By Mark Rounds, VP of Corporate Development

Last month I noted that lean is not only for manufacturing and production. Lean is thinking differently about everything we do. It challenges us to eliminate waste to improve customer value. That value might literally be translated through the cost of the project, or might be figuratively expressed through the values and culture of the company.

Near the end of a project, the designer and the owner walk through the completed work with the contractor and note defective and deficient items. These items are gathered on a list and given to the general contractor. The GC distributes the list to the subcontractors and the items are corrected. The corrected items are inspected again and verified. This “punch list” process takes considerable effort and time.

When I have the opportunity to address a group of contractors, I ask the question, “Who here makes money on punch list work?” Of course, no one raises a hand. I then ask, “So if we don’t make money on punch list work, why do we do it?” The room erupts in a roar that designers and owners always find items that are not installed to their satisfaction, so the items end up on a punch list.

At Vogel Bros., we have a different approach. We consider punch lists to be “defect” lists, and defects are waste. The items on the punch list are items that did not meet the desired result of the designer or the owner. To eliminate this waste, Vogel Bros. discusses the desired results with the designer and owner early in the construction process. Once understood, we design the installation plan to achieve the desired results the first time. We then verify the installed work with the designer and owner during routine inspections. In this manner, we reduce the possibility of a punch list.

This simple adjustment in the process and analysis has had a dramatic result. In the past year, we have had two projects with no punch list and a project with only one punch list item. Eliminating “defect” waste has two additional benefits. First, the owner can occupy the finished space knowing that there will not be contractors working to finish items. Second, eliminating the extra work eliminates exposure to injury. The result is a safer, more efficient work environment that has improved value for our customers.