CRE Opinion

Lean Construction Overcomes COVID-19 Challenges On-Site

Talley Riggins Construction Group President John Riggins on which tools helped him overcome challenges associated with a pandemic.

It’s a colossal challenge for most construction companies to pivot to unfamiliar management strategies during a crisis.

The “This is how we’ve always done it” managers are now coping with a pandemic that has forced new safety standards by the CDC and state governments in addition to those already self-imposed by the construction industry. COVID–19 has also put project teams to the test—to meet shifting budget and scheduling demands—all while keeping employees, subcontractors, and vendors safe.

So, what do you do when a worldwide pandemic forces you to adapt to a new set of working conditions that are constantly evolving? You double down on the processes that are helping to transform your company and industry.

John Riggins

Lean construction principles and processes center on respect for people and keeping your team safe, and those relying on them at home.

Let’s look at some of the lean tools and how they are helping with overcoming the challenges associated with COVID-19, including how you social distance on a project site and still maintain adequate communication to move today’s fast-paced jobs forward.

We use our three-week look-ahead board which allows us to visually communicate who, what, and when tasks are taking place. By having these visual tools set up at a central location inside the project itself, we can achieve social distance and still keep our teams informed during our morning huddle. We moved to two shifts to accommodate the social distancing requirements imposed upon our project, and with the use of color-coded floorplans, were able to segregate trades by area and floor to allow us a chance to sterilize areas between shifts and minimize overlap of workers.

Some other key changes on the job site include reworking the entries to allow for material to be dropped off without entering.

A delivery driver can pull into our holding area, be temperature checked and leave the delivery, without exposing the entire project to outside persons. The items can then be picked up by the responsible trade.

In addition, we issue color-coded wristbands to visually verify that a person was temperature checked without getting close.

For our relatively new company, lean construction dovetails perfectly with our core values of “servant” leadership. The lean method’s focus on collaboration and accountability helps us to communicate more effectively. Obstacles can be identified early on and solutions are given that can be built into the schedule because our trade partners know their jobs best and can provide their particular expertise, whether it’s the painters, roofers, or masons.

The bottom line is that clients want reassurance that a crisis hasn’t derailed their projects. They want results and lean construction adds value by giving teams a way to respond to developments as they arise and ultimately respect both the clients’ timeline and investment.

John Riggins is the president of Talley Riggins Construction Group.

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