Looking down at the world, both failure and success are easy to see.  

H. Kit Miyamoto, Ph.D., S.E.

I am standing at 1,400 feet high looking down on the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, once the highest in the world. The wind is blowing and storm clouds are forming along the skyline in the distance. I am at the construction site of The Exchange 106, now one of the tallest buildings in Asia.  Engineering was started a mere three years ago. With amazing speed, it has now reached 106 stories. The skyscraper is a steel gravity system with a cast-in-place core system.  Welding quality looks great. The design is a super simple but elegant solution engineered by Jason Louie and our San Francisco crew. Architect/Developer is Mulia Group. Yes, the developer is the architect. Mulia’s work is most fascinating and unique. The interior design features an exquisite finishing with Italian marble – directly procured from an Italian quarry.

Construction management is led by a man named Roland with a staff of half a dozen. They are long-term employees of Mulia and have been building game-changing high-rises throughout Southeast Asia for the past couple of decades. The general contractor is China State Construction. But Roland and his team are deeply involved in managing the construction, the general contractor and its subs. They are achieving such quality and speed by partnering. This means that his job is not top-down managing these contractors, but helping others achieve their objectives.

“We don’t follow a standard CM approach of assigning legal responsibility and work to hold them contractually accountable, but rather, we work alongside contractors as our partners,” Roland said. “Designers, engineers, developers and the contractor work in the same room and we troubleshoot and figure things out.”

Through this process, the team at The Exchange 106 continuously identifies waste, eliminates it and makes the process better. In contrast, the neighboring site – a high-rise currently at foundation level – is truly disastrous due to planning mistakes, delays and accusations of fault. It is run by an international contractor.

As Roland speaks about managing the construction at The Exchange 106 tower, it comes to me that his approach is very similar to the “Kaizen” system. This management system developed by Toyota Motors has been implemented by many U.S. companies such as Intel and Nike. It is known as the Lean process in the U.S. and is based on respect for people, maintaining a teamwork environment, eliminating waste and continuous improvement of the process. It is so interesting to see how Roland’s approach incidentally mirrors the philosophies of Lean and, when successfully applied, leads to the execution of such incredible projects.

As I write this article, I can’t stop thinking about John Taylor. J.T. has been working with our company for more than 55 years. When I joined the firm 30 years ago, he was already a senior-level guy. He has been a true mentor to me, teaching me through his actions to understand respect for people and teamwork.  His health experienced a downturn recently and, now in his 80s, he’s decided to retire. To me, he is a true Kaizen guy and team player. I think he would be very proud of our involvement in such great projects and people. I will miss him.

H. Kit Miyamoto, Ph.D., S.E., is the CEO and a structural engineer for Miyamoto International (http://miyamotointernational.com), a California seismic safety commissioner, and president of the technical nonprofit Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief. He specializes in high-performance earthquake engineering and disaster mitigation, response, and reconstruction.