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Lean Principles at KAEFER

Getting things right the first time

Imagine yourself on a construction site.  A worker is idly waiting for materials to be delivered.  But they haven't turned up yet.  Many times in these cases, people will be afraid to say ‘boss, I have a problem’ because they don't want to be seen as not working.  That wastes time.  That’s not lean.

Lean is ensuring that it's ok to talk to the boss and identify issues.  As well as solutions and suggestions for improvement.  And Lean Site Management guarantees that the right materials are at the right place at the right time, in the right amount and right quality.

It is not about reinventing the wheel, but rather about optimising a proven concept and ensuring that the wheel runs smoothly without any interruptions.  Which means employing simple measures such as planning and performance management – thinking about what to do before, during and after a shift and how to achieve agreed goals.

We call getting things right the first time heading towards ‘True North’.  That involves creating stable workflows, working with optimal crew sizes, comparing actual and expected performance as well as root cause analysis to further improve the process.

PPM board
Planning & Performance Management (PPM) board
We started this Lean Journey a few years ago and I have to say that my opinion is different today than it was at the start.  I always believed that all aspects of our work could be more efficient and that there was waste in every corner.  The aspect of my opinion that has changed the most is how much waste there really is.
Lean has provided us with tools that allow us to really focus and measure waste which affects our project's bottom lines.  Once I implemented these tools and looked at situations through our Lean glasses, I became more aware and was better prepared to mentor our employees in this journey.
In time, I hope that this is not so much an exercise as it is a culture in our daily activities.

 Rick Lambert
General Superintendent


To apply the four principles of lean - flow, tact, pull and zero defects - we employ the following seven points:


Challenge conventional beliefs – without challenge there can be no progress.


Experiment – try it or you’ll never know.


Tolerate failure – improvement requires patience.


Trust – improvement cannot result in loss of jobs.


Work as a team – total optimisation rather than local (individual) optimisation.


Be flexible – rigid structures/policies will limit progress.


Be disciplined – stick to the standards.