Lean Lessons in Automotive (and How They Apply to Your Next Project)

Lean Lessons in Automotive (and How They Apply to Your Next Project)

By Eric Fish; Barton Malow Holdings, Jaclyn Saffa; Ghafari Associates & Nicole Ghafari; Ghafari Associates

How do you build a three-story, 800,000-SF automotive paint shop – part of the City of Detroit’s first new general assembly automotive plant in 30 years – in just 16 months?

You get lean.

That’s what the team of Giffin, Ghafari, and Barton Malow – and its subcontractor partners along the way – came together to do when building the Stellantis (then Fiat Chrysler Automotive) Mack Avenue Paint Shop in Detroit starting in 2019.

In order to meet Stellantis’ aggressive timeline to accelerate its time to market, the team embraced a collaborative Design-Build delivery method. The delivery method, which is about 23 percent faster than conventional CM at Risk and some 33 percent faster than Design-Bid-Build, aligns stakeholders early, facilitates the simultaneous engineering of process facilities and equipment installation, uses holistic programing to streamline procurement and production, and leverages 3D modeling and other technologies.

Ideally, the end result is more than a quality finished project – but one that is also on time, on budget, and built safely.

The Giffin / Ghafari / Barton Malow team successfully completed the Stellantis Mack Avenue Paint Shop and deployed the same delivery method in building a subsequent paint shop in Warren, Michigan. But this Lean example is just one of the many that are happening in construction today.

As owners look for cost certainty and accelerated delivery times, Lean project delivery is going to play a significant role in the future of the construction industry. While many associate Lean strategies as those that work to eliminate waste, it’s important to think of such strategies as anything that will add value to the project. Whether it be continuous improvement, doing more with less, problem solving, or enhanced collaboration, if it improves the outcome of construction projects and adds value, it’s Lean. Yes, eliminating waste is part of a lean strategy too – but in construction, think of waste as anything that doesn’t add value to the project.

While the future of construction is Lean, the reality of the industry is that it tends to be slow moving and hesitant to adapt to new and different – and in this case – better ways of building. But with owners in all markets looking for ways to accelerate timelines and stay on budget, Lean building strategies are only going to become more of the norm. For organizations that have not yet integrated Lean principles into how they build, know that it’s not too late to start.

The Stellantis Paint Shop project in Mack Avenue in Detroit broke ground in spring 2019 and was completed in September 2020. Representatives from Giffin, Ghafari, and Barton Malow detailed the project’s Lean journey at the 2020 LCI Congress in a virtual presentation that was voted by attendees as one of the three best of the conference.

To learn more about how the team delivered this and the Warren, Michigan, Stellantis Paint Shop using a collaborative Design-Build delivery method, visit www.leanconstruction.org. To see more case study examples of Lean construction in action, be sure to attend the 2021 LCI Congress from October 19-22 in Phoenix.