Six years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, thousands of people still had not been able to return to their homes. One nonprofit home rebuilding group that had been attacking this dire situation was the St. Bernard Project (SBP). Founded in 2006 by Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney, an attorney and teacher, respectively, from Washington D.C., SBP set about building a volunteer network as well as attaining financing, but found the needs of the community overwhelming. In 2011, the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) began working with SBP with the intent to help the group make substantial improvements by increasing quality, productivity, safety and reducing customer wait time in the rebuilding of houses.
SBP desperately needed to develop a better way to schedule the hundreds of volunteers and construction contractors who rebuild houses. Also, to get more people home, the group needed to reduce construction (lead) time – but do so in an affordable manner, while retaining quality.
“Our construction process simply wasn’t as effective as it could have been, and, as a result, we weren’t bringing as many families home,” said McCartney, director of construction.
Using Toyota Production System (TPS) techniques, “management boards” that track everything from volunteer/worker schedules to inventory to status reports on homes being rebuilt were displayed on the walls of the headquarters. Also, SBP staff and volunteers became committed to the TPS philosophy of no longer being “afraid” of problems; instead, it searches them out and attacks them thoughtfully with a mindset of constant improvement.
By implementing TPS, the following efficiencies took place:
- The time it takes to rebuild a home dropped from an average of 116 days to 60 days – a 48 percent improvement;
- Amount of houses being rebuilt per month jumped from 8.6 to 12.8;
- Improved processes: the collaboration has consisted of sharing TPS know-how and working closely with St. Bernard Project’s professional staff, skilled construction supervisors and AmeriCorps members to improve homebuilding efficiencies.
“Before TPS, it was difficult to see problems – which caused wasted time and duplication of work,” said Toyota General Manager Jamie Bonini. “We want to instill a disciplined, but flexible construction model.”