Project Engineer Tim Warnes recently earned his Certificate of Management in Lean Construction from the Associated General Contractors, giving Sundt an impressive 26 employee-owners who hold the certification. As of Sept. 27, only 240 construction industry professionals in the country had the designation.
Tim has been with Sundt for more than three years, working as a Field and Project Engineer and earning a reputation as a Lean champion and passionate teacher. Along with being involved in Lean Project Delivery and implementation of Last Planner System, he is part of Sundt’s Continuous Improvement efforts, helping the company become more efficient and productive.
What is Lean Construction all about?
Lean Construction is the catchphrase that gets attention. In reality, what we’re doing is Lean in Construction or Lean for Construction. While many of the ideas central to Lean thinking have been applied to construction, the fundamentals have been most comprehensively and successfully applied in the manufacturing, service and software engineering industries. Similar to construction, these industries have traditionally had a very clear customer-performer interface based on transactions where the customer pays the performer for a particular product or service and the performer provides the customer a particular product or service. Unfortunately in our industry, the products and services paid for by the customer often aren’t equal to those provided by the performer in the eyes of one or both of the parties. Lean is essentially about improving our ability to successfully request and provide products and services that our internal and external customers want.
The customer-performer relationship is established by a conversation. The initiative to do so may be taken by either party. Especially in the construction industry, this means that our list of customers is quite large (and ever-growing) and cuts against typical contractual lines, requiring builders and designers to behave as customers, designers and owners to behave as performers, and all parties to respect the significance of other project participants and their requests/offers.
How important is it to Sundt’s clients?
There are many things that interest our clients in Lean Construction. For instance, all of our clients would like to have the most up to date and reliable information regarding the schedule of our projects. The use of Last Planner System and other lean management strategies helps us confidently provide that information in the complex and often fluid environment of a construction project. Many of our clients are also interested in developing long-term relationships with their contractors for the development of future projects; leadership in Lean management by their general contractor goes a long way toward helping them narrow down future short lists. Lastly, since Lean is about delivering value to the customer, many of our clients require some form of Lean management to ensure that end users are getting the desired value out of the project.
What’s an example of a Lean process helping a client save time or money?
A recent project schedule was threatened by the late delivery of structural design information for four exterior walls. The situation worsened when the subcontractor responsible for procuring and installing the additional steel wasn’t able to meet its committed fabrication schedule. While there was shared responsibility for the issue and some may have predicted an ensuing dispute about entitlement for a potential delay claim, our team recognized the issue early and together developed a plan to complete adjacent construction and finish the wall assemblies in an expedited fashion when the material arrived. By soliciting reliable commitments for small chunks of work from our trade partners during our weekly work planning process, we were able to meet the dates on our short interval schedule. Doing so reduced the size of the issue, eliminated typical trade stacking complaints, got rid of the need for a delay claim once estimated at approximately 25 working days and ultimately won us great relationships with our trade partners and our client. Everyone on the project recognized this as a win-win scenario when it initially seemed to be headed in the other direction.
What does a Sundt employee-owner need to do to earn Certificate of Management in Lean Construction?
An employee-owner needs to register for and complete all seven units of the Associated General Contractors’ Lean Construction Education program. I did so at a boot camp at the San Diego AGC chapter. Sundt also offers these trainings in house. Following completion of these courses, a candidate must pass a 150-question multiple choice exam before using the CM-LC designation.
What does that designation mean for you and the company?
For me it means that I value continuous learning and that I’m passionate about the implementation of Lean on our projects and throughout our business. As the number of employee-owners in our company who have attained the certification continues to creep up, our pitch to owners that we understand and are passionate about delivering customer value and continuously improving the experience of building gains even more depth.