Project Management

Lean, Mean, Building Machines: Understanding and Implementing the Lean Method

Contractors across industries are embracing the Lean methodology to identify wasted resources, and then reformat for maximum productivity and increased value.

By Henry Nutt December 20, 2019
Building construction continues across many cities. Courtesy: Katie Spain Narel, CFE Media and Technology

Waste management used to be a concept you would only think of when you chose to recycle as opposed to throwing sustainable waste in the trash can. These days, contractors across industries are embracing the Lean methodology to identify wasted resources, and then reformat for maximum productivity and increased value.

To help recognize the various facets of Lean principles, Southland Industries Business Development Manager Henry Nutt III provides a brief run-down on the ideas behind the very human, Lean, mean building machines that are laying down the foundation for leaner building infrastructure. At Southland, Nutt explains, our first move is to ask our people how we as a company can help them.

  1. Optimizing the whole means to recognize that optimization efforts are made with consideration of the entire team and not focused on the individual.
  2. The removal of waste which starts by looking at what you do, what you do not need, and learning what brings the most value.
  3. Focus on the flow or process of how to get from point A to point B, point B to point C, and so on. Identifying flow is a proven method of maintaining workflow and productivity at maximum capacity, which means cutting things out that are not imperative for the success of the project.
  4. The ability to generate value, specifically how to bring it to the customer. This requires understanding how you identify and tailor their needs to accurately match the expectations of internal and external customers alike.
  5. Continuous improvement, which means always looking for opportunities to make gains and grow. During a project and when wrapping up a project, a good habit to get into is to identify what is currently working, what went well and what areas could be improved. This mindset of ‘post-game coverage’ will fit extremely well into the playbook for future projects that lay before you and your company.
  6. Respect for people. From the executive level to the floor level–respect your team–as they are team members that should be valued for their ideas, and when collaborating, input from the entire team is paramount for true success and effective delivery of a project.

“This applies everywhere but specifically, as a plumbing contractor, I have to ask the people who perform the particular tasks that are related to a plumbing contract and learn how to improve from the people who are doing the work,” Nutt said.

Moving from the potential energy of lean ideas to the kinetic implementation of lean methodology can transform a business by increasing value for the customer, company and employees within.


This article originally appeared on Southland Industries’ blog, In the Big Room. Southland Industries is a CFE Media content partner. 


Henry Nutt
Author Bio: As Sheet Metal General Superintendent for Southland’s Northern California Division, Henry Nutt is responsible for managing shop and field staff, assisting with project scheduling, personnel assignments and training, managing tools and equipment and project safety, as well as interfacing with the unions. He is directly involved with Southland’s lean construction delivery method, also is an instructor and frequent participant at the Lean Construction Institute’s quarterly trainings and an instructor at the annual LCI Congress seminar. Mr. Nutt sits on the Lean Task Force for both SMACNA and the Association of General Contractors (AGC). He has several published articles written on the topic of construction innovation. As a mentor for students, Mr. Nutt is also very involved with CityBuild, a non-profit organization that prepares underprivileged San Francisco residents for employment in the trades.