Spotlight On

Spotlight On... Lean Practices

February 23, 2017   |   Author: Meghan O'Connor

Spotlight On... Lean Practices

Since 2012, Columbia has recognized the value of Lean construction practices, taking initiative to educate employees and utilize strategies on our projects. Lean methods of construction are actually based on the successful practices implemented by the Toyota Production System in the 1960’s. By learning from experience, Toyota was able to pinpoint the most efficient way to produce reliable vehicles – giving assembly line workers the power to stop the conveyor belt to fix defects before the car was fully assembled. Similarly, Columbia uses Lean practices to identify and solve potential issues before they are able to delay the construction process, leading to optimal success! We recently welcomed Colin Milberg of ASKM and Associates, a firm that provides Lean training in the construction and design industry, to lead a course teaching our employees about Lean as it relates to planning, scheduling and coordination. Twenty-eight of our team members attended four five hour sessions over the span of a week, gaining valuable knowledge that will be extremely beneficial when applied to their projects.

Columbia's Approach

Columbia takes a principles-based approach to Lean practices as opposed to a tools-based approach, meaning we go beyond simply utilizing the tools to focus on understanding the fundamental basis and purpose of Lean. This way, our people are constantly using Lean as not only a tool but a mindset to ensure successful projects, happy clients and continuous improvement. A customer-based approach, where values are determined on a case-by-case basis based on the specific client and what is important to them, is encouraged at Columbia. Once specific goals are identified, potential hindrances to accomplishing them can be eliminated before they even become issues. Respecting, involving and listening to those who have knowledge and experience is a priority; often those who work in the field can provide the most expertise and clearest picture of what needs to happen in order for the team to accomplish their goals. Ultimately, people are the drivers of Lean. Having an open floor atmosphere where all team members are free to share their ideas and observations is of the utmost importance.

Let's Learn About Lean!


Over the course of the four sessions, Columbia employees learned how to approach situations from a Lean perspective as well as specific tools and processes applicable to their projects. Colin, who was described as “very knowledgeable”, actively engaged them in a series of simulations and games, which participants said helped to reinforce the content learned. Superintendent Bob Erdmann said that the training offered him “an enlightening approach to planning a project’s success. We learned good ways to flush out potential problems early and reduce potential failures overall.” Project Manager Peter Mancini explained that “the training introduced us to different perspectives of scheduling, subcontractor coordination, and project team involvement. It opened our eyes and made us consider what we’ve been doing and how we can improve.” Overall, says Project Manager Mike Ausevich, “our recent Lean training was definitely time well spent! It has given me a different perspective and has already helped uncover and solve issues on a current project.”

Thanks to Colin and ASKM and Associates for your time!