How Lean Methods Can Improve Safety: Focusing on Quality and Productivity 

tow men in high visibility vests looking at a panel outside a building

Ian Seuser | September 29, 2021

Safety is an integral piece of Interstates’ culture and our three-legged stool model. We already covered the first leg, let's take a look at the other two legs of the stool, quality and productivity. The techniques and processes we use on our projects lead to quality installations and more productive crews. One such method is whiteboard planning, which reduces rework and improves communication. Another process involves our prefabrication shop. Utilizing the shop reduces manhours on site and speeds up site installations to deliver the project on schedule. Quality and productivity are the key focus areas of our Best Practices Team.

Improving Quality and Productivity with Best Practices

Our Best Practices Team makes routine site trips to observe our crews and the work they're executing. They measure adherence to the crew-focused lean and agile standards on these trips and educate crews on current industry best practices. These activities help us understand how well we implement our lean methods with our team members and determine the most effective approaches. This team reinforces our best practices which leads to more safety, quality, and productivity on our projects.

Lean and Safety Go Hand in Hand

As our Best Practices Team visits sites, they also share and implement the methods that worked best. Sharing what goes well at job sites is critical – it builds momentum across the organization. Some clear examples of lean practices that our Best Practices Team developed to enhance safety in the field include:

  • Cable tray guide kits. The kit provides a smooth surface for the saw to run on and reduces the cuts from four to two, making it safer. It has drill holes for connector plates and includes all the tools needed, saving time and reducing safety concerns.
  • Thread-in-place methodology. This procedure focuses on one team member safely performing the work. The result is less operator fatigue from entering and exiting the lift, reduced distraction, and more focused work. We've seen the rates of installation double, and we've had no safety incidents associated with this method.
  • Ground strap punch. Instead of drilling through metal, this method uses a punch tool and removes the need for material clamping. It also eliminates the twisting motion from the end-user and produces no metal shavings. This simple tool increases safety while improving efficiency.

By focusing on the three-legged stool of quality, productivity, and safety, we achieve our ultimate goal of safely finding a better way while utilizing lean practices.