Do you know what a Kanban board is? It is a derivative of the Japanese word for visual signal. It is part of the Lean manufacturing system and is an effective way to see the status of your construction projects at a glance. This helps you and your team see your overall workflow, the status of projects, and make efficient decisions based on that workflow. Some boards use cards and columns. Others use it similarly in software. But it all comes from the same basic premise of visualizing the workflow and maximizing efficiency.
•Physical boards—The simplest example of a Kanban board would be a simple whiteboard with vertical columns. Team members draw out their process in columns and place sticky notes on the board. These will contain additional information about the current status of the project.
Sticky notes are then transferred from column to column as the project moves through the workflow until completion.
• Digital boards—If your team works remotely, which many in the construction industry do, Gigover has specialized software for you and your remote construction team. Like the physical board, you outline your tasks and move the card from column to column showing all
collaborators the exact status of the project at any time, and is easily
accessible from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can get a quick preview of the software here.
Everyone benefits from a Kanban board, from construction project managers to GC’s, subcontractors, to the client themselves. The board can be put to use effectively for remote construction applications through the use of Gigover’s specialized Kanban board software for construction teams. Let’s discuss a few ways that this method will keep everyone on the same page.
1. All stages of a project are clearly visible. There is no guessing about what stage the project is in; if your materials are available, if the subcontractor has completed his portion, if the project is waiting for inspections. Kanban negates the need for status meetings by visually relating that information through card color, information, and the position of the card. This allows high-priority tasks and jobs to be identified easily, so they stay top-priority, which will increase your team's effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Workflow reliability. You can more effectively manage multiple worksites if you know the exact status of each project at a glance. If you’re waiting for those inspections, your crew could use that time on another job site or prevent you from overbooking work. This will also prevent booking a sub-contractor to work on a project that’s not ready for them.
3. Safety Control. Construction work presents many hazards, so information on past accidents and how to avoid them are included on the Kanban cards daily for each task to be completed that day. Information should be posted or shown to each worker involved in the specific task before commencing work. According to this case study, accident rates declined by 33% in the first six months after implementing the Kanban System.
4. Improved communications and collaboration. The Kanban system clearly outlines your tasks. All parts of the process are transparent to every collaborator with information centralized, eliminating the need to search immeasurable emails or waste profits sitting through continual meetings when your precious time could be used elsewhere.
Well, that’s a lot to think about, and now that you know how the Kanban board system can help your business, let’s create a plan.
• Visualize the workflow. Sit down with a piece of paper or draw on a whiteboard and write the steps a typical project goes through from start to finish. Make a column for each of these steps.
• Identify your work. Create color codes for major work categories, such as concrete, steel erection or other framings, electrical, glass, finish work, and so on. Assign a particular color to them and stock up on sticky notes in those colors or use the same concept using digital
• Create cards for each project. Remember, these can be digital or physical, and place these on your Kanban board into the column that represents the status of their project. Cards should be placed on the board in order of priority.
• Use your board. Tasks at the top of the board are worked on first. When the task is completed, simply move the sticky note/card to the bottom of the next column. This helps keep your workflow and priorities clear, making you more efficient.
• Improve. The Kanban board is all about making you more efficient and consistent. It will be clear if problems need to be addressed. It will be easy to see the cause, determine if it is a repetitive issue, and take corrective action.
• Limit work in progress. You may decide after identifying any issues that you are taking on too much at once to be effective. Limiting your work in progress is one of the easiest ways to keep these problems in check and keep your focus on getting one thing completed to move it to the next column. This prevents problematic issues, such as unfinished work. Get the work done before moving on to new tasks.