Lean construction: How do you get started with the digital world?

I have been dealing with this question for three years. For the last two years I have been dealing with this practically intensively. I have spoken with many companies, have experienced their efforts and have practically accompanied various projects and scenarios. Each customer is unique, each project is unique and yet there are many parallels in the approach and behavior patterns.

Status Quo
Each company is unique in its structure. Each employee has a unique knowledge. Every company has its workflows. But at some point, the decision to introduce and use lean construction.
Companies organize projects from the outset and gradually use different software products to support them. The classics work according to the method of the critical path (CPM).
For all companies, the transition takes place during the current process while the daily business must be handled.

At this point, I can divide the companies into two groups. One group has not yet experienced lean construction, while the other group has already completed training and is accompanied by a coach in projects. The coaches control the methodology but are usually inexperienced in dealing with software.

Trial versions
Now the desire to apply lean construction to digital is also created. With the different requirements, companies are scouring the internet and are currently finding a relatively limited number of software developers. Large and well-known software companies are not among them.
A download or online registration is done quickly. After a short time, open the user interface and create the first task…… Now we must differentiate. Do you have any knowledge of lean construction or not? If no, then you move on a minimal level and quickly come to your limits. Then cancel the test and put the switch back into the waiting loop or you will be content with the bottom level, which will not be applicable to your projects.
If you have a knowledge, then you are also acting with boards. Your board hangs on the wall and has a certain structure. It consists not only of vertical dividers but also of horizontal. Furthermore, they have been trained based on lean construction or Last Planner®. Now try to transfer the learned to the software. Sooner or later they will fail.

It used to be that the purchase of software and hardware in former times was very expensive. Each IT reseller was also your consultant. In the age of smartphone, tablet, apps and social networks, many companies and users think that they can dispense with consultants. When it comes to new technologies and content or a change of strategy, it does not work without external assistance.
The digital lean construction world is developing straight. Your classic IT consultants talk about big-data, cloud and BIM. They don’t understand anything about this matter. I always must smile a little. Every IT company makes projects. In general, however, the projects are controlled by CRM systems and from a commercial point of view. A more efficient and productive project management, with which teams can be organized, does not come to mind. Unfortunately, just a few calculated profits are given away at this point.
After your IT consultants are unable to help you, talk to your lean construction coaches. Your coaches may also test in quiet software products. But they do not lay down, yet or perhaps never. They want to remain independent and neutral. It is their good right as a consultant. Only this setting does not help users to choose suitable software.
But who can help you now? You have set out to implement lean construction digitally. You will have no choice but to contact the small software manufacturers directly.

You can also ask me. I have been dealing with the corresponding software products for over two years. However, I would like to stress that I am no longer neutral. I opted for a software product. There are many reasons for my decision. Two were decisive: the software base is modern, extensive and technologically far ahead. At the same time, I can work closely with software development.

Sticking point
The biggest challenge for the majority of the “digital-willing” is to transfer the previous process strategy to a digital lean construction strategy. The graphics of this article already say a few things. But it includes several steps. The switch from the CPM method to the lean construction method and the transition to the digital world. But that’s not all.
The board with the Sticky notes in the meeting room only reflects the results of your meetings that you have conducted according to the lean construction methodology. If you want to work digitally, you also need to display a large part of this discussion digitally. At the same time, however, you do not want to renounce the learned view or the result on the wall in the meeting room. You therefore need a software in which you can work actively and flexibly in different views.
It is as if you are choosing the software to climb a high mountain. The air is getting thinner at the top. Most software products are not able to reflect your projects and processes accordingly. In addition, many users are not yet able to assess the corresponding software for lean construction because they have just learned or learnt the methodology on a manual basis.

Companies are looking for a lean construction coach to introduce the methodology in the companies and to accompany the companies in the projects. Equipped with a good basic knowledge, companies search for digital solutions and test software products as trial versions. All come for different reasons only up to a certain point and give up.
To seriously digitize lean construction, you need a digital consultant and coach. Most of software vendors do not offer these services. The manufacturers just want to sell the product as it is.
I am one of the few who have specialized in digital coaching so far. A digital coaching in small regular units is very useful. You have your daily business and the introduction of a digital methodology runs by the way. Imaginary test projects do not bring anything at the end. You must have the courage to start an active project after a short introduction into the software. Your digital coach can help you and support you.
As part of my coaching activities, I get to talk more intensively with my clients. Most want to integrate digital lean construction and their processes into their existing digital world. It is not enough if you, as a consultant, are proficient in lean construction. It is also crucial that you know the diverse current software offerings on the market. If customers then talk about integrated solutions, then the software developer must also have the willingness to help with the implementation. There are not many software companies left.

Your successful entry

  • No matter if you want to accompany your first BIM project or construction project with lean construction digital, you need a large enough time window to make a sensible decision for the basic application. I think six months makes sense. The cost of renting the software is affordable.
  • During the first two months I recommend a weekly 1.5-hour online session for the introduction of the software and for the common preparation of your processes. We are looking for a suitable project together. The two months are empirical values. One company needs more and the other less.
  • After the introductory phase, we can always apply short-term online appointments whenever necessary. As an observer I am online in the project, I can view your status quo at any time. Overall, I recommend the conclusion of a service framework contract. The conditions are set and there is no need to discuss the prices for each activity.

After 6 months you can certainly make an informed decision whether you want to continue to work on the one hand lean construction digital and with the software used.
If you have been successfully working with an IT partner for years, or with a lean construction coach for several weeks, then we are happy to include your partners in the introduction. I am open to cooperation.

Offer to consultants and coaches
If my article appeals to classic IT consultants or lean construction coaches, then just contact me. A digital coach cannot support too many projects. I help lean construction coaches expand their digital knowledge and let the IT consultants open the window to a new world of digital project organization.

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