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Collaboration and LEAN principles can really pay off

Shannon Moneo
Collaboration and LEAN principles can really pay off

As construction projects become more costly and complex, two approaches can enhance the building process without adding cost or sacrificing time.

That was the message by Art Winslow, a project director with Graham Construction, when he spoke about Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and the five LEAN principles at the 2014 Canadian Design-Build Conference in Victoria B.C.

"We’re trying to eliminate the silo approach so dominant in our industry. You want to develop the collaborative approach," Winslow said

In the traditional design-build method, the owners get what they ask for, and not a lot more.

With an integrated design-build scheme, there’s more collaboration between the owner, designer and builder, but the danger of "design creep" or cost over-runs still exist.

IPD meanwhile, is touted as a collaborative contracting arrangement, where working relationships, lines of authority and economic incentives are used to boost the owner’s value, minimize waste and avoid financial disagreements while sticking to the budget and schedule.

There’s usually a waiver of liability, so owners, designers/architects and contractors can’t sue one another.

The parties have to agree with final decisions.

Owners also have to be heavily involved throughout the process.

"They all have skin in the game," Winslow said.

And intense, up-front planning using LEAN is necessary.

LEAN, developed in Japan’s Toyota factories during the 1930s-40s, follows five principles:

Identify and create a valuable product or service for the client;

Identify the necessary steps that enable efficient production to create a value stream;

Eliminate steps that could cause interruption, backflow, delay or destruction while creating efficiencies;

Produce only when the customer pulls so that no resources are wasted; and

Strive for perfection by continually removing layers of waste as it’s revealed.

While the five principles sound like common sense behaviour, people get set in their ways.

There are some challenges to making the IPD-LEAN system work

"We have to overcome how people think. We have to learn to trust each other," Winslow said.

Using the construction of the new $104 million Moose Jaw Hospital (one of Canada’s first IPD projects) as an example, Winslow said that during the 13-month design process, three options were developed.

If Option A didn’t work, Option B or C could quickly be implemented.

Site construction started in April 2013.

Structural steel for the 250,000 square feet hospital was completed by the end of October 2013, while slabs were being poured and exterior walls were being hung.

By mid-November 2013, the building was closed-in, Winslow said.

After the infrastructure was complete, the interior was designed so "peaks and valleys" are eliminated.

"We allow only one trade into one area at one time. It’s like a train going through," Winslow said.

The use of building information modelling (BIM) was important when it came to design.

"It gets tricky," he said

"You have to develop BIM protocols upfront."

But 18 months into the schedule, there were 30 team innovations, 25 risks were overcome and up to 10 per cent savings in labour were achieved among the trades.

The hospital should be finished by December 2014, with occupancy in 2015.

Winslow credited the concept of scaled incentives that helped to deliver more value within allowable costs.

One example was building the hospital rooms 10 per cent smaller.

It was crucial to have all parties – owner, architect/designer, contractor, engineers and key electrical and mechanical trades – under one roof.

The one roof concept happened both figuratively, during the contracting, and literally when the players met in the big room for three days, every two weeks.

The big room is where ground-up, not top-down, knowledge came into play from the people doing the work.

Each of the project’s major components was planned and driven by a cluster of specialists.

A leadership team, drawn from the signatories to the IPD contract, guided the process.

A sub-trade could quickly tell the construction manager how long something will take to build and what it would cost.

The designer, meanwhile, could bounce ideas off the construction manager or relevant sub-trades before committing them to drawings.

There are daily meetings where recent work is discussed.

The examination makes the team honest.

"When team members are not performing consistently, we can measure that. We can drill into who is accountable," Winslow said.

The IPD contract requires intense collaboration.

Not all contractors, designers or trades can operate under the rigid requirements.

For the Moose Jaw Hospital, the pre-proposal phase made it clear what was expected of suppliers, thus weeding-out those who weren’t suitable.

"You have to make the right team selection," Winslow advised.

While at early days in Canada, IPD has been used to build about 75 projects in the U.S., and not one exceeded budget.

However, IPD isn’t used much for infrastructure projects.

And while smaller projects aren’t ideally suited for IPD, a repeat project, such as building 10 banks, could use IPD, Winslow said.

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