Around mid-2016 Tandem Inc. first heard about the concept of Lean Construction and the began to understand the importance of it. After researching, they started implementing a few practices with the construction team. What’s special about the lean approach is how it focuses on creating value by relentlessly cutting waste and rework. In addition to this, the core values are efficiency, collaboration, accountability and transparency. These perfectly aligned with Tandem’s own values and commitment to building.
An important step on Tandem’s “lean journey” was hiring industry leader Rich Seiler from Unified Works to train the team and help the tradespeople understand the importance and benefits of creating a lean culture. He helped Tandem allow key players to work on the schedule together, which created a greater sense of ownership since everyone contributed to its creation and wasn’t something that was forced on them. Opening up the conversation where the various trades see how their work impacts each other has encouraged them to continue dialogue amongst themselves. Breaking down typical industry “silos” was also very helpful.
Change isn’t easy in any industry, but it’s even harder in construction which has religiously held onto a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. However, with team members like Superintendent Pat Cox, Tandem successfully was able to change methods within the company for the better. “One of the Lean practices is Pull Planning which emphasizes identifying activity sequence with all the stakeholders and agreeing to the hand-offs needed between each sequence. It also promoted the direct collaboration between trades in lieu of the General Contractor making promises” said Pat. It’s collaboration like this that has allowed the Lean Method to be fully embraced and successful within the Tandem team.
The Lean method practices that Tandem implemented aren’t groundbreaking or unique to the industry. What is unique is how Tandem, a small/boutique 25 person team, is a business using them. Typically these are methods performed by much larger GCs. An important piece to the puzzle of smaller contractors having the capability to build 25 story high rises is lean construction techniques. With a top off of the largest endeavor Tandem has tackled in the rearview mirror, the team is excited for what the future holds and how they’ll accomplish it implementing even more lean techniques.