Leading the Way with Lean

| August 22, 2017

Why a Lean team builds it safer, better, faster

by Kathryn Hurley

A recent Dodge report surveyed 81 owners to compare their best project versus a typical project. The results from the owner’s perspective are notable and not surprising. Projects utilizing Lean techniques are three times more likely to be completed ahead of schedule and two times more likely to be completed under budget.


So how do you lead the way with Lean? It begins with a behavioral shift. Industry research and Gilbane’s successful projects have brought into focus that it is all about effective collaboration for results. This Lean behavior has had a significant impact on safety, communication, and efficiency for the team at the Fairfield University Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing project.


“How can I influence the construction progress? What can I do as an owner to create a Lean culture and behavior for this project?” notes David Frassinelli, associate vice president for facilities management at Fairfield University. “My goal is to make Fairfield University the most attractive place to work for our design and construction partners.”

How did he incorporate this culture? It started with the right people at the right time. The owner invested time to create opportunities for conversations while engaging the CM and A/E early, helping to reduce the learning curve, and created a transparent and seamless integration from preconstruction through construction. People, processes, and tools are all essential and interdependent elements comprising a Lean operating system, which powers continuous improvement and advancement.


Gilbane’s advanced planning and scheduling (AP&S) methodology incorporates milestone schedules, pull planning, weekly work planning and metrics, but offered much more. Utilizing AP&S at Fairfield offered an open, visual, and disciplined approach to planning. It elicited potential problems earlier, prevented constraints when needed, and provided a streamlined approach for resolution when they occurred.

Jose Hernandez, principal at Newman Architects, attended a pull plan Gilbane conducted with trade contractors on the Fairfield School of Nursing. “Attending a pull plan session was an eye opening experience. It allowed me to staff effectively for a number of critical issues that were required to support the construction. The pull plan helped in planning and evaluating the staffing needs to have the right people out there at the right time.”

Weekly work planning was displayed in the project site trailer on the main wall for all to view at any time. This was a visual reminder that brought the schedule to life for Gilbane and Trade Contractors and offered an open-book scheduling concept with the owner and A/E.

We believe that our Lean journey produces better results and better experiences for our clients when we apply Lean across all the dimensions of our delivery model — with personal learning, high performance project teams, and innovative discovery. Always evolving, Lean is empowering excellence.


Kathryn Hurley



Kathryn Hurley is a project manager at Gilbane Building Company and an active member of The Construction Institute.

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