Lean Customer Management in a Construction Site Supplier

Case Study: Lean Customer Management in a Construction Site Supplier

Project Name:

Construction Site Industry:



  • Identified several sources of delay and decline
  • Established a process of lean education, project management and kaizen
  • Built a lean operation into an overgrown family company 

The Challenge

X is a famous Brussels-based company that supplies material and personnel lifts for the construction industry, including industrial elevators, mast climbing work platforms, and hoists. Increased demand was straining the company’s ability to manufacture and deliver materials to construction sites on time.

The company turned to Zerwaste for advice. After reviewing its project plans and inventory schedules, it was agreed that some Lean Thinking concepts were required. With the company’s officials and project managers looking over our shoulders in learning mode, we conducted a full review of their processes. We identified several groups of activities including inventory preparation, delivery and setup, recovery, repair, storage and overhaul. We observed the layout of their warehouses, their delivery routes and timings and their cash flow in terms of contracting for and receiving payment.

It was agreed this company had outgrown its early years and was ill-suited for a world of instant online commerce, mobile technologies and GDPR.  We applied specific lean management techniques, including the Toyota Production System (TPS), whose core values include:

  • Eliminating waste: improve quality while cutting costs and time
  • Smoothing: the flow of value adding steps, as used in just-in-time (JIT) logistics

We applied the three “M” program of TPS, which is comprised of:

  • Muda: identification of wasteful habits
  • Muri: unreasonable work placed on people and operations
  • Mura: unevenness and irregularity of operations

We introduced the team to “Tim Woods,” an acronym for identifying wasteful habits across departments, and we discovered the following:

Transportation: cluttered warehouse and machine shop. Objects being moved many times, often to a temporary “clear” space.

Inventory: Equipment delivered to customer sites in separate shipments on different days.

Motion: Poor mapping of shop floors revealed inefficient movement of cranes, forklifts, trucks and people.

Waiting: Inadequate filing and processing of information caused significant delays in shipping and billing.

Overprocessing: The same work was being done by different people due to poor communication.

Overproduction: overhaul and repair of returned equipment was being done regardless whether it had been approved by a senior engineer.

Defects: mistakes were being made in assembly and disassembly of machinery as well as in the ordering or parts

Skills: employee training on equipment, workplace safety or even communication technologies was non-existent due to “tight time schedules.”

Our process started with education. We proposed and obtained a two-week moratorium on billable work save for maintenance of existing machinery already onsite, and put all employees through a lean/kanban education process. 

This was followed by establishment of a series of project plans and identifiable work units that sought to:

1.) create a plan including metrics for operations moving forward;

2.) create a culture of continuous improvement based on the principles of kaizen

3.) create a short-term project plan for cleaning and refurbishing the company’s location into a safe, secure, and efficient facility.

The lean/kaizen project took six months to finish, but its successful completion has extended the capacity of the company’s operations, reducing delay and defects to less than 5% while improving on-time delivery and efficient equipment maintenance.

The company has since been able to increase capacity to meet new customer demands.

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