Lean on Me – Roofing

Construction projects rely on the coordination and execution of multiple parties to be successful. The manufacturer has to have the right product, the supplier has to get it to the right place at the right time, and the contractor has to install it perfectly. And that’s just the simplest example. In the case of new buildings or larger renovation projects with several contractors and any number of systems, the level of difficulty increases exponentially.

I once worked briefly as a general contractor for my own bathroom renovation – after the contractor I had commissioned went bankrupt in the middle of the project. Coordinating the work of the drywall builder, electrician, plumber and tiler was difficult to say the least. The hardest person to deal with was the painter (you truly), who was particularly difficult to pin down.

It’s an experience I don’t want to relive, but it made me appreciate the difficult dance of the construction site even more. It no longer amazes me when something goes wrong. What always amazes me is how often everything goes well. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve interviewed a contractor who successfully completed a difficult project and said, “Oh, everything went smoothly.” I’ll tell you what they had in common: a talent for planning ahead and that Anticipate potential trouble spots.

In our last issue, Tom Hutchinson wrote an article about the importance of lean construction concepts in the roof area and how they are becoming even more important in the current material crisis. (See “Lean Roofing,” July / August, page 58). If you haven’t read it yet, you should take a look. In short, Lean Construction takes the key principles of Lean Manufacturing, including planning ahead, continuous improvement, and minimizing waste, and applies them to the construction sector.

Before this issue even went to press, I interviewed Mike Ash of Franklin and Son Roofing in Farmington, Arkansas about his company’s work on the new gym and baseball / softball complex for Rogers High School featured in this issue will. Despite an overcrowded, busy construction site with multiple trades, he finds that the project was essentially going smoothly.

Ash attributes the success to the teamwork of everyone involved in the project – and to her belief in Lean Scheduling. He said that the architect refined numerous details before starting the project. He pointed out that pre-flashing the roof frames allowed all HVAC units to cease immediately upon arrival so as not to delay the schedule or disrupt the roofing work. He talked about the importance of the daily huddle in identifying and addressing potential problems.

Tom Hutchinson would be proud.

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