Frank Coln strives to create an environment of constant learning on his projects. His experiences with pull planning and the Last Planner System go beyond one size fits all approaches that often fail. He represents a growing number of construction supe...
Frank Coln strives to create an environment of constant learning on his projects. His experiences with pull planning and the Last Planner System go beyond one size fits all approaches that often fail. He represents a growing number of construction superintendents that openly embrace Lean and actively work towards greater collaboration, patience, respect, flexibility, accountability, and use of technology. He is reflective and intentional about how processes are and are not working.
Frank says, “Listen to those PMs if you’re a superintendent, they’ll have a different perspective than what you have.” He was among the early integrated project delivery projects in Texas with an integrated form of agreement in the late 2000s as a Superintendent. The Easier, Better, for Construction Show is where people working to make building easier and better share how. Frank is committed to making construction easier and better and made numerous contributions to The Lean Builder Blog and The Lean Construction Blog.
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Today’s episode is sponsored by Construction Accelerator. Construction Accelerator is an online learning system for teams and individuals that offers short, in-depth videos on numerous Lean topics for Builders and Designers to discuss and implement, just like on this podcast. This is tangible knowledge at your fingertips in the field, in the office, or at home. Support your lean Lean learning at your own pace. Learn more at http://trycanow.com/
Today's episode is also sponsored by the Lean Construction Institute (LCI). This non-profit organization operates as a catalyst to transform the industry through Lean project delivery using an operating system centered on a common language, fundamental principles, and basic practices. Learn more at https://www.leanconstruction.org
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Felipe Engineer 0:00
I had no idea that you started off coming on uralla, that's interesting, I didn't, I didn't pay you for that. I just had figured you for a lifetime superintendent, because you're so good at it. And you just been doing Oh, thank you make it look easy, man.
Frank Coln 0:14
It's not easy. It's difficult. No, so one of the, I appreciate that. On my jobs, you know, they, they're, they're unpredictable in construction, right? Um, you have to, you have to, and you have to constantly manage that. So one of the things that I do as a superintendent is I always ask questions, in order to make sure that our team has the right information. A lot of the times when we start building, we have incomplete information, or we only have half of the material on site, you know, those things can ultimately lead to rework on your jobs or they cause stop in the workflow. One big thing that's important on our construction sites is to create that flow of work between the trade and between the handoffs. And in order to create that you have to plan ahead, you know, you have to get everybody together and make sure that everybody understands the flow of the job, involve everybody and get their input, which is why lean processes like the last planner, they really work, they work it's drastically different than when I was coming up, it was push.
Felipe Engineer 1:27
Welcome to the EBFC Show, the easier better for construction podcast. I'm your host Felipe Engineer-Manriquez. This show is all about the business of construction. Today's episode is sponsored by Construction Accelerator.
The design and construction industries come up with and build great things. But we also build in waste in how we do those things, in our interactions in our contracts in our logistics. So what does this do for our bottom line, or our next project, the best firms maximize their value by removing that waste, and only doing what's essential for the work, what makes them money. Construction accelerator will train you to see the waste and give your teams the lean tools and experience to remove it immediately. All online. Construction accelerator is made up of three to nine minute videos that can be watched again and again, in the field, at the office and at home. All broken down by topic. need to learn co planning, we have videos on the process, how to set up a room and how to kick off the team need to set up a target value delivery project. We discuss all the aspects of TVD especially cost. Or maybe you just need to brush up on five as well. We have videos on that as well. You can download and print reference materials to use on site to immediately translate watching into doing subscribe today at tri ca now.com. Let's build an industry, not just a project.
Felipe Engineer 2:54
Today's show is also sponsored by the lean construction Institute. LCI is working to lead the building industry and transforming its practices and culture. Its vision is to create a healthy and thriving industry that delivers outstanding project outcomes every time for everyone. Check the show notes for more information. Now to the show. Welcome to the show, Frank Coln, all the way from South Florida. Beautiful South Florida. Where are you in South Florida today, Frank?
Frank Coln 3:22
So right now I'm in Doral, Florida, it's just west of Miami. So basically the Miami metro area, it's a little chilly today it was in the 60s. Oh, so we hear people wearing we got people wearing their fur coats and mittens and and everything else when it drops into the 60s. You get that but I grew up in was born and raised in Texas, in a small town was called falls and work the majority of my career in Dallas Fort Worth area. And then I've recently spent the last three years in Florida but I love Florida. Love you know working and and live in life down here in the south, South Florida. So it's great.
Felipe Engineer 4:02
Was the small town you grew up in Texas is that West Texas, East Texas, the valley, what do they consider that?
Frank Coln 4:08
North Texas so it's Wichita Falls, Texas, and some people call itself Oklahoma, but we don't call it that. So we're still in Texas. It's right there by the Texas Oklahoma border and grew up there. Have a lot of good friends there and went off to college and Missouri University of Missouri Rolla. So, engineering school, played baseball there, that's where I was introduced to engineering study civil engineering there and just kind of got into construction. I thought I was going to be an engineer. I thought that was going to be my background. I ended up working for a civil engineering firm in Wichita Falls, Texas as a surveyor when my daughter was born. And then there was a construction company called bat and they were building First Baptist Church and they needed a field engineer, they didn't know how to use survey equipment cells can do that, not really knowing anything about working for a general contractor just took a shot at it and, and really enjoyed being a field engineer and working for the back group, and just learned how, how buildings come together. And there was some really good superintendents that I worked underneath, you know, kind of show me the ropes. And as a field engineer, you know, we were tool belts, we did all the layout and, and help the contractors, you know, properly locate things on the job. And as the equipment advanced, and the robotic layout came into the picture, and the use of Revit, and BIM technology started coming to the picture. Beck was very, you know, Becca adopted that technology pretty quickly. And I got a I got the opportunity to use robotic total station and the Revit models together on one of the first IPD projects in Texas, it was a true IFTA agreement, and the owners really supported lean, and wanted to do the IPD jobs. And so, you know, they hired consultants to help us out. And I was kind of introduced to it, you know, on that project, and I was very early in my career, I think I was like, 2025, at that time, they're just a kid. And, and so that technology, bam, and the total stations, it was relatively new. And we didn't really know how to use that to work, you know, to transfer from the computer to the field, but with the way the project worked out, you know, that's a good story, because we were, we figured it out on that job, you know, I've worked closely with the BIM guys. And we're able to get the coordinates from the Revit model into the robotic total station. And we just went out there and laid out all of the slab recesses for the restrooms, we were also using prefabricated restrooms on a job. So basically that one job, we had the opportunity to use new technology implement lean construction practices, which was mainly the last planner system. They did things like cluster groups, with the design team. And it was a true agreement. So that one job kind of got me started on my Lean journey. And it was the whole team, you know, that the team supported it, and all the way from the the owners, all the way down through design team, trade partners and our team as well. So there's a really good exposure to lean, and some of these new construction techniques that make things easier and better. Yeah, industry. So there's a plug for you there.
Felipe Engineer 8:00
I like that, you plugged it in, Frank.
Frank Coln 8:02
Yeah. So now what I think we have to do is that was about 12 years ago to 10 years ago, that we were doing this stuff, and it was all new. Well, some of the jobs that I've done since then. But we haven't done those kind of kind of things, whether or not it wasn't planned for it from the funds wasn't there to fund them or whatever. It's almost like as an industry, we, we haven't really taken that technology and built upon it, you know, it's not used on every single job site. And I think that's one of the reasons why our industry is slow to adapt to new technologies, and new ways of building so. So I think that we need to always make sure whenever we use those new techniques that we take them to the next project and when we use an innovative process or something that we build on that and take that to the next project. So I think that's what I tried to do, you know, in my career, and I think that helps people. When they learn something new that they you always build on it, you know, it makes you better in the future on the superintendent for me to a My name is Frank Coln. And you know, like Felipe said, I've written several blog post and, and, and things like that on the link builder and the lean construction blog. This is my first podcast, so I'm enjoying it so far. Good job, Philippe. And I've done several presentations with the lean construction Institute, a member of the South Florida. LCI group, as well as the Central Florida group also ran the Dallas Fort Worth Lean community of practice for LCR for about three years before moving to Florida, lots of experience as a superintendent in Dallas, Fort Worth and now in Florida, and then about 12 years of experience implementing lean in various different ways on on different projects.
Felipe Engineer 10:22
Yeah, thank you, Frank, welcome, man, you're doing a great job, too. I thought you were a podcast pro.
Frank Coln 10:29
I think we did just get off to we just got straight to business, which is what what superintendents like to do, you know, we like to get get straight to the get straight to the point.
Felipe Engineer 10:38
I like that you got your little notepad and your pencil and you're, you're scribbling and jotting down stuff, that's beautiful. I expected nothing else.
Frank Coln 10:46
You wanna remember some of some of the things we hit on, I want to remember and, you know, share, some share some stories on on that kind of stuff.
Felipe Engineer 10:54
I think you touched on the sequence of events that led you into construction, which is awesome, but what keeps you in? What keeps you coming back every day, Frank?
Frank Coln 11:03
Well, I've got to support my family, you know, my daughter's bank lives in Texas with her mom, and, you know, the South Florida lifestyle, you know, I want to have a boat eventually. So I do want to, I do want to do well and save money. And to do that, you know, we have to have a job. So. But it's, it's more than, than a job. To me. It's, it's I enjoyed building. And, you know, I told somebody one time, I just want to build buildings, you know, and that was in regards to a lot of the paperwork and documentation that superintendents have to do. You know, I said, Why don't I got to do all this, I just want to go out there and build the building. But what, what keeps me coming back is just the the opportunity to kind of, especially with building hospitals, you know, their people need health care. And you kind of feel when you drive past the building that you built. You know, there's a sense of pride there, I take pride in my work. And I want to do a good job. And I think, I think everybody who works in our industry, they, there's pride there, you know, people say that quality of work has gone down. And all of that stuff over the years, I disagree, because I see these guys come into work every day. And they want to do a good job. But there's I just think that, you know, instead of just saying, the quality of work has gone down over the years, we need to ask ourselves, why has that quality of work went down? And how are we? How are we managed because the guys don't want to, they don't wake up, you don't wake up and go, I'm gonna go do bad quality work today. People just don't do that, you know, so they come to work, they want to do a good job. So we've got to ask ourselves, well, why is the quality going down? You know, what, what's driving that? And maybe you have some input on on what you've seen is why is that quality going down? When we all want to come to work? And do a good job? You know, have you seen any issues with that?
Felipe Engineer 13:18
It was possible 20 years ago, to build the hospital with 16 trade partners, 16 different companies.
Frank Coln 13:26
And two, and the walls were square and plump.
Felipe Engineer 13:28
Square and plump. And the designers had tremendous amount of experience, like I was just, you know, in my early 20s. And most of the people around me were, you know, older than we are now. They were like in their 40s and 50s. And some people in their 60s. And they just had a tremendous amount of experience. And then over time, I've seen more specialization. And I've seen less experienced people as people have left the industry and, and not as many new people have come in. So we've had more specialization, we've had less experience, the complexity has increased. And the expectations from clients are still the same. I want my building yesterday, right? All that compounded together creates conditions where people are forced into not ideal situations. I've never seen or met anyone of the 1000s of people I've met in being in this industry that woke up and said I want to do a bad job today. or tried to mess that up on purpose. I've seen you know people in the trades, you know work themselves really hard to put into quality work and to stand back and be proud of it. And I've even seen people in the trades with family members working alongside of them, you know, them showing, you know, their kids or their nieces, nephews, other relatives, cousins, brothers sisters, and they want to be proud of what they're doing. They're putting so much time into it like you are like we are and they just want to do well and you know get a little bit of appreciate To even if it's just by themselves for what they're doing. So you think about, like you just mentioned hospitals, like the last hospital job you did, how many contracts that were there, roughly.
Frank Coln 15:12
There was probably 20, 27. And then you know, you have your specialty contractor. So we probably had 32 Yeah, 32 different contractors 32.
Felipe Engineer 15:24
Every time you, you know, have another company to come in with that specialization, you're just adding to the complexity, that's another set of people to coordinate to another thing to go back to the potential client with the designer with it is that specialization that we've seen, I don't think we encourage people to be a jack of all trades anymore. We encourage people to specialize.
Frank Coln 15:45
Well, we encourage them to specialize. And then in those, like even, like, say that the design team, you know, they have, maybe they have one god architect has one guy that draws the details, right. And he's not the same guy that that drew the overall design. So there's a chance for miscommunication there, there used to be drafting tables, where everybody would sit down and draft and you would get, you know, different work. And now it's computerized, and you have cut and paste details. And with the, and like, as a GC, we're, you know, we're constantly getting squeezed arm, our margins are lows, same thing with the architects, you know, they work, they're trying to save hours, you know, we're trying to save on general conditions. So all of that stuff kind of goes into the quality, the quality of work, you know, from the drawings, the quality of work on the contracts, you know, if you're, you're writing 32 contracts, you know, you, your company wants to have a boilerplate contract, well, not every single job is the same, you may need something extra. So we then review those scopes for, you know, completeness, and it's not that things are missed is that we try to make a boilerplate contract for every single person, you know, that's on that job, each project is unique, you know, and we need to treat it that way. So that's one of the things about using the same solution from job to job is the same percentage of general conditions may not apply to this project over here, because it's built on the coast or something like that, you know, there's just each project is unique, and we need to look at it that way, and come up with a process that doesn't have us involving more of our time, you know, to figure that out, but just come up with something that I'm where we're not trying to use the same solutions from project to project, you know, to kind of think about each one individually. So...
Felipe Engineer 17:46
We've known each other I think, probably for like, I feel like it's been more than five years. The first time
Frank Coln 17:52
Yeah, it goes back to the lean conferences and stuff. Yeah. Where we did the lean coffees together. Yeah, absolutely.
Felipe Engineer 17:59
Yeah, we said it, we just, you know, chance put us together to table. And I noticed, then Frank, and I still see it right now, and you just set it just now, you are a lifetime learner, my friend.
Frank Coln 18:11
And I appreciate that. On my jobs, you know, they, they're, they're unpredictable in construction, right? Um, you have, you have to, and you have to constantly manage that. And in order to create that, you have to plan ahead, and you have to use a, you know, you have to get everybody together and make sure that everybody understands the flow of the job and, and just involve everybody and get their input, which is why lean processes like the last planer they really work. And they work, it's drastically different than when I was coming up. It was push.
Felipe Engineer 18:52
What do you mean by push rank for people that are just still young? And maybe they've been on a job or two, and they just haven't spent that much time in the planning and scheduling aspect? What do you mean by push,
Frank Coln 19:02
Right. So I learned how to put a schedule together. It was basically, you put your schedule together. And if you're hitting, if you're always a few days, you know behind that milestone or something, then you're doing a good job, right? Because I was basically taught to set the bar high and never be able to achieve it that you always want to be hitting, you know, right under that bar. And then you have a good schedule and your jobs going well. But that causes us to push and it causes us distort the activities, essentially to earn a lot of checks in the mail.
Felipe Engineer 19:39
Frank, I just love that you said that. It admitted that you're like one of the first people ever to say that out loud so well.
Frank Coln 19:47
We start things too early. You know, the CPM schedules that we put together. You can you have so much information that you can get from those CPM schedule. And I, I've never seen anyone show the late starts of activities for most CPM schedule, we always show the early starts and those with the algorithms in the CPM, you get, you have early starts, you can have your start date. But it's all based on that, that critical path management. And we put the schedule together, we see the critical path. And then that's what me as a superintendent, that's what I want to make sure flow of that critical path doesn't get interrupted. The truth is that that's just one critical path that it's showing at that time. So you can have essentially 1000 different critical paths, that same schedule, it's just going to show you the one that is the longest activities that are linked together, that the longest chain of activities is going to be the one that currently shows you. So you can be working on critical path work, and you might get stalled. So a great work around is Oh, well, we can do this activity over here. You know, when it's not critical path, well, all of a sudden, things, things get jammed up, and we call it your schedule gets stacked, and you're working on everything the same time. And most of the activities are critical. And then you're fighting fires all day. So some of the things that we try to teach him. And I try to implement on a day to day basis is the last planar system and getting in your, your pull planning. To me when you start, when you do those pull plans as a team. You're basically starting from the end and working backwards. And that's very hard to do in the built environment, because we don't think that way. So so a lot of times, there's a lot of coaching involved in those sessions, and you learn how to do it. And then when you have your your pull plan for the particular phase, you try to identify the constraints, those things that are going to keep you going, the pull plan actually allows you to eliminate your float. And so when you're up there, pull planning with your trades. A lot of people a lot of superintendents have a problem because the trade partner might put up there, it's gonna take him 17 days to do a task and that Superintendent now we've got to get it, we've got to get it down. You know, I usually let them leave that 17 day activity in there because it if they are as some people call it, oh, well, he's sandbagging. You know, I know he can finish that in 10 days, but he's putting 17 days up there. Well, I let him put the 17 days up there, because to me that that creates some float, okay. And if he if he does finish it in 12 days, or whatever, well, then on the back end, we've already discussed the downstream trade from him. So they're already preparing and getting ready. Because when the trades Come on the job, it takes them, you know, three or four days to get their material and get all that stuff organized and really start work. So I don't let them I don't want them to put the wrong durations on the poll planets by any means. But I just don't think you should argue those durations, because we are asking for their they're the experts. We hire our trade partners, you know, because they are the experts at whatever scope, we're hiring them, right. So I want to trust their I want to trust what they're putting up there on the board. So So I try not to argue it. And I coach other superintendents and things not to argue those durations. It's hard to do sometimes. But we really tried to make that a point.
Felipe Engineer 23:58
If I had to guess, Frank, I would guess that you're probably coaching and mentoring a couple if not hundreds of superintendents.
Frank Coln 24:07
Because each job has different people, and I started, I started doing this about three years ago, it was like an aha moment. Right? So if I have the same process and use the last planner system from job to job, you know, I have it down. Yes, right. I've used it for a long time. So I know how to do it. And when you bring other people on, they may have some of our trade partners or something might have done it on a different job with a GC or something like that. So they may they may know how to do it and implement that system. And maybe a couple of them have never done it before. So your The fact is though that team has never done it together. So everybody's understanding is different. So I approach it now on the job as we're all going to learn this together. And we're all going to improve the way that we execute the last planar system together. So we start over at square one, you know, each time with not, you know, we don't set our expectations, like we're going to gain 30% on the schedule, overall, right off the bat, you know, because even though I've done it on several different projects, or mechanical guys done it on several different projects, that doesn't mean we're going to be able to do it well together, right. So we have to, and we don't talk about this, but but we really should, we have to talk about how we're going to execute that and together. And so when you start off a job, it takes, you know, maybe five to six to 10 weeks, before you have that synergy where you're all executing the process together, if it even gets, if it even gets to that point, where you're actually implementing the whole system on some jobs, I've only been able to implement the daily huddles or, you know, just do the pull plans, and then, you know, just bits and pieces. So you really have to evaluate the team. And, and make that commitment, if you're going to do the entire process of the last planner, you have to make that commitment up front. And, and make sure that you're allowing the team the opportunity to become comfortable with the process, before just slamming the whole entire thing, you know, down the team's throats, because that's when people throw their hands up and say, we're not going to do that. We're not going to come to your daily huddles, we're not going to we're not going to do our weekly work plans, you know, you have to really evaluate the understanding of the team as a group and not as individuals for it to get it to be able to work.
Felipe Engineer 27:07
Now, I like that Frank. And I just want to give you some feedback. You were on a panel for the league construction conference last year. And on that panel.
Frank Coln 27:16
Shout out to the lean construction blog.
Felipe Engineer 27:18
Shout out to the league construction blog, free advertising. No, they're good. They're good group of people over there helping to spread some some alternative ideas in the industry. And two of my friends were by more than a handful of friends, even the moderator, Brian's my friend, Elisa, Josh. And they all told me that I said, in the preparation for the event, because Brian likes to prepare, like I do shout out to Brian, he's also a scrum master. I love that. I love that about him. And my friend said that the things that they heard you talking about in the preparation, like they were able to take that back to their projects and do better. And they said Frank is like, legit. Frank is knows what he's doing. You got to talk to Frank, because like, I know, Frank, so. So the reason I reached out and contacted you, Frank is under the encouragement of fellow peers of yours, you know, working, in this case back in the Midwest, closer to your roots, we'll call it North Texas. North, yeah, they're north of the border of Texas. But we'll just say, you know, Lisa, and Josh are working in North North Texas extension. And I had to have you on. And I was I was an audience participant. At that part, Frank, and I thought your approach and how you're answering some of the questions, I knew that you're a good mentor out there. And then I didn't realize that I look back, you had done quite a few contributions to the lean construction blog. And with our new friends, the lean builders blog, what are some of the things that you've put out there and had what kind of feedback have you gotten from the stuff you've shared with the industry.
Frank Coln 29:02
One of my earliest posts, from the lean construction blog actually had quite a few views. I kind of spoke about the steps that we forget to implement when we do the last planar system on our projects. And I wrote that one, I think, in 2015, and that was one of the first few articles on their blog, and maybe it has the most views because it's one of the oldest, not necessarily it's one of the best, but it kind of shows you as a as a story. It was kind of a little bit vulnerable, talking about you know, how, you know, sometimes you get frustrated with trade partners and you're trying to push and this and that and then I had that aha moment where you know, a contractor actually called me out on one of the things that I was doing, and that that kind of made me realize, hey, if I'm going to expect our trade partners to, to be lean and reduce waste on their, in their activities and find ways to improve their day to day activities that I have to do it, you know, myself and not, and not close all the ceilings up man and threatened to close it up and then get the guys in there to do it when it's not ready, right, because part of being lean is you, you perform the work when it's ready to perform the work. And if I'm out there in the field and using using the drywall trade to motivate the other contracts Lastly, and just quote and close up the walls, then I'm hurting my own project, because that's going to be rework that that somebody is going to want to get paid for. So you really have to, if you're going to implement these kind of lean processes, you have to walk the walk. As you can't just you can't just talk about it, your actions in the field have to support what you're trying to accomplish.
Felipe Engineer 31:28
So when Frank's talking about a superintendent for a general contractor, using the drywall trade partner to accelerate things or close ceilings up with like acoustical ceiling, tile or hard, hard led ceilings, drywall ceilings, and walls, the other trades that have to put stuff in those might not necessarily be ready for a myriad of reasons. So often, I saw this in my first, probably the first 10 years of my career, Frank, I saw this tactic used by multiple superintendents like, like y'all go to some secret meeting, and you get told like the way to accelerate.
Frank Coln 32:06
They, they train us. They train us that way. You know, that's how that Superintendent 101. Yeah. Use the drywall to push work.
Felipe Engineer 32:12
And I remember on the first job, and I talked about this before, one of my early memories, I remember the framer, superintendent, just being worried, because everybody hated him, like the entire job. And I remember sitting in the trailer after work, and hearing him tell the general contractor Superintendent that he wanted someone to walk them to his car, because it was getting was getting that bad. And this was in a big city where you know, that kind of stuff happens. Nothing happened to him, he was ended up being fine. But it just didn't seem like that was the best way to motivate people in most minor system, like you mentioned, you know, I've seen a lot of times Frank, we do a phase pool, which most people that pool plan don't do. It's one of the steps that these steps that they skip, you can gain massive amounts of time, like, it's not uncommon to do a phase pool with a team of folks and design or construction and take months off the schedule. If you do it if you do it. Right. Right. And that's assuming you've made the milestones visible and some other things so, but you're totally right, sometimes, you can't implement it all. But you can do something. And I like that approach that you have. So that's cool. And I'm going to go back and I'm going to find your article for 2015. And I'm going to link it in the show notes. And we're going to drive that even higher than it is now.
Frank Coln 33:40
There we go, there we go. I like that free advertisement. I do want to start touching on some of those differences between the push versus pull mentality. And then what I what I've realized is the behavior that's needed to execute because when you said that, that foreman was afraid to walk to his car, that should just tell you right there that something in our industry needs to change. You know, we don't want to go to go to work and be threatened. And then as we have younger people wanting to enter the construction industry, why would they want to come work in construction? If we tell them, hey, you're going to work 12 hour days and you might get a fight? You know? Nobody's gonna want to work in construction if we do that. Yeah, nobody. So I use the term A while back, I was talking to somebody and said and said we need to start making construction more like an office job. Well, it's never going to be an office job. But with the new technologies that are coming out and some innovative thinking, you know, we can make the construction industry more more attractive to younger talent and It doesn't always have to be these 12 hour days, you know, we need to make a better reputation for construction workers. And I think it's going that route. Some companies have realized that and they talk about work life balance and things like that, you always have to have that. But at the end of the day, in the field, were still in, especially in Florida, I would say. So I would say, the East Coast and especially down in South Florida, you know, we may be eight to 10 years behind some of those, some of those West Coast ideas, or even seven years behind, you know, Dallas, Fort Worth area in Texas, in order to make things truly better, you have to start focusing on the behavior. One of the things that I didn't do early in my career, I learned all the technical aspects of lean ever I read the books, I learned the processes, and I got I studied them, I got really good at it. And then when I start executing these processes on my job, it's not working and people don't, they're just not all in on it. And I'm thinking Why? Well, they haven't, they haven't spent, you know, eight years studying this process that they don't know what it can do, they haven't seen it, where I wasn't necessarily changing my behavior to match what the process is called for. You know, if you don't have, if you don't have trust, and you don't have teamwork, these processes aren't ever going to work, you know, your team has to feel comfortable bringing up ideas, your team has to feel comfortable enough to try something new, and fail at it because we get stuck trying out new things because it's going to fail, or we take that to our managers. And they go, No, you're not going to use this product. Because, you know, the, the architects and it's not in the specs, and the architects not going to want to prove it, you know that we know what's in the specs, we know that stuff works. And then there might be a new, those specs are 20 years old, by the way, they they're just, they're old and outdated, they never update their specifications. So you know, if there's a new product or something that's come out, that helps secure the slab one of my pet peeves is uh, we're still paying will exclude moisture mitigation in our in our bids, and then, you know, we find out Oh, the slab, we need to do moisture mitigation so that our flooring sticks, it's a lot of money, it's anywhere from $5 to $8 a square foot to moisture, mitigate your floors, there's products out there now that are drastically cheaper $2 a square foot, but you have to apply them when you're pouring the concrete. So you have to be thinking about your floor finishes at that early stage. And we excluded and we ended up you know, change ordering the owner for it. So you know, owners could actually save a lot of money on moisture mitigation, you know, with just some, some lean thinking up front and saying, Okay, how can we solve this problem of paying $200,000 on every project to, to moister mitigate? Is there anything that can solve this problem and help us save money? Well, yes, there's several products out there that can do that. But you have to apply, you have to commit to spending the money upfront to spending less money upfront, knowing that you'll save it on the back end, we're not exactly there yet, in the whole process of things that it can be more risky. So what our industry about passing the risk down, and a lot of times, we don't want to take that risk on the front end to do something new. And because of the fear of failure. So it's the same thing. You know, in the field, if your guys are comfortable, and they trust you, you know, they might try this new technique. But if if they're afraid to fail, or you you get on to them for failing, you know, they're not going to want to try something new. So that's one of the behavior issues, you know, I kind of had to change is to make people feel comfortable with speaking up, don't just sit there in the meetings and agree and say yes to everything and then go out in the field. And it'd be completely different. We need to speak up because us as a group can help solve the problem, as opposed to just agreeing and then the problem still exists out there the behavior and how to kind of make the team feel comfortable doing that.
Felipe Engineer 39:45
I remember sitting in meeting in in a trailer not even four years ago, and the plumber was having trouble with something to do with the in Wall installation. And the painting foreman said because we had created a space an environment where people could speak up. The painting foreman said, Oh, in the last three jobs, I saw the plumber do this, and changed and made the installation flyby super easy and fast. And then once the plumber foreman heard him describe what it was, he instantly knew it would work. And he thanked the guy, the superintendent said, I don't think we would have had this type of exchange, if we weren't coming together in this different approach to let people speak up instead of me just having to be the solution giver.
Frank Coln 40:30
Right. Yeah. And that's one of the things you're constantly giving us solutions, you're only going to be as good as that one solution, when you have the input of everybody else, you know, you might have, you know, a mechanical guy could give an idea to the drywall guy, you know, things like that. So we need that on our jobs, and we have to do a better job fostering those kind of environments is drastically different from when I started. Just lots of things that push mentality, we've got to do a better job of showing and leading, leading the teams in the field, you know, to, to communicate and collaborate more often.
Felipe Engineer 41:09
So if we've talked about learning, we talked about approaching things with novelty. You know, they're all unique, they're unique snowflakes, and we love them all. Frank, what got you so turned on? Like, can you remember? Was it a person, or, or just that job environment, when you got just the light bulb went off for you? And you said continuous improvement is for me? Why is it important to you?
Frank Coln 41:29
Probably my personality type, but you know, I'm driven to do better. You know, as most people are, if we're going to do if we're going to continuously improve, you know, what that means to me is that we're not afraid to, to try those new things. And we're not afraid to, you know, go out on a limb and say, Hey, I think this will work better, you're either trying to save time, money, you know, put better work in the place. Those are the reasons you you want to improve, you know, to, to ultimately, we're all in the business to make money, right. So those small improvements, you know, can ultimately lead to changes in the bottom line. And so, so that's, that's why we do it. But you can't be afraid to try new things and to go out there on a limb and say, Hey, I research this product, we need to figure out how to use it, oh, well, the architect won't approve that, well, let's go. Let's go take it to them and propose it. Because if you're working in an environment where every time that you go to, to try to do something better, it gets shot down because of risk or whatever, then that's going to D motivate you. So I try to stay motivated, when somebody comes to me and says, Hey, this might work better gotta encourage them to do that. And that's what if somebody's struggling with implementing lean or feel like they're up against a wall or something, I would just say, keep pushing against that wall. Because don't let any of the negative things keep you from being motivated. Because at the end of the day, you're trying to do something better for your company or the client. And, you know, you need to make sure that you stay with it. Because there will be those times when you're up against the wall. And and people are, are not wanting to do the process, or they're not wanting to take the time to you know, evaluate, you know, a new product or a new way of doing things, something as simple as creating a rack for all the pipes to keep them off the floor. Right? That's a great idea. But I can't physically do that myself. You know, that's an idea I need to bring to the contractor who has all of his pipes on the floor. Right? Right. So when I take that idea to, you know, they give me pushback or whatever, you know, you can't let that demotivate you, you have to make them understand the why behind it. Right, right. And then they have to have that aha moment, you know, for themselves. And once they do, you know, it's like a disease. You catch it, and then you can't stop it, you know, and you start to see all of these things. And then you become the improvement guy, right? Or the lean person and you're always, oh, this can be better. This can be better than that. That's the opposite end of the spectrum and everybody's tired of you coming around, but you know, it, it builds. So it starts you know, it starts small, and then it It builds, you start to recognize these things. And then like for me going from the point of recognizing the waste and the improvement opportunities There's another step is to actually making that happen. And that's where a lot of people start to feel like they can't do it or start to feel like, it's too much of a challenge when that happens, because it happened to me a couple weeks ago with something, you know, I felt like, Oh, well, I can't implement this right now, when you start to feel that way, just take a small piece of it, don't, don't try to do the whole thing. And it's kind of like, take a small win, you know, pick something, whatever you see that you can improve, or you're trying to get done, just just take a small little piece of that, and, and have success in that as opposed to trying to go for the whole thing. You know, whatever it is, the Piper x, the Germans, you know, I want everything stored nice and neat, right? Well, getting everything stored nice and neat. But if we can just get if we can just take one piece, and say, let's just build one rack and get these pipes on that rat, then that's a start. And then we can attack the next thing as you're starting, you know, to recognize things that can be improved, and all of a sudden, the challenge becomes too daunting. Just take a step back and just do just a little piece of it. And that way, the team gets a win, you know, and then you celebrate that win. And then you take another small piece. And after, you know after a few weeks, few months, your jobs completely different. So that's kind of how I approach it, whenever I feel the task is too big or something like that, or the team is, is too busy fighting fires or something, we just take a small piece and start there.
Felipe Engineer 46:44
Super good approach. I remember working with that team, on another coast, the gold ghost. And they they wanted to they're having a little bit of challenge with site logistics and some stuff and they said, Can you just come in and just show people what a neat job looks like? Like any at neat, clean, clean job. And specifically, they wanted to do a little five us. What I like to think about is just can do cleaning up arranging neatness, discipline, ongoing improvement. It's translates exactly to the five s. So we went in, we bought the guy's pizza. I wanted to buy tacos, but I got overruled. So we bought pizza. And we just showed a couple pictures of what, you know, the different things look like. And then the the people run on our concrete said, you know, no one's ever asked us what we think. Can we show you something in the field? So we walked out in the field? And I asked, I was like, no, what you know, now, what would you do different? And I started making changes. And that's it. That's all I asked. I didn't tell them what to do I give them a solution. I said, here's a picture from a job that a lot of people recognize that is pretty popular in our, in our company, and showed some examples of some things that they did. And the job was like, you know, 100 times the size of what they're doing. They thought, if that giant job can do this, maybe we can do it. Because it started really small. The next thing I knew Frank, they got two months ahead of schedule, they sped up just by cleaning up and getting things neat. And then one of them was actually friends with the mayor of the town. And the job was such a shining example, they actually had the mayor come through the job site, and tour the jail. And just everybody in the whole project site was super proud. And we showed pictures to people in the company afterwards. And, and people were saying like, I've never seen a job that clean, it looks like it's done. And they were still in superstructure so far from done. But making big progress. It's those little things that have such a big impact.
Frank Coln 48:54
That decision for, that decision just to go go out there and just show them a different way. It wasn't, you know, you didn't demand anything from the guys, you just simply the decision was made just to go out there just to bring you on and show them a different way. And then those guys were they were empowered to to make it better because they It was like probably a light bulb went off in their head like, Oh, yeah, we can do that on our job too. Right. And it started small, and then it's just kind of showing them the examples, you know, it makes it work, you know, on a joint venture project in, in Winter Haven, Florida. You know, we did some things similar to that. And, you know, we made some decisions as a team that was questionable. We kind of shut down the ironworkers you know, for three days, because there was some things going on that that was dangerous that you know, the job wasn't necessarily clean. And that was critical path work. And we made the decision to undo the guys could they can do this stuff because they just came off of a large project. And I knew the crew could do it. But we had to make the decision to shut them down for a couple days. Not retrain them, but but just remind them of the fact that, hey, let's do these things and then do what we're what we know you guys can do. And they came back to work and the speed was increased, the quality was increased within fell in a weld inspections. But But we did have to stop we said, Hey, guys, something's something's wrong here. Let's stop. let's address each situation. And, and we did we stopped for a couple days, we talked about everything with the guys that are actually doing the work not not their boss's boss, not not only that stator with the crew actually doing the work. And when we started work back up, we call weld inspections. The weld inspector said, Oh, this is great, you know, you guys are doing much better. You know, the job was clean. We didn't have any near miss safety incidents. And they they finished two weeks sooner than they thought. And but we had to stop. We had to stop for two days. And there was some there was some of my bosses didn't understand it. At that time. This was a joint venture. Yes. So there was other interest, there was other stakeholders involved too, other than the my company, but we did, we stopped for two days. And at the end of their scope, we were two weeks ahead, within that fell them what well, inspections, we didn't have safety incidents, it was a good decision that that helped in the end. But those are the kinds of decisions that you have to make. In order for some of this further lean thinking to work. That's that's what it's about. It's about stopping, evaluating the problem asking what's causing the issue, and then addressing those root causes, that are the problems. And when you address the root causes. The same issue doesn't keep happening, you address it, you address it there. So sometimes you have to pause and ask those questions.
Felipe Engineer 52:24
Glad to hear that's a great story of respect. You kept it with the people, you know, most involve closest to the work, right? you invested even though you had to stop, you invested two days and you got back 10 you got the inspector saying how much better stuff is that you know, you're doing the right thing. And now, you know, you probably earn the respect of that crew. And that's going to carry forward, they're going to take those lessons to the next job. And then, you know, they might be able to do the same somebody might be able to in the same situation in the future and be able to prevent, you know, catastrophic incident from happening. loss of life or someone getting injured. or, or, you know, building coming in late later because the stuff that we build Frank, people need it. And we just don't know, even amusement parks, people need amusement. Right? So everything we do, you know, it's somebody needs it, there's a benefit out there for what we're making just cool. What would you tell somebody that's young? Like, let's keep it to the field side, because I just love field stories. And I'll tell you about a superintendent cornered cornered me in the field recently, but I want to hear a story from you about what advice or guidance would you give to somebody who's young, up and coming and maybe it's a little bit ambitious, healthy amount of ambition wants to do better, wants to move up? What advice would you give them Frank?
Frank Coln 53:45
Go ask questions of the people doing the work. So don't be afraid to go out there in the field. And, and watch. Because that's where I learned the most. You know, you need to go up, go up to those plumbers and and go up to the the guys hang in the duck work. And don't be afraid to ask them questions about what they're doing. You know, I learned everything the hard way. But you don't have to do that. It's optional. You know, you're saying it's optional to guys. Yes, it's optional, okay. You don't have to learn that way. And you can go you can ask questions. You can you can seek out those mentors. If you're interested in lean and becoming involved in some of those processes, like the last planner system or target value design on the office side, something like that. That's drastically different. You know, you're going to need a lot of mentors to to mentor you through that and to give you advice, so I would just just tell them to stick with it and act like a sponge, soak up all the information you can from all different sides. Because if you're if you're asking Questions. And then you're doing your research, you're doing your homework, you know, you'll be successful. So, so stick with it and ask lots of questions, perfect advice.
Felipe Engineer 55:12
I got cornered by a superintendent earlier in my career, he said, I need you just to shut up for a little bit. I got some knowledge. He was about to retire. He's like, I got some knowledge to drop. And I would like for people to pick it up. And he didn't have, you know, next generation coming in. His kids wanted to do something else. And he gave me some really good nuggets about flow, and a talk about workflow and just gave me some stuff. And I was like, way it was I was the knowledge came to me before I was ready to do anything with it. And like you said, don't give up. Keep asking more questions. And I learned more, and it's been really, really good. You sound so calm, Frank. I just love that. Is it almost lunchtime for you? What time is it?
Frank Coln 55:58
Around here? We'll take a break at nine o'clock and a break at two o'clock. And we do the coffee sceetos? The little the little coffees. Oh, nice. So yeah, they do the Cuban coffee. And then we mix it up. And there's a couple guys that, that make it every day at nine and then just low shots, coffee, play espresso, and keeps us going for the day. That's awesome.
Felipe Engineer 56:23
That's perfect. Because it leads me to my next thing, Frank keeps people going. So I'm sure you can think of people that you've mentored recently. What kind of advice can you share? For someone who's listening? who's working in our industry design designers to design a construction? We don't discriminate Frank, and I love everybody. What would you tell them if they feel like they're stuck.
Frank Coln 56:45
You know, you have to take action to get you unstuck, right. So, you know, if you get you get stuck in the mud you're going to need, you're going to need something to motivate you. So what one of the things, I'm on a group of people that I've met, you know, at lean conferences and things like that, or our LCR core group, something that gets me unstuck is just reaching out to those people. And those, those monthly calls that we're on where we share, you know, what we're struggling with, or something like that. I don't want to call it a support group, but it's just a group of people that, you know, that get together every month. But after those conversations, I kind of get recharged. So if, if, if my schedules still, you know, we're never behind schedule, but if my schedule still struggling, and I'm implementing the last planner, and that's supposed to make, make us happy, make us gain on it. And it's not gaining. I'm down in the dumps, you know, I call those people or, you know, those conversations, I can have kind of recharge my batteries and say, okay, it's not working, let's try something different. whatever that may be that that helps at the job, but just those conversations with, with like minded people in regards to lean and implementing new things on jobs kind of keeps me energized. conversations like this, you know, with you, fleabay. And when I hear when I know that there's a podcast of construction, people talking, you know, I'm gonna listen to that, and that's gonna recharge, that's going to recharge, you know, my energy to go to go be better, you know, on the side when I get in those during those downtimes.
Felipe Engineer 58:45
That's awesome, Frank, it's people like you and having that kind of reaction, which fuels me to do this show. I love that. Yeah. I love that feedback. No, thank you so much. Yeah, all my other listeners, and all the new fans of Frank, and I'm a frank fan, for sure. You know, we super appreciate you taking the time to listen to us. And as you're going through your work day and get a little bit of inspiration, you're giving us inspiration, too, because you're out there making it happen. I really liked that, Frank, that, that you said that. One of the things I've told some of the people I mentor is, you know, make some friends outside of your group. Like you've got you have friends in school, you have friends growing up, you might even consider some of your family members, friends, heaven forbid. Don't write maybe, right. I was encouraging was like, you know, talk to somebody you trust and bounce things off of them. Even especially when you're frustrated and things are are hard. And it's good sometimes to to tell people like hey, I don't want your advice. But I just need you to listen. Or sometimes you want some advice and I wanted to ask you something I think is going to be funny, and I don't even know why. This just occurred to me, Frank, but have you ever gotten some good advice from a project manager ever?
Frank Coln 1:00:01
All the time, all the time.
Felipe Engineer 1:00:03
He was ready. He was like, I got you Felipe.
Frank Coln 1:00:08
As a superintendent, as a superintendent, sometimes we don't listen, we don't listen to those pm. So they have great advice, but we have to remember to listen to it. Sometimes when they start talking, we just kind of shut up or our ears. No, no, I've worked with some really good, good PMS. Some of them have been key mentors for me. You know, in the early days, you know, people from back like Jeff Ratcliffe was a strong mentor, he was the type of project manager that will walk the job and ask, why do I have a pallet of Floor Leveling product right there, right? Why is the pm asking me about that? No, it cost a lot of money. So But no, he would walk the job. And he would, he would pick up on things that that, you know, would make me think as well. So always, always search out the people that are going to make you think and make you think from a different perspective. Listen to those p M's if you're a superintendent, he you got to make sure you're listening to them, because that they'll have a different perspective than what you have. So that should be it should always be a team effort. Superintendent, PM, even though they might be like this on the ladder, and my decisions in the field can affect the PMS responsibility. Vice versa, the PMS decision can affect you know, the schedule and stuff. So you've got to be a team and, and treat each other as such.
Felipe Engineer 1:01:46
Well, Frank, you just made so many project managers happy right now. And, and I want to remember project managers, Frank didn't say that you have to do what the pm says. He said, You should listen to try to understand.
Frank Coln 1:01:59
And I said sometimes we turn off the our listening skills when the PMs are talking.
Felipe Engineer 1:02:05
So we love you, PMs.
Frank Coln 1:02:06
But yeah. But in fact, that's something that I've that I've, I've kind of learned to I seek out their advice. Because early in my career, I you know, I didn't and I think that that blog posts that you're going to highlight actually says something about project managers or something like that, that, you know.
Felipe Engineer 1:02:29
That's some knowledge from 2015, still good today.
Frank Coln 1:02:32
Felipe Engineer 1:02:34
That was like yesterday, for us rank was like, just yesterday. Yeah, that's true. That's not even that long ago.
Frank Coln 1:02:40
It seems like a long time ago does. My daughter was young, and, and nice. And she still thought, you know, her dad was great. Now she's a teenager. And so she, she's completely different than when she was, you know, when she was seven and eight. She's now 16 years old. So, and I just can't picture her merging into traffic and you know, getting on a highway. And that's, that's happening
Felipe Engineer 1:03:08
My son's 11. And I was telling him earlier this month that said, you know, one day you're gonna have your own kids, and you're gonna, they're gonna say stuff to you, like, you're saying to me right now, and I'm gonna be there. And I'm gonna break out laughing so hard, and you're gonna know why I'm laughing as hard as I'm laughing in that moment. Because of what you're saying to me right now.
Frank Coln 1:03:29
Yeah, what goes around comes around.
Felipe Engineer 1:03:31
Absolutely as good to me, because one day, you'll have little kids of your own. What's something you want to tell? You know, the people listening to the show?
Frank Coln 1:03:38
Well, I'm glad that there are listeners to this show. And if you do listen to this show, and you're in construction, make sure make sure you let other people know, because I think some of the guests in the past. You know, there's stories on every construction site. And there's stories of people. There's stories of great things, their stories of innovation, we need to share those stories. So if you're in our industry, and you're working in construction, every day, you get up, put on your work boots and go build things. Make sure you tell people about that. There's a lot of good takeaways, a lot of good leadership lessons that you can learn on the construction sites as well. Don't stop improving. And always look for a better way. Make sure you're trying to build a team as well as build whatever project whatever building you're building, you build that and remember that you're building a team as well. That's what I'll leave you with Felipe.
Felipe Engineer 1:04:38
Yeah, dropping the nuggets all the way through. I love and all the way from the other side of the country in beautiful Florida.
Frank Coln 1:04:46
That's it. We got palm trees. Great times over here. So come visiting time.
Felipe Engineer 1:04:52
very special. Thanks to my guest. I'm Felipe Engineer Manriquez. The EBCF Show is created by Felipe and produced by a passion to build easier and better. Thanks for listening. Stay safe everybody. Let's go build!