Pekka Petäjäniemi: Integration in Infrastructure Construction

Early integration has proven its value in large infrastructure projects but also in more traditional project deliveries.

Finnish Transport Agency is an early adaptor of lean construction in Finland. Pekka Petäjäniemi, Director of Major Projects, recalls where he got the spark for lean thinking: “We had small group from Finland attending the Lean in Public Sector seminar in Karlsruhe, Germany. We realized that the problems in construction were universal: poor collaboration and unsatisfactory procurement practices. We understood that the client has a big role in making construction better.”

Petäjäniemi has been in the industry for 32 years. He started as a consultant and designer and worked for two years in Germany. For the last 15 years, he’s been a construction client at Finnish Transport Agency. His employer buys design and construction services for about 600 million euros annually. As a big client, the agency can influence how infrastructure construction is done in Finland.

The Agency’s strategic goal is improved efficiency. Kaizen, continuous improvement, is a key tactic the agency promotes. For example, they consider the punch list a kaizen tool, not the shame list. They have experience with other lean methodologies as well, including The Last Planner System and Target Value Design.

Alliance for Demanding Projects

Finnish Transport Agency has experience on five integrated project deliveries, of which three have been completed. They use alliances for projects that have major technical, administrative, or third-party uncertainties.

Before choosing the final project consortium, the agency organizes workshops with the two most promising teams. During the two-day workshops, the client and the team can work on the overall project schedule and define a more detailed schedule for the first three months.

The other function of the workshops is to test the capabilities of the teams and the organizational skills of the project managers. The attendees receive preliminary assignments, but also get to solve impromptu problems during the workshops. Organizational psychologists, not the client, assess the performance of the teams.

Key goal indicators are essential for an alliance project. The consortium and the client start defining four to six indicators during the very first workshops and fix them at a development phase. Typical key goal indicators relate to schedule, environmental factors, project communication, usability, and safety. The risks and rewards are shared, even with the strategically important subcontractors.

Lean Principles Work in Every Project

Petäjäniemi has brought early integration to traditional projects as well: “We’ve noticed the contractor is eager to start building as soon as possible. Sometimes, the solutions that are done in haste turn out to be less successful later in the project. That’s why we start with a collaborative planning phase prior to the construction. It can take three or more months.”

Everyone in a project should internalize lean thinking. Young professionals are eager to work in an environment where the manager is a coach, not an authority looking for culprits. Finnish Transport Agency promotes lean project experiences internally and gives both their young and seasoned project managers a chance to update their skills.

Petäjäniemi says that the benefits of lean construction, especially early integration and the use of Big Rooms, are indisputable. The alliance projects have outperformed their schedule and cost goals, except for one that encountered an unforeseen risk.

“We’ve required BIM in every project. Combined with lean construction methodologies, it has led to fewer mistakes and less process waste,” Petäjäniemi assures.