LEAN MANUFACTURING works on one simple rule: everything you need to do your job should be no more than 30 seconds or 3 feet away. This means workers are their most efficient when everything they need is at their proverbial fingertips. No wasted time, no wasted energy.
In today’s technology driven construction industry I think we need take lean practices one step further and add 30 megabytes into the rule. Not having accurate and timely information on a project is like showing up for work with a hammer and having no nails. Timely, accurate information is a key driver of job performance, and without it, people are often forced to waste untold hours, materials, and money trying to find out what they need to know to get the job done.
30 megabytes is .003 of a gigabyte. It’s not a lot of data, but isn’t the whole point of lean, less being more and all? 30 megabytes isn’t enough data to tell you everything there is to know about a construction project, but it is enough to uncover areas of improvement in the field and shop. Done right, it will highlight the projects that need urgent attention and those meeting or exceeding expectations. The data can tell you how your shop and/or field labor is tracking, by job, phase, and even labor code. It’s also enough data to tell you the type and volume of materials you’re using per project and how you can improve cost, delivery, and storage factors. It’s enough to tell you where materials are, what they cost, and what the company makes on them. 30 megabytes can save megabucks in time and practical costs on a project.
It’s the simple things
Yes, I know every contractor has a system for getting work done, be it paper, spreadsheets, or a big, complex enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The problem is for most contractors the information contained in their systems is not in a format they can use, or it is unavailable to key people when they need it. Like working on an assembly line and running out of bolts at work station, a lack of usable and timely data can cause the whole company money and time loses as labor and materials back up. Making sure data is easy to create, centralized, and available to answer simple questions in real-time will provide contractors the same efficiency improvements as keeping clean, organized, and well-stocked workstations provide manufacturers.
Thinking lean on technology
Technology is awesome, no doubt about it, but technology for technology’s sake can turn into over-thought, over-analyzed, overly confusing, and overly costly outcomes. Lean technology is all about collecting the right data at the right place, at the right time, and using it to provide real-time answers to the simple question everyone has: “How are my projects doing?”
Lean construction technology such as the BuildCentrix platform works in conjunction with existing ERP, accounting, and design software. It’s role is to provide actionable real-time data for the front line people who need it most, at the exact moment they need it. ERP, accounting, and design systems will continue to play a critical role for contractors, gathering and crunching all minute details, and after the dust settles they’ll tell you whether or not a project was successful. Lean technology will help to make sure that story has a happy ending.