FROM THE DESK OF DAVID BERNETT NEMIC Administrator
Lean Construction and the Sheet Metal Industry
“Lean Construction” may be an industry buzz term, but in reality, it’s a practice many sheet metal workers already do as part of their day-to-day work.
Developed by Toyota in the 1950s and led by Taiichi Ohno, a stalwart on reducing waste, lean manufacturing focuses on the system as a whole. Time spent creating quality parts led to fewer defects in manufacturing. Fewer defects meant fewer cars to fix later, fewer recalls and a reduction in waste.
Based on the Japanese term “kaizen,” which means a philosophy of continuous improvement, lean construction is essentially a mindset and a way of working that reduces waste, increases productivity, creates value, helps the environment, and allows for working smarter, not harder.
But while the concept is one that’s unofficially been practiced in the unionized sheet metal industry for years, a renewed interest by general and mechanical contractors has led NEMIC and the ITI, which recently updated its Lean curricula, to make the concept more standardized in apprentice training and throughout the industry in as a whole. More and more, Lean is also becoming an important component of the bidding process, and a way to gain a competitive advantage over nonunion competition.
Lean construction also includes collaboration and creativity, allowing workers of all titles and experience levels to share ideas on how to make the work more efficient. Trades work with other trades as well as with architects and engineers to plan out the project from the very beginning. Instead of working independently, all agree on goals and plans to complete the project together.
The series of processes aims to find efficient ways to use tools, clear clutter or adopt a different way to do a task. It’s an apprentice suggesting a different way to solve a problem or a contractor bringing in gang boxes full of all tools needed to eliminate the need to search for tools on the job site.
For more information, view this short video on the practical applications of Lean.