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A January blizzard in Milwaukee is certainly not unusual. Getting 60 people who were invited to an evening event to ignore the winter weather and still show up? That's a little out of the ordinary. But we had a feeling they'd be interested in the topic when we started the planning process…

Pepper has been committed to building in Wisconsin for more than 35 years. With a variety of projects currently under construction and our Milwaukee office continuing to grow, our team is constantly striving for new ways to bring value to our clients while also advancing our industry. Efforts to support both goals come in a variety of programs, processes and best practices. But Lean Construction is one that holds particular appeal for Pepper Sr. Vice President Jeff Johnson and Sr. Project Manager Karen Newhouse, as well as Advocate Aurora Health colleagues Victoria Navarro, Director of Planning, Design and Construction and Beverly Gamrat, Construction Project Manager Sr.

With the fresh start of a new year, this group decided that it was the perfect time to combine efforts and start spreading the word about Lean – a topic that certainly isn't new to local companies. Traditional silos of knowledge, work and effort are broken down and reorganized so that projects can be developed and managed through relationships, shared knowledge and common goals. The question for many companies, design teams, contractors and trade partners is where to start and how to set up their construction projects for Lean success.

Help is on the way

To help give these companies the resources they need, Jeff, Karen, Victoria and Beverly decided to go right to the top – the Lean Construction Institute. Formed in 1997, LCI is a professional membership organization that seeks to improve the construction and design industries through Lean and Integrated Project Delivery approaches. We won't dive into what they do and how they do it – you can learn more at But the organization is out there – both across the country and around the world – and our foursome of Lean leaders knew that they wanted to bring its many benefits a little closer to home in Milwaukee.

The nearest established "community of practice," which is what LCI calls its chapters, is in Chicago. And while a "CoP" requires commitment and certainly can't be established overnight, the team set Pepper and Advocate Aurora Health as founding corporate members and got to work.        

The first step was to create an interest group of people in the diverse industry-related roles mentioned above. If the interest existed and the group could organize and grow, they could apply to be a fully sanctioned CoP in time for the LCI Congress – an annual education and networking event – in October 2019. As word and interest spread, a core team of 12 was established to plan an introductory, invitation-only event for 60 people that would help to ensure a good cross-representation of potential members. The date was set for January 23 and everything was ready to go. And then…it started to snow.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail…

Despite what Mother Nature delivered that evening, almost the entire list of invitees came to Pepper's office to be part of something new. It is a testament to the power of Lean that so many people were willing to make the extra effort required to be there. Denise Erminger, LCI's Communities of Practice Manager, joined the group and contributed to the opening remarks. The guest speaker for the evening was Andy Hill, the CEO of Glass Solutions Inc. and recent winner of the LCI Chicago CoP's Bob Krier Award for his advancement of Lean initiatives.

Then the real work started. Guests were divided into six groups and asked to come up with event topics that they would like the group to explore in 2019. Two topics were ultimately selected from each group and the Milwaukee LCI interest group was officially off and running. In addition, another keynote event was scheduled for March:

Topic: Lean Construction Applied to Non-Acute Environments in Healthcare

Keynote Speaker: Al Manshum, Vice President of Facilities Services, Advocate Aurora Health (AAH)

When: March 7, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Where: Advocate Aurora Health Conference Center, 2930 W. Dakota Street, Milwaukee

This event is open to everyone. We hope to see you there!

For additional information about the Milwaukee CoP, contact