Cabinet and Millwork Installation

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Lean Installations

Pat Gilbert

Have any of you guys applied Lean to installations? If so please share.


1/30/16       #4: Lean Installations ...
Mark  Member

Lean really applies to manufacturing processes in a controlled enviroment.
Unless you're in total control of the field conditions, a lean approach toward installations would probably be a disappointment, possibly an expensive one.
There are far too many variables- other trades and their schedules/installs, site conditions- level, plumb, square, to spec. i.e.; did the framers use the same plans, keep the same tolerances as you? And what about all the materials and trash around the site- can you even get into the building easily?

Hell, I'm very happy if i can keep scribes to 1/2" on a 36" tall cabinet these days- go Lean on an install? It would be peeing up a rope.

1/30/16       #5: Lean Installations ...
Rich Kuban  Member


Since I am in the closet organizing business, I was reluctant to comment. I was able to utilize lean concepts in terms of eliminating waste. Since our product is delivered as components, whenever possible unit parts were packaged, loaded, and unloaded together.One improvement was to load the delivery vehicle in reverse order of installation so components were installed as they were unloaded. Second was visual controls to sort tools and mark what tool box they belonged in, or what compartment in a vehicle. This was applied across all toolboxes and vehicles to eliminate searching.This also saved a good amount of time putting tools and equipment away.

The key is to fix what bugs you that you can control, and develop consistent processes. There is always room for improvement.

1/31/16       #6: Lean Installations ...
RobertNH  Member

LEAN on the install side of things mainly applies to planning.

I went to a 'Pull Plan' meeting last week. It's where all the Subs meet and discuss the process of their install. What needs to occur before I arrive so I may do my job.

The GC gets to set their schedule of progress and we get to insure it can happen.

By design, this should eliminate the hold-ups, return trips and short days (where my guys still need to get paid).

Again, by design, it works fairly well.
There's always that hiccup, but for the most part, it's well worth my time and effort.

1/31/16       #7: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

Thanks for the responses.

Mark that is a great idea.

Robert, how many contractors are willing to do that? It sounds great though and agree it would be a huge savings in effort.

2/1/16       #8: Lean Installations ...

The 'Big Boys' do it quite a bit. Typically I don't have to go there, thankfully.. I'd spend most of my time on the road.

2/5/16       #9: Lean Installations ...


Lean absolutely applies to installation. Sometimes its big things and sometimes its little stuff. Things like keeping your screw box clean and organized with only 1 item per compartment, training your helper how to reduce the number of trips in and out of the house, looking at the order you complete things. A big one to me is to have my vehicle organized so everything gets put in the same place every time.

2/11/16       #10: Lean Installations ...

Lean has worked for us in our installations
Organizing tools
Organizing trailers
Constant cleaning
one piece work flow for door installations, screw caps, door bumpers, door alignment,
door handle installation, vacuum and on to the next drawer/door after everything is good on the previous cabinet leaving it ready for home owner use.
I have tried lots of different ways with the companies I have worked for over the years
processing the job with a lean attitude works so well for me in my own business hands down.
all of my work is in homes that are renovations with the homeowner in residence.

2/11/16       #11: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

Thanks Guys

2/12/16       #12: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert


Why does one piece flow matter in installations?

2/12/16       #13: Lean Installations ...
Rich Kuban  Member


I would tend to one process flow on installs. To Dan's example, I would drill for door handles, then install handle screws in holes, then hand start screws in handles, then tighten screws with screw gun.

An example of lean on installations was I sold one size handle consistently. Rather than measuring and marking for each mounting hole, I used a jig for that size handle that registered off the bottom or top edge of a upper or lower cabinet door. The jig also had a center of the handle registration used on tall cabinets. My convention was to install tall cabinet handles centered on 36" AFF as is customary with passage doors. This was a lean process for cabinet handles. I also rarely did knobs because of their tendency to loosen on the one screw over time.

2/12/16       #14: Lean Installations ...
Dan c

The one piece flow mattered to me for the time it saved and the quality thats left behind as you move on to the next part.
On some of the larger kitchens (45+ boxes) I found myself going round in circles over and over again until I have probably touched one cabinet 20 times.
I also felt it left a better product for the client to look at at the end of the work day
as people always seem picky about the un adjusted door and never seem to see the small scratch or dent.

2/12/16       #15: Lean Installations ...
Mark  Member

As I read the replies to this thread- and they're all good ones- it occurs to me that "lean" field practices are really what we've been calling "organized" installations for years. Again, my view of the lean manufacturing process involves control of the variables through planning and having everyone following the same practices, working to the same goal, as a co-operative effort. Leave your own facility, get to the jobsite and all that typically flies out the window. I may be being a little acerbic, but when you involve the PM's, GC's, architects, designers and other trades, it's more of a knife fight.
Back to the OP's question though, lean practices in your own house can only pay dividends to you and of course you should use them.
But- it's a good idea to pee up a rope? ;-)

2/12/16       #16: Lean Installations ...

One piece flow would have sure helped me on a job several years ago.

The installers decided to batch the door adjustments in the interest of being "efficient". They hung all the doors with the intent of dialing them in as one large batch.

Without any notice the flooring guy developed a opening in his schedule so was able to expedite overall project completion if he could get in over the weekend and do his part. He sanded the floors and put down the swedish finish on Sunday. It took about three days for the finish to harden enough for the cabinet installers to get back on the floor.

Problem was the client, Director of Surgery for a local hospital was able to come up to the edge of the doorway and peer in at all the slotchwise looking cabinet doors. Panic set in and he had three days to turn this into a full blown psychosis. Needless to say he hunted for defects with a digital micrometer for about three weeks after everything was installed.

If the guys that hung the cabinet would have dialed in each door as it was hung this never would have been a problem.

But they sure were "efficient"!

2/12/16       #17: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

Hanging the doors and adjusting them would have solved that problem?

Correct me if I'm wrong it seems like one piece only matters when you have to get flow.

In an installation you do not have to have flow.

2/12/16       #18: Lean Installations ...

You do not have to have flow in installations.
but if you can use it and move less in doing so and save time its pretty good thing to try.
The way I look at it is constant improvement in the quality and time taken to perform a task to maximize my profit.
If I find a different way of performing the standard set of tasks and its an improvement I work with it
everything has to be an organized work practise but if that practise is not the best method
and some one can think of an idea that improves it in some way then it will be part of the new best practise.
I feel that I have always been organized in my work but until I really started looking at how to improve things I really started to see great time savings with less effort applied.
That is what Lean does for my installations.

2/13/16       #19: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

I completely agree on the idea of continuous improvement. That mindset puts you in the driver seat.

3/3/16       #20: Lean Installations ...

I was measuring a small kitchen yesterday that sure could have used some lean.

The floor was well swept and it had plenty of lighting. The problem was that this room was also used as a staging area for maybe a dozen tool boxes other supplies.

The space had some measuring challenges so required that you take a lot of extra measurements to corroborate the ones you already have. I had to move these tools several times. When they were out of the way for one measurement they were in the way for the next one.

A simple roll around caddy would have probably saved the carpenters, electricians and plumbers at least one day of non-value added motion.

3/3/16       #21: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

I have thought about this before too.

Since you rarely see a roll around except on a commercial job and then it is a job box, poorly organized, it seems to me it is because of the weight and room a roll around would take.

I have since decided that stack-able milk crates work best. I wheel in 4 of them stacked on a hand truck. Then I have 3 stack-able husky tool boxes and 1 Sears small drawer tool box that I stack on the hand truck.

I can bring this is in in literally 5 minutes.

Funny in the old days (doing tract work) I had a bench/stool, a skill saw, screw gun, nail gun, molding gun, hand miter saw, and pouches and that was it. Admittedly not complicated kitchens, but I could put in 2 houses a day or 4 apartments a day by myself, and I was not the fastest, average, installer.

3/3/16       #22: Lean Installations ...
RobertNH  Member

Now I hope this comes through. This is what I used on the site. Well an adapted version of.

I had bought two of this and used sections of the second to make my tool cart. Several of the guys have devised their own versions. One Gent actually built his own. I will search for a picture. Very cleverly done! His is a break-down system that takes a few minutes to assemble on arrival, but so little space in the vehicle. Built up from the 4 wheel dolly we use to move cabinets in the space, to adding the bars to make the 'A' frame to haul the loose&longs to re-setting the bars to assemble the cart.

All the guys now the version of the cart to 'A' frame as a second cart. Oh did I mention, it also becomes a table or saw stand by placing the poles under..

Okay, now I have to find you picture!

There are many ways of being efficient on the sites. And as we all know, efficiency means profit.

Stanley Stackables

3/3/16       #23: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

Please, don't be a tease.

3/6/16       #24: Lean Installations ...


Couple of videos for you, 1 is my mobile toolbox for camping and when I go dirt bike riding, not exactly installation but it demonstrates what you can do with a tool box.

The other is our delivery trailer for garage cabinets. This trailer was custom order with extra height so we can roll in a 8' cabinet. Doors and shelves go on specific carts.

3/6/16       #25: Lean Installations ...
Tim Schultz


That's the coolest lean improvement I have seen in a long while. I especially like how you swap the empty carts with full carts and how the strap downs are tack welded to the cart.

Keep those videos coming. This is awesome stuff!

3/6/16       #26: Lean Installations ...
Pat Gilbert

Thanks Derrek

I like the idea of the small toolbox.

I really like the carts, great idea.

Here is another video. Although I don't see how the roll around can be useful

Lean installations

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