Field Crew Huddle - Resources for trade contractors on their Lean journey
By Henry Nutt III, Matt Kitzmiller and Robert Leicht
The use of Lean methods and the creation of Lean culture offer value to the trade contractor community. Despite the noted benefits from profitability and productivity gains to an improved work environment, trade participation in the Lean Construction community remains less than 15%. The Field Crew Huddle Website and YouTube channel have been created as a resource targeting this community. The Field Crew Huddle is a culmination of several years of work and collaboration between the Lean Construction Institute’s (LCI) Trades Task Force and the LCI’s Research Committee to develop rigorously researched and developed resources with easy-to-access and video-based information that can quickly reach the hands of craft workers and field leadership.
Contractors interviewed in the initial stage of the research highlighted the following benefits:
- Employee engagement – employees, including craft workers, have higher job satisfaction, and there is overall improved morale,
- Safety – focus on process and planning has parallel benefits to improving safety outcomes and a reduction in injuries,
- Transparent goals and targets – Respect for people and transparency encourage the sharing of project or production goals with field leadership and craft workers,
- Improved planning – the discipline introduced leads to clearer and more reliable plans, ultimately leading to better schedule and budget outcomes,
- Improved communication – The process focus, clearer planning, and introduction of visual management enhance information sharing.
Methods – The core structure of the website and organization of the videos is to gather and organize simple, easy-to-follow information and examples for Lean methods, summarized in Figure 1. The methods are gathered from case studies of successful trade contractors and serve as commonly observed, simple and high-value methods for enabling field crews.
YouTube videos – The Field Crew Huddle YouTube Channel is intended to provide rich examples from the field. They feature small wins, creative ideas for improving field tasks, making work safer, and other small wins that resonate with craft workers. The videos range in topics but are trade contractors sharing how they are making improvements with tangible benefits and examples.
Case studies – One of the methods that was used for gathering the research was case studies of successful trade contractors. These contractors have been engaged in Lean activity and pursuit of continuous improvement of their operations for several years. They include several different trades, including electrical, mechanical, concrete, framing and drywall trades. The case studies provide context for understanding how successful adopters have approached adoption, undertaking the culture changes, and training initiatives needed to support the implementation of Lean.
- Fundamentals – focus on doing the fundamentals of work tasks well: organize your tools and materials, have a clear plan for work that the crew knows and understands.
- Small wins – focus on reducing wasted time on small tasks – handling trash, walking to get materials, and having all the information and materials in one place.
- Discipline – training and emphasis on a Lean mindset and pursuing perfection of the current tasks.
- Empower the craft – more improvement can be achieved by empowering the workers to find problems that bug them and make improvements, rather than waiting for the foreman or other field leadership to notice or realize the problem.
- Risk (costs) are in the field – trade contractors make money based on work being installed – so everyone in the company should be thinking about how their role and their tasks relate to the field, and how they can make small changes to focus on the field workforce as the internal customer.
- Focus on incentives, and positive reinforcement – an acknowledgment of problems and recognition for small changes or improvements go a long way.
- Keep it simple – break things down to the relevant level – let workers fix the problems that bug them and focus on how they add value for their customers and if they are making their foreman’s day easier.
Your role – This resource is intended to build upon the field crew huddle culture common in field construction, to create a larger community. You can submit your videos , start a conversation in the comments to better understand how a tool or method is used, and share the videos with your colleagues, but to keep the community.
We would like to thank the Industry Advisory Group, including Henry Nutt, Greg Stedman, Stephanie Roldan, Cary Norberg, Tom Soles, Sean Graystone, Katie Page, Brian Winningham, Sean Mcguire, Skip Perley, Steve Killius, Scott Teson, Quintin Henry, and Scott Schuenke.
We extend our gratitude to the many industry experts who participated in the data collection procedures and openly shared their insights and experience with us, including Rosendin Electric, KHS&S, Baker Concrete, Lighthouse Electric Company, Thompson Electric Company, Parsons Electric, Waldinger Corporation, and Southland Industries.
The Lean Construction Institute, ELECTRI International, the New Horizons Foundation, and the John R. Gentile Foundation provided the financial support to develop this resource.