Four years ago, the leaders of Akron (Ohio) Children's Hospital faced a pressing question as they began planning a new facility to house their neonatal intensive-care unit, outpatient surgery and other growing service lines. Should they undertake such a major capital project through traditional design and construction methods, or take a risk and try a new approach that could save money and produce a better result?
The hospital had been using Lean Six Sigma process-improvement methods to boost quality and reduce waste in its clinical and business operations since 2008, even sending some employees for Lean training at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Using a Lean approach to the design and construction of a facility seemed like a logical next step, said Bill Considine, Akron Children's longtime CEO.
“We knew if we did it right, we could put a building up for 20% less cost without sacrificing anything,” he said. “We said, 'Let's do it and let's not second-guess ourselves.' ”
What they ended up with was a seven-story, 369,000-square-foot facility known as the Kay Jewelers Pavilion, completed two months ahead of schedule at a cost of $180 million, $60 million under original cost estimates. “It exceeded all of our expectations,” Considine said.
While most hospital leaders still opt to construct new facilities in the traditional way, a growing number of hospitals are turning to Lean principles to guide building projects, said Dan Heinemeier, executive director of the Lean Construction Institute, a not-for-profit based in Arlington, Va. “It's a natural progression because so many of them are using Lean in their hospitals already,” he said.
Akron Children's began by assembling a team of companies that would work on the project, including Dallas-based architecture firm HKS and the Boldt Co., an Appleton, Wis.-based construction manager. Both firms have expertise in Lean principles. The hospital's leaders also chose Welty Building Co. and Hasenstab Architects, both based in Akron, to work collaboratively on the project.
“Our local contractor and local architect had not done Lean projects before, so it was a huge learning process for them,” said Linda Gentile, Akron's Children's vice president of construction and support services. “One of our goals was to educate our local trade partners so they could support us in future projects.”