Getting Lean with Aidan Clancy at the WIT Lean Forum

Aidan Clancy, Business Development Manager at Clancy, recently presented at the Waterford Institute of Technology Lean Forum. Aidan is currently undertaking a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). Irish building magazine spoke to Aidan about his interest in Lean, Lean at Clancy, and the WIT Lean Forum.

The 4th Annual WIT Lean Forum was held at WIT’s main campus on Thursday 28 April. Lean Construction was a significant topic at the event. Lean Construction has grown in popularity in the Irish Construction Industry over the past three years. With the setting up and work of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Ireland Community of Practice (CoP) interest is set to increase in the coming years.

Describing his interest in Lean Construction, Aidan said, “I had been aware of Lean in the traditional manufacturing sense since my undergrad days as a mechanical engineer. In more recent times our company’s close association with WIT has broadened my horizons on the topic. The WIT connection initially led out to some pilot studies and we’ve gone on from there.  I attended my first LCI event early last year and that really opened my eyes to the scale of Lean thinking in the sector.”

Aidan presented at the WIT Lean Forum. Aidan described his presentation topic, titled “Applying Lean Thinking to Data Management in a Construction Firm”, and his research: “My presentation was about a number of subjects close to my heart. It was part of a substantial amount of research that I’m currently carrying out as part of my master’s dissertation. From a company perspective, Clancy has always been keen to leverage new technologies to drive efficiencies. We were one of the first contractors to embrace the cloud for document management and my research was all about how we could open up our systems to foster supply chain collaboration. It’s something that was very much guided by Lean principles and BIM philosophies. It also speaks to the company motto of ‘Built on partnership’.”

Asking if Lean Construction is changing the Irish Construction Industry? Aidan gave us his views, saying “There is a huge opportunity for the construction industry if we all embrace Lean thinking.  On a company level you can only do so much but if the whole construction eco-system, or at least large parts of it, embraces Lean Construction then you will see a dramatic improvement in the way construction is delivered. This would manifest in many ways starting from concept stage, through to design, procurement, right-first-time construction and more efficient handover. Ultimately the client gets a better quality product, in a shorter time, for a lower cost. There is a long way to travel before we get to that point”

In describing the interest in Lean Construction at Clancy, Aidan told us about the practical view of Lean. “Lean is something that I think we all understood instinctively without necessarily knowing we were talking about ‘Lean’.  The elimination of waste is something that everyone recognises. The importance of getting the job done right the first time has always been a priority since the company was founded. The difference now is we have an enhanced understanding and a whole new suite of tools to implement this mindset.”

There is a huge opportunity for the construction industry if we all embrace Lean thinking. 

BIM and Lean are a combination often spoken about at CitA meetings and other industry events. Aidan told us that Clancy will combine both: “We have invested heavily in BIM and see it as a key part of our strategy into the future. We were working on our BIM capabilities long before we became aware of the benefits of Lean Construction. The two topics are remarkably complimentary and when combined together can give us a real edge doing business.”

We asked Aidan what was the highlight of the WIT Lean Forum from a Lean Construction viewpoint. He said, “I think the fact that the event happens at all is a testament to the vision of the staff in WIT for organising it. Bringing together people from all sorts of companies across the south-east, not just construction companies, is a great boost. There is a real sense of openness at the event and great potential for cross-pollination of ideas.”

Aidan was not the only researcher presenting on Lean Construction at the WIT event. Robin Stubbs, lecturer in the Department of Architecture at WIT and researcher, gave a presentation titled “LEANing towards BIM”.  Robin said, “The presentation concentrated on how both practices can form a symbiotic relationship within the Irish Construction Industry.”

Darrin Taylor, Lean Programme Director and Lecturer in Management at WIT School of Business and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the WIT Lean Enterprise Excellence Group, organised the event. An article on the WIT Lean Forum, featuring Darrin, Robin, and Aidan will be published on the Irish building magazine website.