25 Years of Lean: Thoughts from LCI Executive Director, Dan Heinemeier

25 Years of Lean: Thoughts from LCI Executive Director, Dan Heinemeier

LCI’s Executive Director, Dan Heinemeier is excited about bringing the 25th Annual LCI Congress to the Motor City this October. The connection between the automobile manufacturing industry and Lean is something that makes Detroit an ideal location for this year’s event. As many in the Lean design and construction community are aware, the Lean concept originated in Japan as part of the Toyota Way. Detroit retains its coveted nickname, The Motor City since it is the headquarters of many American car manufacturers.

While Detroit has gone through a period of depression, the city is experiencing a renaissance. Detroit has undergone many renovations and is actively bringing in new businesses. The city is making a comeback as a tourist destination and LCI is excited to bring our attendees to Detroit. There is so much new construction and updates in the downtown area that makes it an interesting spot for designers and builders. Dan encourages attendees to consider adding a Gemba tour to your ticket to see some of the amazing tours which will be on the schedule this year. Information on Gemba tours is to be determined but there are so many great options on the horizon.

Dan says 25 years is kind of amazing. It’s interesting to think how the event has grown in 25 years. Since Congress started the events audience has become more diverse, by both adding additional market segments and diversity of attendees to include more people of color and women. The increase in the number of women at Congress in even just the past 10 years is incredible. He says that because there are more women and people of color, the event is a better reflection of the industry as a whole.

Over the past 25 years, LCI as an organization has become more well known within the Design and Construction industry. When LCI started in 1997, Lean was thought of more like a club of people. Over the past two decades plus it has expanded beyond just a select few people who buy in to entire organizations that are investing in Lean. We are seeing increases in the numbers of people working as Lean champions and coaches, with some organizations creating entire departments that focus on Lean and continuous improvement to move the discipline forward within individual organizations. We are proud to continue to support the transformation of the industry, especially through the annual Congress event.

Something that has struck Dan over the years is that every Congress has different features to it. The Congress has evolved and improved over the years, a testament to Lean thinking in itself. In the early years, it was solely a plenary-style conference where presenters addressed the entire audience, and this was the format throughout program. In the past ten years LCI has invested in additional staff to help plan and improve the event, in the spirit of continuous improvement. This includes a staff annual retrospective where we internally review the plus delta feedback from participants. Our volunteer teams have grown as well, from the 15+ person Congress planning team, to 20+ person abstract review team to 40+ Congress champions who help the breakout presentation teams prepare for Congress.

Another big change in recent years is learning course offerings, which gives people the opportunity to earn continuing education credits and really immerse themselves in a particular topic in Lean. In recent years we have put together an incredible exhibit hall that has lots of cool technology which can help enhance Lean processes. A worthwhile thing to check out during Congress week.

General session presentations mirror what the original Congress event was like, in that all attendees are gathered in a big hall with one speaker. Each year the Congress planning committee selects 2 keynote speakers. These keynotes speak on a variety of topics related to Lean design and construction. Because Congress has grown so much in recent years, general sessions are no longer adequate to provide all attendees with a tailored experience based on their unique needs and interests. This is why there are now breakout presentations running concurrently where attendees have the option to make selections based on their interests. Breakout presentations are selected through a rigorous abstract review process that takes place in the early part of the year. This rigorous process ensures that Congress has the best information and stories available to bring to event attendees, with the content led by industry professionals.

We added live labs in 2019 which are geared toward trade contractors. These are typically more interactive sessions that have a visual component or tool to show during the presentation. More recently, we have sought to include presentations that are catered to the manufacturing ecosystem. Manufacturing and prefabrication are very much part of capital construction projects because they can save time and test modules and materials before sending them to the site.

Back in 1997 nobody could have envisioned what Congress could become, but we are proud to keep improving the event to meet the evolving needs of the industry.