From Ennis Electric CEO Kevin Cole:

Ennis Electric is proud to be on the forefront of innovation in the construction industry. Our team is always looking for ways to be more efficient, utilize the latest technology and implement sustainable practices. And that’s why we’re going lean!

What is Lean Construction?

Lean construction aims to identify waste, increase efficiency and improve process performance. Lean companies develop and implement a concept known as Value Stream Mapping. Value Stream Mapping is a tool that details every step of a project and the corresponding processes – from choosing what projects to bid to collecting final payment and everything in between.

The concept was pioneered by Edward Demming. After World War II, he tried to get American manufacturers to adopt his processes, but he was rebuffed. He went to Japan in 1950 and was welcomed by a sewing machine company named Toyota. The new system brought them great success. Accordingly, this American system became known as the Toyota Production System.

Demming boiled his principles down to 14 directives:

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service with the aim to become competitive, to stay in business and to keep providing jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities and take on leadership for change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price alone. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service. Improve quality and productivity, and thus, constantly decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job. This should be a part of everybody’s every day activities.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company because they want it to succeed.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas or departments. People in research, design, sales and production must work as a team to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
    1. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
    2. Eliminate the obsolete concept of “management by objective.” Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship – eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
    1. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of their right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
    2. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, abolishment of the annual merit rating and of management by objectives.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone. Let them participate to choose the areas of development.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

Why We’re Going Lean

Contrary to nearly every other industry in the United States, construction productivity is declining every year and is estimated to be only 40 to 60 percent of potential labor efficiency, and at least 10 percent of materials are wasted. Implementing lean processes will have a major impact on productivity and reduced waste which will benefit the entire company. The solutions that flow from our Value Stream Map will not only cut costs and increase efficiency across the board, but it will improve safety, increase quality and save our entire team time and effort. Being lean will also allow us to participate in Integrated Project Delivery construction projects that require companies to follow lean practices. Lean is the future of the construction industry, and we are excited to be taking the leap to improving our processes.

How We’re Going Lean

Going lean requires input from all Ennis Electric team members. We’ve created a Core Lean Team with participants from different sectors of the company so multiple perspectives are considered in identifying problems and crafting solutions. The core team will meet four full days a month to discuss lean initiatives and work to continually improve our processes. Once implemented, every step in our projects will follow a process and procedure – down to where each tool is located.

We anticipate having our Value Stream Map completed by the end of January 2018. I am excited and optimistic about the impact this will have on our company so we can continue being an innovator in the construction industry. Look out for updates on our progress and post-implementation outcomes in the near future!