With the principles of lean design and construction catching on in foodservice design, designers and kitchen equipment contractors need to work more efficiently with architects and other members of the project team. One approach that is growing in popularity is integrated project delivery.

As a 25-year veteran of the construction industry, Nick Masci, LEED AP, vice president and senior lean practitioner for Haley & Aldrich, Inc., an engineering firm in Bedford, N.H., has seen his share of change orders, miscommunication and other major delays in project timelines that have cost both money and relationships.

"Construction is filled with waste and projects are costing way too much and the quality isn't always great," says Masci, who heads up the New England community of practice for the Lean Construction Institute. In bid-style projects, "many people have different ways of doing business due to changes in technology and an increasingly flexible work force. At the same time we want more from our buildings. We are asking more from our teams and this is why they are becoming more fractured."

As a result Masci advocates for lean in all aspects of construction management and foodservice design, and particularly, for integrated project delivery (IPD). Masci defines IPD as a "form of project management where experts and team members who are best able to make decisions about creating value for the customer are included in the very beginning of the project."

Collaboration from the Beginning

The IPD way represents a major departure from heavy bidding processes, the latter of which usually includes architects completing drawings and other documents that get bid out to other players and require changes when differences of opinion arise. IPD avoids those inefficiencies and changes by bringing teams together earlier in the process so final documents and agreements can be set in collaboration.

"A plumber knows where to install pipes better than an engineer sitting in an office miles away," Masci says. "There are too many disconnected hand-offs in a construction project and this has caused us to become too transactional in our interactions and we become disconnected from the value of the project. A major component of lean and IPD is being respectful of people and giving the work back to people."

From the beginning of the project, all contractors and, in some cases, sub-contractors will sign the IPD agreement regarding scope of work, fees, payment, budget and design details. An IPD agreement might have up to 10 signatures.

While it may sound like a "too many cooks in the kitchen" type of situation, it's become easy to efficiently manage IPD. A project management team (PMT) consisting of representatives from each area will manage the documents and project going forward. Within the PMT, there might be more specialized project implementation teams focused on certain value streams. Rather than having multiple players worry about different exterior design details, the project implementation team will take charge and in a more collaborative fashion, handle all exterior aspects of the building.

Todd Guyette, principal and owner of the foodservice design firm Colburn & Guyette in Rockland, Md., continues to increasingly take the IPD route with new build projects. "In our case, if there is a kitchen equipment contractor involved with the general contractor they can provide information to help us in the design process," says Guyette. "Coordinating with them and having their input earlier on in the project is key and makes our job more efficient."

Value Engineering and Holistic Viewpoints

Having the ability to value engineer a project much earlier in the process — before finalizing the documents and specifications — represents another benefit of IPD, Guyette says. This prevents Guyette and his team from having to make changes that cost time and money.

"To me the biggest advantage for us is that we handle the value engineering earlier in the process and we don't have to redo everything after it goes out to bid," adds Guyette.

In order for IPD to work, however, "the ownership team really has to commit to the lean process," Guyette says. "The lean consultant should be part of their side and have the power to direct others in the process so everyone is on board with this way of working."

When collaboration happens earlier in the process, team members can work together toward a common goal: the value of the project for the customer. Viewing a project holistically in that manner can also help with the details.

"What's nice about IPD is we don't try to work too fast or jump ahead just to meet a schedule," says Guyette. "We 'work slow to go fast,' meaning we make the right decision at the right time, rather than providing information to the team before we're really ready." In IPD, everyone works together to make sure all details are covered before moving to the next step.

Benefits to the Customer and Consultant

For the foodservice operator the improved value of the project represents the biggest benefit of IPD, Masci says. "Time is money," he adds. "When we don't get the project right from the beginning we miss things — there are inaccuracies and then we are spending money trying to go back. With IPD we can add value back in and give customers things they didn't expect because we were all working together from the beginning."

For foodservice consultants, IPD helps bring them into the project at earlier stages when they can offer their full expertise and experience. In addition, IPD improves the "feedback loop." In lean, the notion of the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) loop becomes quicker because collaboration happens earlier on in the project. In IPD, when a problem or point of discussion appears, the PMT can bring people together faster to fix issues or revise details.

Challenges with IPD

IPD's biggest challenge? It's a paradigm shift, says Masci. "You're not working just for your company anymore, you're working for the project," he adds.

Working out the technical details of how team members get paid can also pose challenges in a non-bidding situation. "Generally, the team comes up with the expected costs for each part of the work and everyone charges against that," says Masci. "Profit is let out at certain points in the project."

In other cases, the architect might still pay the foodservice consultant in a lump sum.

"There has to be a much higher level of trust with IPD," says Masci. "But the advantage is you build stronger relationships. For decades we've had this antagonistic way of doing business. Owners were hit with so many change orders they've had to bid harder or have become more skeptical. But that could change as more people focus on IPD."