Clark/Sullivan Construction

August 4, 2017

Construction 101: LEAN & Six Sigma

Most people (and companies) look to find the most efficient ways possible to achieve their goals. Whether it’s streamlining processes or simply making a decision, there’s a system in place that helps you continually improve the way you (or your company) operates, and that’s LEAN & Six Sigma.

Estimator Howard Hadlock attended a five-week certification course to hone-in his LEAN and Six Sigma skills and has agreed to give us a crash course in all things efficiency! For those of you who don’t know what LEAN and Six Sigma are, don’t worry, you will learn below.


The approach to lean is to identify and eliminate waste through continuous improvements. The aim is to maximize customer value while eliminating waste, to optimize not minimize.

The Lean concept is to involve everybody from management through entire company. Change involves a change in the company philosophy. Good enough is not good enough. The saying or thought of “way it’s always been done” is no longer used. Expose problems in real time at the area where they occur, not in a meeting in a conference room. Lean is a simple concept, but not necessarily common sense.


  • What does Toyota do? Most people would say make cars. However their philosophy in the Lean world is they move people.
  • What do brakes on a car do? Most people would say, stop the car. Brakes allow you to go fast.

Lean is to continually improve. This process / tools used to solve all pain points or problems will not completely solve all problems the first time. These processes must be repeat on an annual basis to constantly improve.

Techniques – Tools

Understanding the “Voice of Customer” (VOC) is the first step in solving a company’s issue/problem. There are internal and external customers. The internal customers are your fellow coworkers. Tools to discover these issues/pains are:

  • Customer Data (verbal, nonverbal)
  • Collecting VOC (surveys)
  • Using Kano Analysis (prioritizing customer satisfaction and delight)
  • Developing CTX (customer needs)

Collect pain/frustration points from your customers. Organize these points in order of frequency. Then develop a better way to solve these problems starting with most frequent pain point and ending with the least.

5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain)

The concept is to tag, organize, clean, create procedures, and change culture. The more organize, clean, known procedures your work and work area are the more efficient you become. Not spending hours looking for one tool, or spending time on how to proceed with the task at hand. These should be known before work starts, tools are in there proper place, procedure to accomplish task is already know and well thought out.

Gemba Walk

Gemba Walk is a lean philosophy that the best ideas come from going to the problem. This takes management to the front lines to look for waste/opportunities. Follow process/procedure ask questions, take down notes, together come up with better way to do process. Best to have a person follow the process that does not know the process, get more questions of why things are done a certain way. Will bring to lite some simple answers to help the process that are simply overlooked. This concept is system focused not people focused. Problem lies within the process not the person.


  • Why is this process taking so long, do we need to add something, eliminate a step, add a tool, bring material closer, turn machine around, etc

5 Why

Ask why 5 times. Problem solving technique that leads to a root cause of the problem.

Poka Yoke

Mistake proof a process. For example don’t put a pull handle on a door when it is a push door.


Technique that involves every employee from upper management to production crew. The word means continuous improvement. Philosophy is to make small changes on a continuous basis. The process is to map out a process / procedure on the wall of a conference room using sticky note pads. Each step (small steps) is put on a sticky note pad and put on all in order of the process. This will visually map out how long a simple process can be and will expose problems along the way. Key is that everyone gets involved. Once completely mapped out, start using techniques like 5 why to better the process. Then remap the new and improved process.