To inspire lean thinking, Southland employees are encouraged to compete in a monthly video challenge that demonstrates how they have implemented lean concepts into their workflow and workplace. Each submission must focus on customer value, clearly communicate the reduction or elimination of waste, demonstrate continuous improvements, and capitalize on knowledge of our people and partners. In addition to awarding monthly winners, a grand prize winner is nominated to attend the annual Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Congress.

As Southland’s 2015 Lean Video Competition winner, I was awarded the opportunity to attend the LCI Congress in Boston, Massachusetts. After receiving a brief description of the event, I set out to register and prepare for the five day conference.  I arrived in Boston on Sunday afternoon, quickly settled into my room, anxious to check the place out a little before the week started. I found my way over to the LCI registration area and received a bag of tricks and treasures to assist me in navigating my way around for the week. Satisfied with my achievement, I grabbed a bite to eat, and settled in for the evening.

During the week, whether I was attending classes, dining or taking in some sightseeing, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a very diverse group of professionals. During the classes and shorter sessions that I attended, I wanted to get as much information as I could to take back and share with my team in the shop. I found that most of the classes and breakout sessions offered many ideas that I could implement directly, or possibly modify, to better fit our particular situation.

There was an enormous amount of information collectively, but I was really focusing on what I could use for our fabrication shop. I soon realized that there were a number of great ideas that were more than just lean-oriented; they were people-orientated. For example, learning excellence by habit, proper training and true meaning for what we are doing, treating others with equal dignity, and acting and thinking differently. I was excited to bring these ideas back so that we could build our team, not only individually, but collectively, as well. It became clear that these ideas could make a difference in life, and not just in the workplace.

Additional teachings I believed would be helpful for us were: be problem solvers not just problem identifiers, learn to rethink the problem in order to find a solution, good to better, continuous improvement, team alignment, and taking initiative and ownership. With 14 pages of notes from the week, one work book, and two additional lean books to read, I was hopeful that I would be able to share and teach these great ideas, experiences, and tips with the Southland team.

On Friday, I attended a Gemba Walk at the Berklee College of Music. I soon found out it was not a type of dance, but rather a very informative and fun tour with an actual company that is applying lean principles to this particular project. We spent a good deal of time in their “think tank” where we got a close up of how they are implementing and developing the lean process with their various team members, along with an extensive Q&A time. They were all very courteous, informative, and definitely enthusiastic about being lean.

Throughout the week, whether it was one of the key note speakers, individual class teachers, volunteers, culinary staff, hotel personnel, one of my co-workers, or the locals on the street, each made an impact on me. It was an incredibly amazing experience, and one I hope to benefit from for years to come. If the opportunity should arise for me to attend another LCI Congress, I would most certainly jump at the chance, and I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in lean principles to seize the opportunity to attend an LCI Congress.

What lean principles do you use in the workplace? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Rick Nelson

    Fire Protection Shop Manager

    As Fire Protection Shop Manager of Southland’s Southwest prefabrication shop, Rick has over 30 years of experience in the Fire Protection industry. Working in various positions and for various fire sprinkler companies, he has gained experience in numerous areas such as: sales, installation, inspections, and service. Rick oversees all of the fabrication taking place, coordinates the workflow with field superintendents and foreman, and is responsible for creating and maintaining a fun and safe environment to ensure each Southland employees arrives home securely.

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