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Picking Up What They’re Putting Down

Spend ten minutes on one of our project sites in north suburban Chicago and you’ll quickly understand how and why Bulley & Andrews excels in the field.

It’s unanimous: communication and pre-planning are key to success.

Here, proactive work styles mesh perfectly with an anticipatory mindset and best practices to create an environment that has B&A’s team operating at peak performance. What’s the common denominator? A team that is constantly implementing and elevating Lean methodologies and strategies.

First Things First
The location and scale of the project demanded a logistics plan with precise, yet flexible, laydown areas and highly coordinated transportation routes. To provide perspective, at the height of excavation, the site was accessed by a record 145 trucks in a single day.

Mike Pentland, superintendent, developed a preliminary site logistics plan tailored to minimizing material handling and transportation waste. The plan was informed by a thorough understanding of local road laws and IDOT regulations. It also reflects rules regarding site access.

As additional elements of the scope were identified and integrated, Laythen Fiege, labor foreman, and Pentland adjusted the plan to accommodate the trades needing access to particular areas of the site. It allows materials to be staged nearest to where they are used. The plan was further refined to include an offsite staging area to direct the flow of traffic to the site, a system for labeling and tarping vehicles to ensure no debris was left on the roadways and a warehouse to store prepurchased, long-lead items.

The team also embraces evolution rather than a fixed plan. They are poised to pivot to suit the demands of the work and prevailing conditions. As soon as one scope is completed, the team looks to the next step, keeping the process fluid and adapting to changes to support the project’s progress.

Colin Quinn explains how pre-planning is the key to making sure we account for all tasks.

An Exercise in Balance
The field team’s collective approach is a delicate balance between preplanning and recalibrating to maximize resources. Take for instance, the tower crane. As foreman Collin Quinn noted, “The tower crane is an unbelievable advantage. It’s one of the best assets on this project.” He credits its use as instrumental to the team’s steady progress and efficiency. The team always seeks ways to capitalize on its use. If it’s available for any length of time, they’ll figure out how to leverage it to benefit workflow. Eliminating this kind of waste and taking advantage of allotted resources is Lean at its finest.

On the Daily
Each day starts with a 20-minute huddle with the field team and the trades to determine what needs to get done and assign tasks. However, it’s important to note that every daily huddle is informed by a debrief the B&A field team does the day before. This is when team members carve out time to forecast what’s “hot” for the coming day to ensure nothing is overlooked during the huddle.

Pull planning is indispensable on this assignment and the team’s dedication to leveraging its full potential is evident. Sessions usually take place on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and last about an hour. Six to eight trades participate sharing their insight, feedback and expertise. B&A’s field team credits the trades for embracing the practice and their contributions to generating ideas on how to best tackle tasks and challenges.

A white board (the good old-fashioned kind) and a smart board (the enormous kind) are at the center of the project’s orbit. They are used throughout the day to track tasks and log constraints. The boards are essential to helping the team document, visualize and communicate what needs to be known and/or happen at any given time.

Key Take Aways:

  • Never underestimate the power of good communication. Meeting, sometimes three or four times a day, and being in close proximity eliminates knowledge gaps, keeps the project progressing and allows the team to do their best work.
  • Looking ahead and pre-planning make all the difference. Using a white board and a smart board are indispensable to supporting this practice—track it and you can tackle it.
  • Creating an environment where the project management staff and the field team are together onsite is a winning strategy. It promotes interconnectivity, supports decision-making and provides unequaled access to the knowledge and expertise needed to accomplish an assignment of this magnitude. The team agrees, “There’s no other way to do it on a project like this.”