Top 5 Ways Lean Can Benefit Your Engineering Firm

Top 5 Ways Lean Can Benefit Your Engineering Firm


  1. The elimination of waste everywhere while continuously adding value for your customer.

Avel Espiritu has witnessed several Lean success stories in his 13 years practicing Lean, but he admits that it took a desperate situation at a previous employer for him to initially adopt Lean practices.

“It was sink or swim. We had to get better,” he says of his time at an Edmonton manufacturing facility many years ago. “I was basically drowning and this life line came at me and I grabbed it.” Once he saw how Lean turned things around, he was hooked and has been a voracious advocate ever since.

A common misconception is that Lean is just for manufacturing facilities, but Avel says Lean will work for any type of company with two or more employees. “If your business employs people, you’re going to be highly successful at Lean.”

Avel most recently steered Oil Country Engineering’s and Pure Mosaic’s Lean transformation before founding Red-5, and he says that engineering firms will see five common benefits if they adopt Lean.

1. Change from a reactive to a proactive state

Avel describes their historical reactive state as firefighting – jumping from fire to fire to put it out. It felt rushed and arduous. Post Lean transformation, they were in a proactive state – one where employees can do their work and take the time to build in quality, and also make improvements each time they go through a process so it’s better the next time.

2. Reduce project lead time substantially

OCE and PM experienced an 85% reduction in project lead time, which Avel counts as a major win, particularly for customers. He recalls a project where an OCE customer asked for a large project on a low budget, something that was estimated to take six months. OCE was able to deliver that project in 19 days with fewer resources than anticipated and with little to no overtime.

3. Increase first pass quality

“Quality ends up being built-in, not bolted on,” says Avel. Lean practices work to slow things down in order for the project to go faster – more check-ins, more discussions, and more attention to deadlines. It reduces re-work considerably.

4. Improve agility to customer revisions

Avel calls it “being a good dancer,” but an engineering firm would call it “being more agile to customer requests for changes.” Engineers cannot control their customer’s requests for changes, but they can improve their engineering process to be more responsive when the inevitable changes come in. “We work in small increments,” Avel explains. “We are able to accept a lot of changes up until the 11th hour of the project because we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”

5. Increase visibility of project progress

Engineering firms might have progress charts hidden away in a Microsoft Project file somewhere on a project manager’s computer. But Avel explains that Lean promotes project visibility, and in the case of OCE and PM, they use a large white board with markers, magnets and stickers. “We built into our process that when you’re done or hitting certain milestones, you have to go up to that whiteboard and move that around before you’re complete.”

The visibility helped in unexpected ways. First, it created buy-in from other people who weren’t part of the project team, and suddenly they were raising their hand to contribute to various tasks on the project board. The visibility also increased the dialogue between the team and helped facilitate a faster and improved outcome. Lastly, customers also saw a benefit. “As a project manager, I could take a picture of it and then send it to my customer and they got it,” Avel explains.

All five of these points are beneficial to internal operations, but more importantly, the customer – and that is the goal of Lean: to improve your processes to deliver value to your customers.

With the right direction, any engineering firm could undergo a Lean transformation and experience benefits similar to Oil Country Engineering and Pure Mosaic.

If you would like to learn more, contact Red-5 today.

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