Productivity: Ready for its Close-Up

Similar to how an athlete watches film of past games, FRVS drive field improvements by asking workers to observe themselves and leverage their own expertise to reduce time waste. (Photo Credit: Jason Herrera)

Adding video to a decades-old lean process reduces waste and engages the workforce

What if you could watch yourself performing a task? What do you think you would learn? First run video studies (FRVS) add a new method to the traditional lean construction mix, helping workers self-analyze, design work methods and eliminate non-value-added activities through self-awareness.

The way a construction task is performed has a tremendous impact on safety, quality, schedule and productivity. Generally, when a task is assigned, a worker will either resort to the way they’ve performed a task in the past, or they go with the method in which they were instructed.

Based on the work of W. Edwards Deming and his 1950s plan-do-check-act (PDCA) improvement cycle, as well as Taiichi Ohno and his observation-based improvements behind the Toyota Production System™, “first run studies” were created by Lean Construction Institute founders Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell in 1997. Ballard and Howell adapted the Toyota model for the construction industry to allow teams to collaboratively observe work being done and adjust their process to eliminate time waste.

Jason Herrera, one of DPR’s self-perform work managers based in Southern California, took a page out of the PDCA playbook and came up with an improvement, adding the element of video to the first run studies.

“Similar to how an athlete watches film from their past games to improve their skills, FRVS allow crews to improve their work methods through field observations,” says Herrera. “The implemented improvements gathered from these studies then become the new standard method and we continue this process—constantly improving.”

Results of the pilot program to introduce FRVS on several DPR jobsites have been successful. The team on a recent large hospital project performed a FRVS of the framing scope of work and identified five percent of the task as time waste. In watching their film the participants discovered that by making some changes they could improve efficiency. During the first run study of the exterior framing installation, there was time waste because one member of the two-man team waited while the other cut studs. On the second run, they added a third crew member to help the idle worker measure and install continuously while the other worker cut continuously. While adding staff might seem counterintuitive to reducing time waste, the task was done 67 percent faster and with no wasted time—more than making up for the third person’s time.

Sounds easy enough, but there are challenges—the most difficult being obtaining buy-in from the craft workers. “We make sure that participants understand that these FRVS are designed to help them improve their processes, not to evaluate performance, monitor or control them,” says Herrera.

“In the construction industry, craft worker salaries represent the single largest expense on a project, yet they are an often underutilized resource,” says Herrera. “By respecting the individual and including them in the FRVS process we not only engage the workforce, but leverage their expertise to unlock waste-reducing opportunities for our customers.”