LEAN’ing on Our Tools, Methods, and Techniques during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Many companies are struggling to adjust and respond to the restriction challenges Covid-19 presents. With approximately half of its team members working remotely and the other half practicing social distancing within the office, Vestal Corporation quickly increased its IT infrastructure throughput capabilities and adapted its LEAN Design approach tools to allow team members, clients, and trade partners full remote access with no loss of performance.

Due to its intrinsic nature, design requires significant interaction and collaboration. Travel and social distancing restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic response have created new challenges to achieving meaningful design team interaction and collaboration. Because Vestal uses LEAN Design as its Standard Operating Procedure it was able to adapt its Agile and LEAN design methods and techniques to create effective remote design interaction and collaboration opportunities.

When Covid-19 restrictions started, Vestal was kicking off a major EPC project with our trade partners for an international brewer. The project included designing upgrades to five different areas within existing buildings while also designing a new process building, a Unitank foundation system, and a new unloading dock/ramp. Each of these new areas interface with existing buildings. Fortunately, Vestal has always been forward LEAN’ing in our implementation of the latest technology. Vestal’s BIM Team performed a complete 3D laser scan of each work area thus allowing team members to virtually re-visit the site for measurements and identifying other existing features during Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The project team had to quickly shift from traditional face to face interaction and collaboration to remote interaction and communication. Originally, Vestal’s design management plan included using the Bigroom concept for daily Scrums and weekly/bi-weekly Sprints. Using MS Teams and MS Project Professional, gone are the dozens of sticky notes posted by team members on Bigroom boards. They have been replaced with MS Project Professional “Electronic Sticky Notes”. Virtual meetings with Electronic Task Boards and Sprint Boards that are built into MS Project Professional have become the preferred tool for interaction and collaboration. The project team’s 15-minute daily SCRUMs are now via MS Teams conference calls, with each team member able to give a live daily update report.

During Scrum Planning Sessions, design tasks are identified. The design tasks are then grouped and given a Sprint Number for what needs to be accomplished for that area’s specific design requirements by disciplines (Civil, Structural, Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical). Breaking the design tasks down into specific areas of work allowed the project team to collaborate effectively and progress the Sprint design to full completion or “Done” status. Once the design effort is “Done” for that Sprint, the team moved on to the next Sprint and repeated the process. Prior to moving forward to the next Sprint number though, the team would reflect on what was done well and what needed improvement. Breaking a project design in to Sprints and having the entire project team focused on each Sprint together reduces design time and eliminates waste, while at the same time the Plus Delta at the end of the Sprint promotes Constant Improvement.

Vestal’s primary design tools are AutoDesk’s REVIT, Navisworks , and Revizto – a 3D web-based collaboration tool. During Sprints, design tasks are performed in REVIT and utilize Navisworks to locate and combine designs and scans into Revizto. The visual representation of the design allows the project team to quickly, and very early in the design process, understand each other’s work, potential interferences, and constraints.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Vestal’s mastery of Agile and LEAN Design techniques, methods, and frameworks, combined with its proactive approach to technology have allowed Vestal to continue to provide its clients and trade partners the quality and well-thought-out designs they have come to expect.