As initiatives such as lean and BIM (building information modeling) continue to move deeper into the construction industry, contractors are evaluating which are right for their particular operations. While some might view these two to be separate endeavors, others in the market believe there is definite value in tying the two together.

Gilbane Building Co.,, Providence, R.I., for example, considers the two to be integral to jobsite safety. This was the topic of a recent industry presentation from the commercial contractor to the Lean Construction Institute.

William J. Gilbane, Jr., president and chief operating officer, Gilbane, says it all started as a cultural shift in how the company views safety and progressed to become part of its overall mission to maximize value on projects.

He adds, “Safety is a lean enterprise initiative of ours and it matters because of the people on our jobs each day, their families and their loved ones. The discipline and effort it takes to make a project safe is intertwined with the discipline and effort it takes to plan, schedule and put in place quality work. Fully integrating BIM into these efforts just makes sense from a safety planning perspective.”

According to the company it made a decision in 2007 to move forward on new safety plans, but found this required a transformation, both in behavior and culture to create a safety approach it calls Gilbane Cares. Applying the principles of continuous improvement, minimal waste, and increased value to the company’s safety program, the company’s safety initiative touched on leadership engagement, proactive task reviews and planning, increased communication, and worker input, among others.

Gilbane demonstrated the value of promoting such an initiative not just from an executive perspective, but also at the field level. Rick Kelliher, senior project manager, Gilbane, has played an integral role in driving home the value associated with using lean process improvement techniques, along with BIM processes.

According to Kelliher, such techniques have resulted in fewer accidents, more efficient schedules, and an improvement in logistics planning. Specific components of Gilbane’s lean-safety approach include planning for pre-fabrication to reduce hours worked onsite and using new materials and equipment to create a safer work environment, among other initiatives.

Gilbane continues to illustrate its industry leading approach though initiatives like lean and BIM. Tying lean and BIM together and driving the message home from both an executive and field-level approach could ultimately be the key to success.