LEAN Forward

This article is included in the Spring/Summer 2009 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

Quality and Innovation: Doing for the construction industry what Toyota did for the auto industry

New ideas emerge from a set of conditions in which old ideas no longer seem to work.
From “The Machine that Changed the World,” by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos

DPR has always been a company to embrace progress, build smarter, think ahead; it’s part of our core values of uniqueness and ever forward. During our strategic planning meeting last summer, we held a lengthy discussion around a hypothetical scenario that the economy spiraled downward and reduced the company’s workload significantly. It was a good exercise to review the strength of our business model and has proved invaluable in dealing with the challenges our industry has faced this year.

One of the items discussed was further increasing efficiency in our operations. How do we continue to improve efficiency and deliver higher quality for our customers? What is the best process for cultivating and implementing innovative ideas? How can we advance toward mission 2030 and achieve our quality and innovation goal “to do for the construction industry what Toyota did for the auto industry” even during tough financial years?

These are challenging questions even during the best of times. While we are all feeling the weight of the current set of economic conditions and working hard to make every dollar count, we must also stay focused on being a lean organization and investing our time and energy into those “new ideas” that improve the quality of projects and drive innovation to new levels.


Quality at DPR centers on the needs of the project and customer with each jobsite developing and maintaining a site-specific quality plan to better plan and coordinate work. As part of the process, a web-based, monthly Quality Consistency Survey was recently rolled out to help teams score a site’s quality control activities, from subcontractor selection to risk management to BIM. Data from these surveys are being analyzed and will be distributed company-wide to identify potential trends and share lessons learned. The goal of the quality program is build it right the first time with zero defects, zero errors, zero rework, and the consistent delivery of the highest quality project as cost efficiently as possible time after time.


DPR innovates daily—from simple solutions, such as a vacuum attached to a drill to collect debris and a modular temporary wall, to much more extensive endeavors in sustainability, integrated project delivery, employee development, lean, and, particularly, BIM. For example, we have continued to expand our use of BIM in the field to shorten schedules and lower costs through increased prefabrication. We are also starting to use BIM during preconstruction for rapid cost evaluation through model-based estimating. With speed and accuracy of real-time information being critical on projects, automating the cost estimating process allows us to generate cost estimates more frequently, giving customers timely access to cost information.

Now is the time for all great companies to look ahead and put programs and processes in place that not only enhance quality, improve overall performance and save money today but also create greater value for a better tomorrow.