How Lean methods can improve safety: Focusing on quality and productivity

By focusing on the three-legged stool of quality, productivity and safety, people can safely find a better way of using Lean methods.

By Ian Seuser and Jeremy Oliver February 14, 2022
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Safety is an integral piece of Interstates’ culture and our three-legged stool model. Quality and productivity are the other two legs of the stool. The techniques and processes we use on our projects lead to quality installations and more productive crews. One of the lean methods is whiteboard planning, which reduces rework and improves communication. Another process involves our prefabrication shop. Using 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 methods 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.

– This originally appeared on Interstates’ website. Interstates is a CFE Media content partner.


Ian Seuser and Jeremy Oliver
Author Bio: Ian Seuser is the Director of Safety at Interstates. Jeremy Oliver is the Quality Assurance Developer at Interstates.