Green on the Inside: Creating a culture of continuous improvement

EVO Magazine - Many companies are becoming involved with providing greener options for clients. What we don’t normally see is how those companies go green themselves, not from the services and products they provide, but from the choices and actions they take in their own business processes.

For example, many employees at Lease Crutcher Lewis participate in Bike Month by biking to work for the entire month of May. To store their bikes at work, they used scrap metal to build a secure rack. But beyond some traditional ways of “saving the planet” Lease Crutcher Lewis has a multitude of other progressive implementations.

Changing the Way Jobs Get Built
A companywide initiative, the Lewis Lean program aims to add value for clients and increase efficiency by focusing on two objectives: minimizing waste and optimizing project delivery. The Lewis Lean Committee meets monthly to share best practices and case studies, and considers new  opportunities for improvement, led by Vice President and Lean Committee Chair, Jeff Cleator with participation by people from every profession.

The need for a monthly committee Cleator says is because “we work in an industry that is filled with wasteful practices and processes that focus on  individual success at the expense [of compromising the success] of the whole.” Cleator contends that they have “become vigilant about wringing waste out of the traditional construction delivery. We started to use the phrase around the office that we’re changing the way jobs get built.”

Borrowing from the philosophies at the core of the Toyota Production System (TPS), eliminating waste and optimizing delivery, Cleator and others at Lease Crutcher Lewis believe that TPS has broad applications to the construction industry. Applying these concepts to their process improves  timelines, lowers costs, reduces injuries and increases profits.

Here is a look at how Lease Crutcher Lewis stays green and lean on the inside:

  • In the field, project managers and superintendents are implementing practices such as Last Planner scheduling and just-in-time delivery, and using tools like Bluebeam and SharePoint to increase coordination and collaboration.
  • Every job site has an active recycling program.
  • On most urban construction sites, there is very limited space for truck deliveries. If not coordinated well, trucks must circle the block or sit idling in a parking lane until space is available on site. To avoid congestion and unnecessary pollution, Lewis created a web-based delivery program using Sharepoint software. Vendors can schedule their own deliveries online and be assured that a spot is available for them when they arrive
  • They take company-wide field trips to investigate how other companies practice sustainability and their first field trip to the Kenworth Trucking Plant was a revelation. Jeff Cleator says, “It was fascinating to see how Kenworth implemented performance dashboards and pull scheduling, so that’s now a big part of our training.”
  • Everybody updates, annotates and reviews drawings digitally using Bluebeam software.
  • When there is a need to demolish existing structures, Lewis not only recycles all the concrete, steel and wood, but has developed an impressive salvage program. For example, on a recent apartment demolition project, Lewis created an inventory of items such as cabinets, appliances, etc., that were made available to the public through an online auction and sold or donated before any heavy demolition began (95 percent of the total building was recycled or salvaged).
  • They electronically transmit all of their contractual documentation using DocuSign, removing paper waste.
  • They have a digital plan center where all of the crews, trades and subcontractors go. Employees know that the latest design documentation is in one place, and there is no updating of multiple sets of drawings with design changes that happen throughout the course of a project.
  • Lease Crutcher Lewis continuously reduces the amount of paper companywide and works toward a paperless business model. Carey Smith, Marketing Director, estimates that “Ninety percent of proposal preparation is completed digitally which reduces the cost of printing, toner, maintenance, and other costs.”

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