LEAN in the midst of a pandemic

LEAN - now more than ever


LEAN is about continuous improvement and further development. That’s particularly useful when there are substantial challenges to overcome, such as a global pandemic.


LEAN in the midst of a pandemic

LEAN - now more than ever


LEAN is about continuous improvement and further development. That’s particularly useful when there are substantial challenges to overcome, such as a global pandemic.


As the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. This couldn’t be truer in 2020. And thankfully, KAEFER has a competitive advantage: LEAN.

LEAN is a philosophy that systematically achieves incremental changes in processes at all levels to improve safety, efficiency and quality. The overall aim at KAEFER is to become a 100% LEAN company. We’ve made significant headway to achieve this and the finish line is in sight, but there are still a few corners to be taken before we get there.

The very nature of striving for improvement and efficiency makes sense in ordinary times and brings even greater advantages in extraordinary ones. “The benefit of having practiced LEAN at KAEFER for so many years is that it organically makes its way into daily working practices,” explains Axel Schulz, Head of Corporate Operations Excellence LEAN.

“We don’t call them ‘LEAN Projects’ as much anymore. Rather, they are projects in which LEAN is naturally practiced.” What happens then, when faced with a global pandemic or a collapse in oil prices? Safer and better-quality projects are certainly an advantage in that case, but can LEAN be applied across the board?

Being LEAN means being flexible

“Regardless of whether it’s a LEAN project, LEAN initiative or a LEAN job, LEAN as a mindset changes the behaviour of everyone,” Schulz says. LEAN also encourages flexibility, which is how the global team at KAEFER managed to adapt to the circumstances and embrace the digital world in further development even more than ever before. “The thirst for knowledge and need for learning in our employees never stopped.

So, we had to respond by building an online version of one of the most popular training sessions this year,” explains Rebeca Talamantes, Global Lean Trainer & Coach. “It wasn’t easy, but we redesigned the format and adapted it based on participant feedback.”

“The LEAN team worked hard to ensure the sessions delivered effective learning in various countries and cultures. They can be proud of what they’ve achieved. Well done!”

Chris Foulkes CEO KAEFER Ltd in the UK & Ireland

Going fishing

The positive response from colleagues inspired the global LEAN team to go further and develop 5-minute, e-learning nuggets to generate even more interest in LEAN. This is an example and is designed specifically for the broadcast on social media and to be shareable as well:

“The e-learning nuggets were designed to give basic insights into LEAN for those just at the start of their LEAN journey,” says Thiago Silveira, Global Lean Trainer & Coach.

“There are also some simple tools, which can improve daily processes, and this leads to a culture of continuous improvement in the whole company.”

In addition to providing insight into the LEAN methodology, this new format is used as a fishing tool to identify those that can be trained to become coaches and LEAN facilitators. The aim is ambitious: to reach and educate 100% of KAEFER. Yet it starts to become more tangible when you break it down into manageable fragments, which is an example of LEAN thinking in action. “We estimate that around 20% of those exposed to the nuggets will develop further and go on to become LEAN facilitators,” Schulz postulates “and by including supervisors, foremen and operators in our efforts, we reach around 20,000 people, which is 90% of our operational workforce.”

This goes to show that KAEFER is at a tipping point when it comes to LEAN and just at the cusp of it becoming integrated into daily work routines rather than an optional extra.

Something for everyone

The LEAN training sessions were due to continue face to face in April of 2020. For obvious reasons, this became impossible. As necessity is the mother of invention, the sessions moved online. Global trainers provided a total of 12 sessions since March for beginners and advanced participants covering different LEAN topics, supported by local keynote speakers. There were three training levels: a basic one for new starters, advanced sessions and Lean Leader trainings. With 500, 250 and 25 participants respectively, the sessions offered something for everyone. “From large scale webinars and four presenter workshops with two local representatives to more detailed, higher-level skills workshops, the focus was on how LEAN is practically applicable and useful,” Schulz goes on to say. “We made everything relatable and encouraged participants to question how LEAN can be made tangible and connected to their exact job and their specific projects.”

Interestingly, the fact that people were online rather than in groups of people led to greater engagement in discussion sessions, as there was less pressure felt to ‘perform’ in front of others.

Also, participants were free to choose whether they want to actively participate or simply listen. Furthermore, the participants were given assignments to complete in between sessions that were directly applicable to their own area of expertise. This provided a high degree of practical relevance.

A rocky road can be navigated better together

We can see the positive evolution of LEAN in many areas around the KAEFER world, which makes our operations more digital, smarter and easier. One example is the digital Lean Site Management, supported by DPMS (Digital Project Management Solution).

The path to becoming fully LEAN has always been marked by challenges. Yet in an odd twist of fate, the challenges of this year have quite clearly focussed the resolve of KAEFER people and provided the necessary impetus to get ahead. The talk has always been of the KAEFER Lean Journey and many can now clearly see where it is going and looking forward to the destination.


“The fact that people were online led to greater engagement in discussion sessions.”

Axel Schulz Head of Corporate Operations Excellence LEAN

Are you interested to learn more about LEAN at KAEFER?

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