Civil Engineer (M. Sc) of the Year, Lauri Merikallio,challenges to think in a new way
Vision of the infra-industry veteran, also called a godfather of alliance and new integrated procurement model, is to raise Finland to the top of Europe in execution of demanding construction projects. “Small victories every day,” he says.
“THIS IS ABOUT VERY LONG-TERM WORK, NOT AN ABRCADABRA THING. INFORMATION MUST BE SHARED BY GENUINLY WORKING TOGETHER, NOT BY BLOGGING IT.”
A year in USA changed Lauri Merikallio’s world. When working as a visiting researcher at Berkeley University about ten years ago, Merikallio picked up the principles of LEAN philosophy and brought these with him to Finland. He experienced most of the construction field challenges being resolved with this philosophy. “This is about very long-term work, not an abracadabra thing. Information must be shared by genuinely working together, not by blogging it.”
Before his California experiences, Merikallio worked on various positions at National Board of Public Roads and Destia. “I graduated from Otaniemi in 1992 during the deepest depression. Additionally to highway engineering, I also focused on construction management and economics. I worked on fixed-time positions for several years until the situation at some point stabilized and I got involved with the reorganisation process of the National board of Public Roads and its execution.”
According to the Master of Science in Engineering of the Year, the approach angle of the industrial engineering towards acting has always been close to this heart. Customers have always a central role in construction processes. “In Berkeley, I got strongly excited in developing of the processes and culture of the field that it changed the course of my career also in Finland. I realised that one has to be independent to deal with these matters.”
FORWARD WITH THE ADVICE OF INTERNATIONAL MENTORS
Today, Merikallio works as one of the shareholders in Vision Oy found by him together with Antti Piirainen and Jani Saarinen. As operations expanded, Eero Moilanen and Anders Nordström have also joined in as shareholders. “We have combined two demanding models in our operations: LEAN philosophy and Alliance model originating from Australia. We have found cooperation sides with clear concept and operating philosophy on the background of operations. I have been privileged to cooperate with so many brilliant people sharing the same goals.”
Merikallios’s network is indeed very wide and the operational eco-system has been constantly expanding. Many of the best sparring partners are found from the world, like Lean Construction pioneers Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell from the United States as well as the developer of the Alliance model Jim Ross from Australia. He says that the role of Ross has been remarkable in launching alliance procurements, such as the Lielahti-Kokemäki procurement, of the Finnish Transport Agency
Within the nearest past, the Master of Science in Engineering of the Year has initiated and led execution of two 2-3 year construction development projects, LCIFIN1-2, i.e. exploitation of Lean in construction industry. He is also strongly involved in joint development project of public contracting entities, IPT procurement as well as the joint RAIN procurement of industry’s companies in the near future.
Joint research and development project of leading public contracting entities, IPD or Integrated Project Delivery, aims for development and testing of integrated delivery models in demanding public procurements. The purpose is to test and apply the Alliance model in demanding real estate and construction procurements and make Finland the top deliverer of such procurements in Europe. Also, the Alliance model developed in IPD procurement is currently being tailored into BICard (RT-kortti).
BIG-ROOM WORKING STREAMLINES THE CONSTRUCTION PLANNING PROCESS
FLOW EFFICIENCY IS TO BE DEVELOPED FURTHER
Cooperation partners of the MScEng of the Year describe the man as the father or at least the godfather of Finnish construction integration and cooperation and LEAN construction. The man himself denies the honour. “This is not a one-man show.”
On the other hand, he does have the features of a sea-dog. Merikallio spent his 50th birthday on his sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean so no-one would be able to surprise him. He actually wanted to become a skipper when he was young. “I came to my senses and applied for construction department at Otaniemi. Never had a clear choice of a construction field.”
Having passion for his present work, Merikallio’s purpose is to help the customers to develop their construction projects so that the projects produce more value for customers and are less wasteful. He emphasizes development of flow efficiency as a new development area; more installations instead of constructing. “I hope that the processes could also be developed at the customers’ end. Procurement process should be improved in a manner that leaves enough time for procurement and execution launching. The main difficulty lies perhaps in getting the project parties to commit to importance of time management right from the initial stage of the procurement. Preparedness should be improved from the starting points.”
In his opinion, working inside a box is customary for construction sector in Finland also. Due to that, teams are always put together again and again for each procurement. Motor vehicle and shipbuilding industries have a different way of thinking. Many argue that construction sector cannot be compared with these two. And that motor vehicle building is easy. Once the representatives of Porsche-Consulting asked the following question from event participants: do your really believe that all constructions are different and unique? Even though you build all objects using the same processes and the same constructions.”
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE IS BROKEN WITH A MIRROR
Merikallio spends numerous days a year coaching and speaking around the world and Finland. He says that he is the second most well-known Lauri among the well-known Lauris in international lean Construction and Alliance forums, right after the honourable professor Lauri Koskela. Memento from these trips is most likely a lector for the next Finnish Lean Construction event.
He is committed to each training like to the first training and has given all by the end of the day. The ability to get excited over and over again is important. This is one of his trumps. And lessons also; engaging own experiential learning is included also to Vision values along with setting the bar higher, ensuring results and energized living.
All in all, the men have high energy levels. Mind always work towards the new while matters advance rapidly. Merikallio says that things must be taken care of quickly. “Just do it.” The most efficient way of learning is learning from your mistakes.
• Graduated from University of Technology in 1992 as a Master of Science in Engineering
• Comes from Sysmä, gone to school in Sastamala, now lives in the Punavuori region of Helsinki
• Married, two children
• Free-time activities include listening to and making music, sailing, following basketball, hiking and tinkering at family’s country house.
INTEGRATED DELIVERY METHODS
Work and contract forms based on relational contract aiming towards cooperation of parties determining the relations between operators, operation principles and mutual goals.
Can also be called cooperation or solidarity models, integrated delivery models or integrated project deliveries (Integrated project Delivery, IPD).
Abbreviation in Finnish – IPT.
Lielahti-Kokemäki procurement was the pilot Alliance-form object of the Finnish Transport Agency.
The most advanced integrated delivery model, where the customer chooses the central contractual partners early at the beginning of the procurement.
Partnership network designs and delivers the procurement together with the customer.
Contractual parties for a joint organisation, set mutual goals, draw one mutual contract and a joint commercial model as well as share the risks and rewards together.
Measuring and displaying the results is also important. “I gladly invite to discuss issues. The essence of success is learning. Einstein also said: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ The saying ‘If no-one speaks out, then nothing changes’ also has a grain of truth in it.”
He doesn’t deny experiencing resistance to change on labour front all the time but that is completely understandable.
Merikallio often encourages people to change their way of thinking by standing in front of a mirror. He believes that increasing our ability to change our positions would probably be generally beneficial. "The quickest way of changing systems is to change oneself and taking our own approach."
He himself says that he has the nerves of steel. Even thought life has sometimes been hard, he has managed to get the upper hand. “I do not get provoked. I can certainly count my patience to be one of my virtues. Short temper has no room in this line of work.”
THE ROLE OF SUBCONTRACTORS TO BE STRENTHENED
Merikallio is known as a developer of public and advocate of innovative procurements. Population is aging rapidly and learning environments need new ways of thinking. Merikallio believes this to be the chance of the construction industry. “We have a lot to give; Finland needs more efficient hospitals, services for seniors and learning environments to help to reduce sustainability deficit. Our builders must also help to turn the industry into one providing competitive services. More value and more elimination of waste. And all this can only be done with better cooperation.”
For instance, Vison acts as a procurement and alliance expert of the city in Tesoma welfare services procurement together with PTCService Oy. The city of Tampere will execute the welfare services of Tesoma in a new type of partnership. The city will provide the services in a joint effort of own organization and a bid-winning service provider or a group of service providers. The service providers will be selected in a negotiation procedure and the service is planned to be provided in the form of alliance.
Merikallio emphasizes that the future projects should aim to getting subcontractors also more strongly involved in cooperation. This would increase the know-how and understanding of the whole procurement already in early stages. “The way of thinking where the customers, designers, main contractors and subcontractors act in completely different ways will hopefully be broken in the future Finland.”
MScEng OF CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
• High-quality engineering expertise
• Inspirational person easy to identify with
• Positive impact in the field, activeness and promotion of the profession
Selection is made by the management of the Finnish Association of Civil Engineers. The title has been awarded since 1997.