Bringing Lean Concepts to CNG Fueling Station Construction

Look for the 'Bright star in the dark night'.

Look for the ‘Bright star in the dark night’.

Let me start by stating what is obvious to any companies that are operating in the CNG-for- Transportation industry in North America…it’s a bear.

As we at InsightFuel begin the process of setting our course for the next 1-3 years, we find ourselves using creative business planning discussion phrases like “looking for the bright stars in the dark night” and one that our owner, Jeff, was recently introduced to, “Strategy under uncertainty”.

Although uncertainty abounds in our industry right now, one thing I am certain about is that these times call for extraordinary execution in planning, designing and operations. No one is carrying underutilized resources. Nobody has “extra” money (you know…like my kids always used to ask me for when they were young).  As well, programs and projects cannot have unexpected cost overruns and lengthy schedule delays. We’re all “Leaned-up” just to protect our businesses.  It’s for those reasons that Lean concepts have a clear place in the construction of CNG fueling stations.

Now, I have to come clean on one thing before I continue pronouncing the value of Lean concepts… I hate (okay Mom, I strongly dislike) Lean terminology. All the terms like “Muda”, “Heijunka”, “Kaizen”, “Poka-Yoke” and the like irritate me and so, I will not be using any of those in describing opportunities to improve execution.

Below are four ways to improve project execution:

Standardization and Commonality 

Whether in the design, Bill of Material (BOM) selection or field work, standardization reduces errors, time to complete, and cost. Standard engineering practices and standard designs allow for more easily understood and followed drawing sets, more accurate BOMs, and provide opportunities to pre-fabricate and assemble things in a shop environment which is usually better than doing it in the field on the fly. It also allows for better purchasing practices which translates to buying that which is needed and at a better price. Nothing makes vendors happier than having customer come to them needing special stuff in a huge hurry.  Standard procedures and tasks in the field lead to higher quality, error-free results.

The Five Ps (there’s really six but one may not be appropriate) 

Proper Planning Prevents P__ Poor Performance. Doing work in a “fits and starts” manner typically breeds errors, unnecessary cost and delays. Although counterintuitive to some extent, delaying the start of work until truly ready can beat getting an early or on-time start when not ready. I have a project background so I am very familiar with starting before 100% ready, but enough has to be ready to work effectively.

Get (and stay) Organized 

A clean drawing package, well communicated to all that will be using it, organized tools and equipment that are in good condition, parts that are orchestrated for the timing and location at which they will be required, a written plan/task list to execute cleanly and review regularly, and a process for closing out a project, will pay dividends throughout the project and into the next.

Select your team carefully

Most projects require the help of parts suppliers and contractors or subcontractors. Who you select and why you selected them can significantly impact your outcome.  Cost, Price & Cheap are rarely the qualities best used to select partners, because that’s what suppliers are, partners. Why select suppliers that do not operate under the same high level performance standards that you do? Some suppliers provide “stuff”, others provide a proven track record of successful experience, knowledge and wisdom. When beneficial (and it usually is), buy from companies for what they know, not just what they sell.

InsightFuel Logo A Refreshingly New Idea for Clean Fuel Transportation

I chose this topic because InsightFuel is laser focused on adopting and continuously improving lean concepts internally as well as finding ways to take them to our customers. The quality of the materials we use is second to none. The specialized jobsite equipment we employ is proven. And the experience our folks possess is invaluable. Call us to see how we might help your next CNG fueling station project.

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