Jyrki Laurikainen: Scaling Up Lean Construction

The Finnish lean construction community has set the ball rolling. Now it’s time to scale up.

“I’m proud of what our lean construction community has achieved so far,” says Jyrki Laurikainen, Chairman of LCI Finland. “Now, I want to challenge the forerunners to make lean part of the everyday.”

As the Managing Director at RAKLI (The Finnish Association of Building Owners and Construction Clients), Laurikainen has seen how, especially, public sector clients have embraced project alliancing in Finland. He’s happy that the Finnish construction industry is now formalizing the contract documents and guidelines for project alliances. However, Laurikainen is adamant in his view that early integration and other lean methodologies provide value for all project delivery models.

Education is one way to infuse new practices into the industry. Lean philosophy should be part of all curricula. The Lean Construction Congress 2018 in Helsinki is a great example of combining hands-on training with international networking.

Laurikainen talks about the six tenets of lean construction based on his own experiences in leading positions at Wärtsilä, Hewlett-Packard, and the City of Helsinki.

Respect for People

Lean construction must extend to the individual employee. “To me, people are at the center. If you empower individuals, they will do their best, and more,” Laurikainen believes. Change employees need a direction, sufficient resources, and appreciation of their efforts.

Removal of Waste

The concept of waste is so critical that it should be introduced during all basic professional education. An empty worksite is a visible testimony of inefficiency, but waste comes in many forms. It does not limit itself to the builders; clients and users experience it as well.

Generation of Value

The construction industry should be able to create WOW experiences; give the customers something more and better than what they expected. With simulation and operational design, we can uncover needs and solve customer problems in the early stages when 80% of the project costs are first determined.

Optimize the Whole

“How can you optimize the whole if you don’t collaborate,” Laurikainen asks. Clients hold the key to enabling collaboration in any type of project delivery model. Laurikainen sees digitalization as an enabler for managing the whole; whereby design BIMs evolve into production BIMs and further to digital twins that constitute complete city models. Laurikainen urges LCI Finland to introduce lean thinking to building permit processes and urban planning in cities.

Focus on the Process and Flow

“We need to start managing the flow instead of managing resources,” Laurikainen reminds. He wonders if clients and contractors together could start reviewing how to better make project schedules. Today’s schedules don’t reflect the possibilities and requirements of flow production.

Continuous Improvement

“Continuous improvement should be a part of organizational culture, but it also matters in projects and networks. Some may disparage suggestion boxes, but they are, in fact, Kaizen at work,” Laurikainen says. Employees are the experts in their own work. Management should actively listen to them and give them sufficient resources to fix any flaws in the process.

Laurikainen links prefabrication with continuous improvement. As an industrial process, it’s inherently evolving. However, you cannot prefabricate without early integration, a key lean practice. Prefabrication can also boost construction safety, which is still inferior compared to other industries.

Laurinkainen sums up: “If you want a better environment, happier customers and employees, and improved productivity, go lean!”