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Continuous Improvement at Herrero Builders


Continuous improvement, most of the times referred as Kaizen, is a lean practice that promotes process enhancement in the organisation. This blog highlights how Herrero Builders, a well-known construction company in San Francisco Greater Bay Area, applies PDCA cycle, standup meetings, visualisation tools and partnerships for adopting continuous improvement in their daily operations to align teams and increase efficiencies during the end-to-end construction process.

About the Company

Herrero Builders is a construction company in the San Francisco and Greater Bay Area established in 1955. The company started its Lean journey in 2005 when it decided to commit to the Lean Methodology to create real value and eliminate waste in the construction industry. Herrero Builders was the first company in this sector to create the Director of Learning position and a learning department as part of its strategic plan to become a Lean organization. Herrero started its Lean journey by creating study-action groups to read “The Toyota Way” and by implementing the Last Planner System in all its projects in 2006.

PDCA is a cyclic model for continuous improvement proposed by Deming in the 1950s. The framework is based on four stages: Plan-Do-Check-Act, which gave rise to its name.

  • Plan: Define a set of objectives and sketch the steps needed to accomplish the goals.
  • Do: Execute the actions defined in the previous step.
  • Check: Contrast the actual result with the expected ones to understand what worked well and what did not.
  • Act: Using your findings, make adjustments and set new standards that should be used in the next plan stage

Herrero Builders uses this cycle at two different activities levels. Firstly, the PDCA is used as an everyday life thinking: plan the work, execute it, check the progress and adjust activities required. Secondly, Herrero Builders uses the PDCA for supporting the architecture and construction projects. For that purpose, they have defined a set of quality tools, some are adapted versions of the standard and others are new ones created by the company to fit their needs (see the exhibit below)


Aware of the importance of visualising these four sections during the project lifecycle, Herrero Builders has designated an area in a hallway where the tools of the PDCA are displayed. This initiative facilitates the organisation understanding of what needs to be done and when (Plan area); the communication of what the company is processing and producing at specific times (Do area); the evaluation of root causes if any process deviation using the 5 whys analysis (Check area); and the apprehension of learning for next levels using A3 reports (Act area).

The improvement cycle is organised every 4 weeks. The project manager held a standup meeting with the cross-functional team to discuss and analyse the successful practices and the ones that need improvement. The meeting is similar to a lesson learning session and the results are summarised in an A3 Report.

06 Herrero Builders - Figure 6.11

Herrero Builders has established partnerships with US universities and the Lean Construction Institute to support the company continuous improvement process.

To conclude, as shown in the Herrero Builders’ case, continuous improvement is a paramount part of the lean adoption. Its value lies in understanding practically what activities should be promoted and which ones should be enhanced, modified or replaced. To maximise its efficiency, the continuous improvement needs to be developed at different levels (daily thinking model and project models). Also, the case showed the role of visualisation and partnerships in achieving this goal.

Finally, as part of this change management and cultural change promotion, the company has enabled an electronic platform (SharePoint) where employees can access Lean content such as tools for real achievements, strategy and communication.

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

Herrero Builders’ Best Practices are presented and described on more than 15 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Herrero Builders’ chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of Lean product development in multinational companies.

The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.


Herrero Builders’ Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Interested to become a member?



Lean Analytics Association

Dr Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as an internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

Herrero Builders

Paulo Napolitano has over 30 years of construction experience as a General Contractor. He has been applying Lean Principles in projects and organizations since 1999. He combines research in innovative areas with practical experience to improve team performance, organization performance, and develop a culture of innovation. His main focus is on Product Development and Product Execution.

He also has been working with General Contractors, Architects, Consultants, and Subcontractors in South America, Europe, and North America. Project sizes that he has worked and he is still working today: from 5 million to 1.2 billion dollars.

Lean Analytics Association

Javier Ricardo Amaya Silva is a project leader at Lean Analytics Association. He graduated with honours from Universidad Industrial de Santander with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and thanks to a merit- based scholarship, he obtained his masters’ degree in Engineering and Management of Manufacturing Systems from Cranfield University. There, he researched how Lean and Industry 4.0 technologies can transform the logistics operations.

Before, Javier was a 2-year consultant and developed projects for multiple Colombian manufacturing companies, developing Hazardous Energy Control programs and Electro-mechanical risks assessment. Also, Javier has a vivid entrepreneurial spirit and since 2013, he is the director of a start-up in the interception of the agricultural and technology sector.

Myrna Flores
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