For the last six years, Jim Macejkovic, executive vice president and chief information officer at Building Service Inc. (BSI) has helped refine the company’s approach to furniture installation in an effort to build efficiencies into every project and better serve every client.
“With the efficiencies we’ve gained through our Lean Install Process, we now exceed the industry standard install by nearly 50%,” said Macejkovic. Ultimately, that results in significant savings on install costs, quicker occupancy and less downtime for BSI’s clients.
Lean process has roots in Toyota Production System
BSI’s Lean Install Process began as an outgrowth of the company’s partnership with furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. More than a decade ago, Herman Miller adopted the Toyota Production System to reinvent its operations. After successfully reducing standard manufacturing times, Herman Miller focused on the last part of its production process – distribution – and developed its “last mile program” to reduce the time it took distributors to receive, unbox, deliver and install product. BSI was an early adapter of the program and its tenants launching the BSI Lean Install Process as a result.
At its most basic, BSI’s Lean Install Process makes furniture installation more efficient by eliminating wasteful procedures in three main steps: reduce walking, reduce handling and reduce confusion at the installation site. Implementing the process had an immediate and lasting impact completely altering how the BSI install team works and increasing efficiencies by more than 60% since inception.
“The first 20-30% of efficiency gains were easy – what I call the low hanging fruit,” says Macejkovic. These were changes on the macro-level that led BSI to introduce new equipment and change its approach to job site organization.
New equipment required significant capital investment. BSI purchased and built specialized carts to mobilize job sites and reduce walking; technologies like iPads, digital cameras and smart phones to enable instant communication and address questions on site to help reduce confusion; and, tools like screw gun holsters for installation technicians to improve the ergonomics of repetitive use and reduce handling in the installation process.
A new approach to organization required an increased investment in planning. “Pre-planning became key,” said Macejkovic. To reduce walking, work flow maps and diagrams are now developed for each job site to provide detailed instructions that ensure equipment and materials are delivered directly to where they will be used. To reduce handling, BSI orders and installs furniture in batches with just-in-time deliveries so only what is needed, in the amount needed, is delivered when it is needed. To reduce confusion, detailed install instructions including copies of blueprints, enlargements and color-coded plans are posted in every workspace so all the information necessary to complete the work in that space is readily available.
Additional leaps in efficiencies have come over time from constant process evaluation and trial-and-error. The entire process is continually tested and re-tested and on site evaluations, or “go and sees,” are part of every installation. “We regularly time installations with a double stop watch to determine the actual time to build versus the time spent in support activities,” said Macejkovic. “Not only does this help us identify areas for improvement, but we can also scientifically prove that we have saved time and increased efficiencies.”
While the process was initially implemented from the top-down, BSI has since developed a culture in which incremental changes on the individual level continue to improve efficiencies on an ongoing basis. “The goal is to make small improvements over time that add up,” says Macejkovic. “In Toyota terms, it’s Kaizen, the never ending journey of constant improvement.”
While the principles of the Toyota Production System have been adapted in other industries, BSI is still one of a few companies to have so fully embraced lean principles in furniture installation. In fact, Macejkovic and Randy Lang, construction supervisor at BSI, will be among the first graduating class to be lean certified by the American General Contractors of America when they finish courses during 2014.
While BSI continues to refine furniture installation, the company has also introduced similar processes in its design and build divisions to bring efficiencies to every project benefiting every client served by everyone at BSI.