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Lean Competence Development at Herrero Builders


Lean Competence Development at Herrero Builders

People are one of the three crucial elements of any successful lean product development; the more knowledge employees have, the quicker lean concepts can be implemented. In the case of Herrero Builders, developing appropriate competencies and skills in the organisation ranked so high, that the company created a department of learning right at the beginning of their lean journey. Herrero Builders crafted a Lean concepts construction-sector based training for internal staff and for external partners. However, the coaching was not carried out alone. Herrero created the Study Action Groups initiative to support the apprehension and application of Lean principles within the organisation. Together, these actions generated a common-language working field and aligned the organisation departments to succeed in providing superior construction services.

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.

For building a Lean construction organisation, Herrero Builders recognised the importance of a clear communication and organisational alignment. For succeeding in this commitment, the company, led by Herrero’s Learning Director, designed a Lean training programme. Using this course, Herrero coached all its staff and then, extended it to its partners. Herrero crafted a 10-week course free offered for partners in order to guarantee to speak the same language (Lean terminology). As a result of this initiative, the company has trained 130 internal staff, and 54 organisations in the construction industry.

Another initiative that Herrero conducted to ensure the Lean philosophy appropriation in the organisation is the Study Action Groups. Fundamentally, it is a book club, where, every week, a book chapter is selected and read by a group of 10 to 12 employees. After that, the members gather together and hold a session where they can discuss the implications and the applicability of Lean concepts in the Herrero’s business. The Study Action Groups’ participants are from different backgrounds and departments in the organisation, which promote different perspectives and enrich the quality of the discussion.

Originally, Herrero based its training and Study Action Groups on the “Toyota way”, using the examples of the Japanese Lean pioneer. But, after a while, the company evolved and created “The Lean training at Herrero”. This was possible because, by that time, the organisation had already collected enough examples in the construction sector, which consequently, enable them for creating a customised, industry specific, in-house training.

Clearly, Lean appropriation needs competence development in the whole organisation, and as a Herrero Builders demonstrated, involvement with other members of the Ecosystem. The training permitted to manage a common language between departments and organisations. Also, Herrero’s case shows the paramount of conducting parallel initiatives as the Study Action Groups to reinforce the Lean learning.

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.


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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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