Summary MEI Field Leadership Training

Several months ago, our field leadership team at the MEI Electric office in Fargo, North Dakota started developing a multi-phase Field Leadership Training that is now in the execution stages. The goal of different phases of training is to ensure that all of the Parsons Electric companies (including Parsons Technologies, MEI, ASI, ecs, and all other Parsons companies) receive the same training, and can leverage that experience in their respective markets.

The first phase of training for MEI Electric was run by Todd DeGraw, general superintendent for MEI Electric. Todd trained participants on the Parsons Electric standards of work, processes, and tools available in the field. Bill Olson, VP of Field Operations and Rob Gephart, Operations Manager, were also present and spoke about the changing markets and how teamwork is necessary to capitalize on these changes. The leadership team also took part in a hands-on training session with their iPads, run by Ryan Hildebrandt, Field Service Engineer. They learned about the electronic tools available, and how to competently utilize them. Proper implementation of these skills will allow for our jobs to run at peak efficiency, adding more value to our customers while also standardizing our work.

The second phase of training was held at Border States Electric in their Fargo, North Dakota branch office. During this session, Todd DeGraw trained on Mark Breslin’s 5 Minute Foremen book, where the field leaders learned about communication, the importance of mentorship, and other soft skills. The discussions were led by the team, allowing them to drive topics they wanted to learn more about. During this training, Chris Hoff, Account Manager at Border States Electric came in to speak about some of the new products they are offering, along with the services they provide to our field, that many leaders were unaware of. Chris Hoff’s presence along with the use of the 5 Minute Foremen book at this training proved very beneficial to our field leadership team, adding more tools to their soft skills toolbox and demonstrating the tactics necessary to be a successful leader and mentor for our current and upcoming projects.

“Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

This Thursday, the field leadership team will be receiving their first Lean construction training from Perry Thompson, Lean Executive Director. This training will go over the utilization of the Last Planner system, in a step toward our company’s goal of being “Lean Ready.”

In the next year, the field leadership team will be involved in other phases of training. We are striving for a world-class workforce in our industry. To do this, we are continually looking for new topics and ways to train that will improve our leadership companywide.

Planning is Lean

Parsons believes that the Last Planner System is effective because it drives connection between people planning in the office and people executing in the field. Pre-planning is the most important phase of any project and Lean planning boards offer a bird’s eye view of the next six weeks on your project.

Using the Last Planner System to plan our work has had an almost incalculable effect on our teams internally as well as on the project site. These visual planning boards allow our teams to get out of the assumption stage of planning and transition to a demonstrable and concrete plan that we can all collaborate on and reliably commit to.

Assumptions interfere with good planning. Assumptions are when we assume that we know what to do because we are the experts and have done this countless times before. In reality, the size and complexity of projects have increased throughout the years. The failures and pitfalls of project execution lie in the assumption that we are all on the same page, which is easier said than done. The Last Planner System creates visual planning boards that serve as an opportunity to illuminate all assumptions and turn them into agreements based upon the conversations held during the early planning phases. These visual boards allow us a comprehensive view of the project in six-week increments while thoughtfully managing the work we plan to accomplish, as well as eliminating the constraints that include unanswered RFI’s, design clarifications, or vendor equipment clarifications. The Last Planner keeps the team planning and eliminating constraints on a weekly basis.

Thank you for following our Lean Ready videos! Although this is the final week of our Lean Ready series, this is just the continuation of our Lean journey—and hopefully yours as well! Being Lean is a mindset involving continued dedication to reevaluating your work at all stages of execution and asking yourself a series of questions, including: “What can I do to improve this?”

If you would like to look back at the entire series, you can look at the Lean tag on our website or check out our Lean Ready album on Vimeo. As always, we welcome your engagement on our blog or on social media.

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Reliable Commitments are Lean

Reliable commitments require reliable planning. Parsons uses Lean planning boards which become a spatial tracking system for achieving project milestones and deadlines.

Without reliable commitments to our customers and trade partners, planning will fail. Lean Ready teams are prepared to deliver on their commitments to the rest of the team, striving to improve established commitments through Lean thinking. What does Lean thinking focus on? Eliminating waste to create reliable workflow throughout the project life cycle.

We have come to realize that waste is everywhere, because everything is a process, whether you’re making a cup of coffee or installing a light fixture. There will be less process waste if you come out of automation mode to watch and learn. During your observations, you will find waste and recognize ways to eliminate it. We are often in a rush or planning on the fly, so we do not have the necessary time to properly address real problems. These problems are frequently fixed with temporary solutions, but being Lean Ready has taught us to plan early enough so that we can keep an eye open for improvement on existing standards. As a result, efficiency improves in addition to reliably committing quality to our customers and trade partners.

Although we have one week left of our 7 Week Lean Ready series, Lean doesn’t stop here. We welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Team Integration is Lean

Lean Ready teams are integrated teams. These team members have thoroughly planned each phase of their work early on and are prepared to engage with the collective trade partners to determine the most efficient transition between trades. They have vetted through constraints and are better prepared to reliably commit to the rest of the team.

A Lean Ready team starts each project with the appropriate tools necessary to execute the project successfully. Imagine how much better your project could be with efficient planning, team cooperation, and effective communication. At Parsons, we believe that if our project team is skilled at team integration, our customer’s project benefits with better performance.

Project team integration is another way of saying project coordination between team members. When teams integrate correctly, the project benefits as a whole. Our Lean Ready teams have processes in place that help foster integration, which in turn prepares us to fully integrate with the project teams on site. These processes include but are not limited to, discussions around site material handling, punctual delivery schedules, all materials on wheels, tact, and flow, and the elimination of constraints and barriers make being Lean Ready an asset to our customers.

Have you worked on an integrated team? If so, what was the most important take away from that experience? As always, we welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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We Deliver Flow

Being a Lean Ready team helps with project flow. As a whole, project flow refers to the manner in which work progresses through the project lifecycle system. “Good” flow describes a system where work moves through steadily and predictably, whereas “bad” flow describes a system where work stops and starts frequently. Reliable and predictable planning reduces starts and stops which improves project flow.

Our Lean Ready teams are mapping their processes for each phase of the project lifecycle to align their teams better and to look for any waste in their current processes. We prepare ourselves to assist in the trade partner project planning sessions by being fully aware of what we are capable of delivering and how soon we can deliver it. Accomplishing this involves eliminating waste in our own processes—including the early detection and removal of constraints that could impact our workflow. We are vetting our lead time constraints, design, materials, and the decisions needed before production starts.

Flexibility ensures that even when there is an obstacle at the job site, the project team is ready to make accommodations to finish on time or ahead of schedule, regardless of the circumstances. Parsons applies Lean Planning to create a flow-supportive project environment on each job site. What ways do you ensure flexibility on a job or at the office?

So far we’ve covered safety, scheduling, and flexibility in our Lean Ready series. We hope it’s inspired you to look at ways you can be Lean Ready in everything you do. We’ll leave week five’s topic a mystery, but for the time being, we welcome your engagement on our blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Schedules are Lean

Our schedules are Lean! Shortened schedules are part of meeting the ongoing needs of our customers. One of our solutions to continually meet this need is to be Lean Ready when we begin to schedule. When we reduce the duration of different processes on site, the final cost (which includes time and materials) decreases for everyone. This leads to greater savings for our customers.

Being Lean Ready means we plan early to determine prefabrication opportunities. When we can build assemblies in our prefabrication shop we can reduce the amount of time we need on the project site to get our work installed. Using this approach, onsite slab and wall rough-in work is often cut in half, which allows for the project teams to move on to the next stage in construction.

Reducing material handling labor, eliminating defects, reducing waiting times, and focusing our talent on value added tasks creates a reduced schedule while increasing overall value for our customers—something that is beneficial to everyone involved on the project. How do you schedule? Do you use Lean to improve efficiency and reduce waste? Have you considered all of the areas that there might be waste? Are your schedules Lean?

This is the third video in our Lean Ready series. As always, we welcome your engagement on this blog or via social media. Let’s get Lean together!

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Safety is Lean

What motivates you to stay safe on the job site? Our safety program Journey to Zero and our Lean Ready practices improve job site safety because lean projects plan ahead for the right equipment needs. Not only that, Lean job sites are clean and organized with reduced material handling and less job site waste.

Part of safety is planning and that’s what lean is. If you have a good plan you’ll have tools there.
Our Lean Ready practices incorporate early planning to identify ways to reduce onsite material, waste handling, and onsite storage. We create detailed material handling plans to accommodate project flow through the work spaces throughout the life of the project. Just in time deliveries reduce storage clutter which helps keep the site clean. Materials on wheels improve the handling of materials that are on the site. A clean job site is a safer job site and ultimately means there are fewer things to move around, trip hazards, and opportunities for an individual to strain their muscles moving unnecessary material or using inappropriate tools and equipment.

This is the second video in our Lean Ready series. We welcome your engagement and sharing of this content. Let’s get Lean!

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We are Lean Ready


Construction Week 2017 may be over, but it never really stops for us. With an increasing number of projects emphasizing site safety, it’s important for us to continue to develop and invest our time in new ways that reinforce safe and efficient construction. This shift has led us to focus on Lean construction practices.

But what is Lean? Lean Construction (known as just Lean to us) allows us to better serve our customers by identifying value from the customers’ perspective and laying out the processes necessary to deliver that value. For each activity, the necessary labor, equipment, information, and materials are defined.

Practicing Lean improves safety on the job site, team integration, efficacy of scheduling, and flow of a project. However, the biggest reason Lean is an asset for us on a job is that it helps us stay accountable with our commitments and planning.

Over the next seven weeks, we’ll be releasing videos of interviews with our employees who are immersed in Lean culture. You’ll be able to hear firsthand why we believe in Lean and how it is improving construction outcomes for our customers. We welcome you to share these videos and engage with us on social media over the next seven weeks—what about Lean interests you?

Sanford Health’s “Cully’s Cabin” Completed

Cully’s Cabin, a 3,000 sq. ft. children’s area within Sanford Medical Center, opened on Monday, June 19th. 

It is the vision of Matt and Bridget Cullen. The couple founded the Cullen Children’s Foundation in 2003 and Cully’s Cabin is Cully's Cabin is part of the Cullen Children's Foundationpart of the foundation’s work to improve children’s quality of life and provide resources to organizations that support healthcare needs with an emphasis on cancer.

Within the space are arcade games, PlayStation 4, and comfy couches and chairs. Having space for the children to be children was important to the Cullens and their hope is that it will help the children enjoy time with their families while dealing with tough stuff.

MEI was part of the project team to deliver the Sanford Medical Center and was also involved in the Cully’s Cabin project. Our scope included power, data, audio/visual, and access control. We are proud to be a part of the project team to help deliver on the Cullen’s vision and dream to support children and teens as they work toward healing.

MEI President Rich Ross Receives MBA

Congratulations to MEI President Rich Ross on achieving his MBA!

Rich completed the MBA program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He noted that the program has given him a new set of tools to draw upon that will help address and navigate many business challenges we face each day. In addition to traditional courses, Rich and other members of his program had the opportunity to study abroad in Mumbai, India for their Global Studies course.

On what he learned and the trip’s impact, he explained, “Although I learned a tremendous amount about the challenges that face global businesses from my visits to Google, General Mills, TATA, and the US Embassy, I was most humbled by the people I encountered.”

Overall, he found the program to be insightful, rewarding, and appreciates how it challenged his way of thinking.

Congratulations to Rich on a job well-done!

Moorhead Electric

Moorhead Electric