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On Tuesday, I posted about our local partner Superior Mechanical and their use of Lean, a system that fuels efficiency. The Lean Enterprise Institute summarize well by saying, “The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

I was intrigued by what Lean was doing for Superior and how it might have applications to our work, so I asked our CFO Del Allen to take an exploration trip. He visited Basic Lean, home of Lean training and implementation consultants, located in Midway, Kentucky. He then crossed into Indiana to see the system in action at Jasper Engines.

He came back with notes on the 7 wastes of Lean, which I think are helpful to all:

Over-Production– More product is produced than can be purchased.
Inventory-Extras beyond raw materials, works in progress or finished goods.
Transportation-Product movement increases risk of damage/loss/delay.
Motion-Unnecessary worker movement.
Waiting-Time a stationary product is waiting to be worked on.
Defects-Mistakes mean reworking…and extra costs.
Over-Processing-More work is done than required.

I asked him for a few observations on how Lean might apply to the corporate and construction world, and he shared great takeaways.

 Lean is embraced by upper management. At Jasper Engines, everyone from CEO to cleaning crew is held accountable for productivity and waste. For Lean to work, it needs to be system-wide. No exceptions.

Lean is process-oriented. People adjust to processes rather than vice versa. Your company should have time tested systems in place, and your team should follow them exactly.

Lean theory would work well for construction project managers. We hope to use the ideology to eliminate waste with our subcontractors, saving everyone time. For example, we are perfecting our pre-project meeting procedures, establishing a precise order for subcontractor visits.

We’ve already seen benefits of Lean by eliminating duplicated efforts and unnecessary report filing in our accounting department.  How could Lean work for your business?

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email
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Last week, I took a course called Practical Construction Law presented by Smith, Hancock and Currie. Great course for contractors, designers and owners alike. I recommend.  They teach it several it times a year. Believe what made the course unique was the passion of delivery.  These guys really bring it to life, and to me, this is important as the law is fairly dry.

Years ago, I attended a similar course taught by the founder of Smith, Hancock and Currie, Overton Currie. Overton was passionate and interesting.  A terrific story-teller and a great orator (sprinkled with a dash of preaching), as well as a sound lawyer who always made the time to talk to everyone, no matter their age or position.  Overton, a native of Hattiesburg, MS, first graduated Valedictorian from Mississippi State University.  He later received  his Bachelors of Divinity from Emory University, then on to Yale University to acquire a dual master’s degree (one in law and one in divinity), before finally settling into Atlanta to start the firm.   Overton was also dyslexic. Wow. Talk about rising to success. Overton was the glue for me.

Tom Kelleher, a senior attorney with the firm, continues the tradition of passion about the law and sharing sound knowledge in an interesting and insightful manner. Along with the support from Eric Nelson, John Mastin, and Joe Staack, fine lawyers and also making subject matter come to life. (Except for the topic of wind mitigation, which I’m not sure anyone is capable of doing.) 

Great practical information shared, but the best takeaway for me was something that Tom said in his closing remarks: “After all the paperwork that you prepare, sign and read, the best advice is to deal with trustworthy people.

Sure, there will be bumps along the way, but my suggestion?  Start with Best in Class and Trustworthy.