Lean Case Study: Celgene

The Turner-Highland-Langan design-build team at Celgene’s North American headquarters in Summit, New Jersey, is using lean construction tools and deep collaboration to deliver the project at a blistering pace; a mere 13 months after breaking ground on the 550,000-square-foot, six story office building and parking garage, the team is beginning interior fit-outs and is on schedule to turn over in early December of this year.

“Out of our first partnering and Kaizen events with Celgene, we knew that our client wanted to go fast,” said Jim Folgia, project executive. “Celgene is growing rapidly right now. They’re hiring at an incredible pace and they need additional office space to support that growth. They need desks as soon as we can deliver them. Celgene’s project director, Doug MacGorman, always told us ‘Turner, Celgene will never be the reason you’ll be late.’”  So very early on, with speed as what the client valued most, and a commitment from Celgene to always be a responsive, collaborative partner, the Turner team set some goals of its own, one of which was to be the model lean project for the Turner region.

“We are using every lean tactic that we can,” Jim explained, quickly rattling off more than half a dozen tools and methods, from Paperless Submittal Exchange and Process Mapping to Collaborative Trailer, Nothing Hits the Ground, and Five S. He described Pull Planning sessions, daily huddles, engaging with subcontractors about their ideas to make Celgene Building L a leaner job (the team has set up an email “hotline” for good ideas) and more. But, he added, “We are have also implemented a number of lean solutions that are unique to this project – including prefabricated full brick panels, enhanced modeling and use of Total Station/laser scanning, prefabricated and preprogrammed VAV’s, and exhaustive management of the supply chain – all of which have helped us realize significant time savings, without sacrificing safety or quality.”

“Originally we wanted to do the whole building in precast but soon realized the two upper floors, where the offices were located, needed wider spans of open space than the precast would allow for,” said Ross Rosen, project engineer, adding that the choice of precast also freed the design team up to focus more on those office spaces, while the pre-cast contractor focused more on the design of parking garage levels. While the team was able to successfully design and place the project’s 781 pieces of precast in just four short months – achieving one of the most important time savings of the project – using precast also posed challenges, the most significant of which was how to tie in to the structural-steel office floors given the variation in tolerances between precast and steel.

Thankfully, the trust and collaboration between project stakeholders, as well as the client’s deep engagement in the process, has made the team agile; they are able to make key design and construction decisions on the fly, confident that they will develop the correct solution and have the support necessary to implement it almost immediately. “Being that we’re design/build we were able to quickly bring in a consultant who helped us determine that we could drill and epoxy the anchors. This solution did have an upfront cost, but from a coordination point of view it saved us a lot of time and potential problems down the road at the start of steel erection,” added Ross.

Prefabrication was another major driver of efficiency at Celgene and the team found a number of unique places to employ it with significant results, including the more than 200 VAV boxes and the building’s brick exterior wall system.

Describing an important instance of rapid collaborative problem solving, Justin Barbely, MEP engineer, credited the vendor responsible for supplying the VAV boxes with a great preassembled solution. “VAVs are made up of multiple components and typically they’re shipped to the jobsite in pieces. These pieces then have to be un-crated and sorted, and then a composite crew of multiple trades has to assemble and hang them, make connections to building systems, and program each individual controller in sequence,” he explained, adding that this process traditionally takes approximately 8-10 hours per unit. “But what our vendor provided us is a VAV with all the necessary components preassembled, air-tested, and preprogrammed, which cut down our installation time by essentially the entire 8-10 hours per VAV.”

Lean project or not, winter weather in the Northeast can be a construction challenge in and of itself, and the project team at Celgene knew they needed a solution for the exterior wall, which called for brick, almost impossible to put up in the cold. “We were able to procure a full-thickness, prefabricated masonry brick panel that allowed us to get the right look and that structural integrity we needed. Within five minutes of walking the fabrication plant it was clear this was the right solution,” said Ross. He continued, “The original schedule was twelve weeks with traditional brick. With the prefabricated panels, we scheduled the erection for nine days.  So while the schedule was the biggest driver here, we also achieved the highest level of quality.”

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Doug MacGorman, Celgene’s director of Construction, Engineering, and Carbon Management. "In 35 years, I have never seen a building come out of the ground this fast. It started in the conceptual design phase, flew through the Planning Board, and continues to this day. Every time I walk the job I see something new in place.”

Stepping back to reflect on the bigger picture, Jim expanded on his original list of goals and high hopes for the project, saying, “We want the Celgene Building L project to provide many things for the company. We want this to be the Lean model for the region and our site has already served as an organic, grass roots center for other major projects starting up in the region to emulate. We also want this to be a design-build model project for the company.  We want this project to be the kickoff of a great relationship with a rapidly expanding company in Celgene.  And, we want to serve notice in the local subcontractor and client community that this is the way we intend to do business going forward."

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