, I get a call from Kathy, our sales manager. It turns out that the engineer used elevation A, but the customer changed the house last minute to elevation B. Unbelievable! I have 18 houses under construction and I am stretched too thin to deal with this garbage.”
Unfortunately, Ernie’s story is not the exception; it’s the norm. The undisputed heavyweight of Lean building, Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, states, “After working with over 2,000 suppliers and trades and 200-plus builders, we have solidly determined that nearly 60 percent of all construction waste begins in the planning stage and is generated upstream by plans and specifications.” Should we just accept that as a part of doing business? Are we fated to continue to repeat our mistakes?