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As part of the continuing Theory of Constraints Learning Process and the Lean Journey my companies and the companies I consult with are on, I came across another interesting (PDF) article as part of some research I was on. The article that I found dusted off recollections of a topic that appeared in the Journal of Light Construction Business Strategies forum last winter entitled Is Our Industry Antiquated?

The contractor who started the topic off first wrote:

Just watched a TLC program about the largest Cruise Liner ever made, Voyager of the Sea. From start to finish is was completed in two years. 1020′ long (3 + football fields in length) , 157′ beam, and 214′ high (20 – 25 decks ?), and it’s not the longest ship either; an oil tanker is about 1600′ long, which is more than 5 football fields in length. And this cruise ship is like a hundred houses in one.


My point, and I guess question, is if such a ship with the tremendous challenges to build it, yet accomplishing that task is only 2 years is incredible compared to the result of a huge high end house that would take us two years. Seems what we do is nothing compared to what’s being done in ship yards as far as efficiency of resources.



For the most part I thought the responses from other contractors to the topic were really either lists of excuses as to why we can’t do that in our industry:

Yeah Sonny, but does their client keep changing the color of the ship? or the locations of the windows? or the cabinetry?“) or explantions as to

Or explanations as to why they were able to accomplish such a tremendous production effort because they had the extra money to spend on it!!

“Am I antiquated with regards to that? You betcha. Does it cost my bottom line? Nope. We all have room for improvment in just about anything we build. Is that the point you’re trying to get across? Could I better keep track of inventory? Sure, by hiring someone like the shipyards do just to do that all day. Can I keep the men better supplied and ahead of the game at all times? Sure, I just need someone to oversee that on a full time basis. Can I afford these luxuries like the union ship yard can? No way. Do I have a crew of tool men keeping track of who needs what and keeping all the tools in repair at all times. Nope. The ship yard does. They can afford it.

Wow talk about really not seeing the forest through the trees!

However in defense of some of some of my fellow contractors there are some out there who I think either “get it” or are beginning to “get it”.

Builder Allan Edwards wrote:

If 80% of the projects are coming in behind schedule, then I would say that’s the norm. Isn’t’t insanity described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Seriously, scheduling is something we should give more attention to.

And contractor Rick Westmoreland wrote:

Of course, 80% of the schedules could be unrealistic to begin with.

And Estimating Consultant Bob Kovacs wrote:

The benefits of fast-track are incredible if it’s done correctly.

Looking back at that topic I was surprised to notice that I never said what I really wanted say there in response to that “They can afford it.” comment was essentially what Bob Kovacs was getting at in that the Because the work is well designed thought out and is done in a continuous FLOW process it is by far LESS EXPENSIVE! It’s saving money! The truth is we can’t afford not to do what they are doing!

We (our industry as a whole) have to stop making excuses as to why we can’t innovate and improve if we are ever going to fully realize the potential for achieving and harnessing greater profits.

Well, getting back to where I started the PDF article I discovered today is entitled TOC in a Commercial Shipyard by Daniel P. Walsh from the website. Well worth reading.

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J. Jerrald Hayes
Primus Inter Pares at Paradigm Projects, Ltd.
I am an architectural woodworker and general contractor turned IT, Business and Project Management consultant, software developer wannabe senior division triathlete and ski racer, Yankee fan and founder of, 360 Difference, and now too.
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