How Construction Unions Can Leverage the Lean Advantage Too

How Construction Unions Can Leverage the Lean Advantage Too

How Construction Unions Can Leverage the Lean Advantage Too

By Cindy Menches, Ph.D., P.E., STSC IMPACT Director of Professional Development & Training  

The construction industry’s union membership decreased by 4% to 13.2% from 2002 to 2015, according to Construction Dive. Higher costs associated with Union workers are justified by providing better benefit packages, a safer work environment and a more educated and efficient workforce.

But what if Integrated Lean Project Delivery, which drives down costs by eliminating waste and increasing flow efficiency, could help boost Union membership or market share?

Leveraging the Lean Advantage: Union Partnership is a 2017 LCI Congress presentation on Thursday, Oct. 19 about Shawmut Design and Construction’s partnership with the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. This partnership set out to assist in training union members in Lean principles, specifically Last Planner System®. Shawmut hopes this one-time, in-depth training will reduce the need to conduct multiple trainings and will ultimately create a regional workforce that is prepared to implement Lean tools and techniques on any project site.

Here’s a look at the other ways Lean design and construction benefits help serve Unions:

Reducing waste and rework = reducing costs  


Breaking down silos allows for transparent lines of communication across all project team members = a safer work culture

Food for thought:

How can Lean improve daily work for Union members?

Anecdotally, many foremen and superintendents report a significant reduction in personal and professional stress associated with better collaboration among the trades on the jobsite. Site supervisors report (1) receiving fewer after-hours emergency calls, (2) holding more efficient jobsite meetings where all trades provide input into the schedule and (3) resolving issues much faster by walking the site twice a day to check progress.

How can local union leaders and training coordinators prepare their members to excel on Lean projects?

Local union leaders and training coordinators can collaborate with Lean Consultants and Coaches to conduct jobsite training followed by regular coaching during the early stages of Lean implementation. Furthermore, local union leaders and training coordinators can collaborate with general contractors and specialty trade partners to conduct jobsite Lean trainings followed by application and practice of the techniques taught during the trainings. Many general contractors and trade partners who practice Lean techniques are happy to work with union members to learn and apply Lean principles and practices on the jobsite.

How can Contractors and Unions partner in Lean training and implementation?

Contractors that are already engaging in Lean principles and practices can work directly with the local union training coordinator to develop a training program for union members who are likely to work on “Lean jobs.” Furthermore, contractors can assist the local union training coordinator in selecting a Lean Consultant who can develop a training program for union members. While Lean training is not a requirement for completing an apprenticeship program or maintaining journeyman status, union members can sharpen their skills by learning new skills obtained by participating in Lean Training. Contractors and local union officials can attest to the benefits of implementing Lean practices, including better communication and collaboration, reduced stress, fewer “emergencies” and a more relaxed control over work progress.

2017 LCI Congress, Oct. 16–20 in Anaheim, Calif., is a great place to get started on your Lean journey, or build on what you already know. Whether you are a union member, a leader or someone interested in working with others to spread Lean knowledge, LCI Congress is the place for you.

Register by September 8 to save!

Keep checking our blog for more information about the highly anticipated 2017 LCI Congress in the weeks leading up to the event!

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