Lean construction principles are becoming increasingly popular among major construction companies worldwide. They are believed to boost productivity while minimising costs and waste.
If you have ever wondered how lean construction principles work and how to implement them in your organisation, then this article is for you. We have demystified lean construction in this article and provided practical ways to implement its core principles in your organisation.
Six Lean Construction Principles
1. Re-evaluate customer value.
The focus for contractors and companies in the conventional construction setting is giving the customers exactly what they want, as stated in the plans. Lean construction principles deviate from playing safe. Instead, it expects contractors to do more research and know why they are into a specific project. This involves working with project stakeholders from the start to determine the best value for the customer.
Lean construction also requires that every stakeholder is on the same page regarding the purpose of a project, including the engineers, architects, subcontractors, and even suppliers. There must be a solid synergy to ensure the client gets the best value possible.
2. Determine your value stream.
With an evident vision of what value is to your client, you can proceed to the next lean construction principle, which requires you to set up a process that delivers the value. This is the value stream.
Start by understanding and defining the requirements that help you deliver actual value to your customer. These often include materials, labour, equipment, and information. Evaluate the list and strike out any unimportant or wasteful step.
A value stream map can help to understand better how your resources flow, enabling you to create value for your client while avoiding waste.
3. Avoid construction waste.
Construction waste is one of the problems traditional construction processes face. It comes in different forms, including shipping in more materials than required without adequate storage and introducing features with no additional benefit. The premature movement of equipment, materials, and people to the work site before they are needed is also a form of construction waste. Others include assigning the wrong expertise to a task at hand, waiting for the completion of prerequisite tasks or the arrival of essential materials, completing parts of the project before the expected time leading to gaps, and doing tasks inefficiently, forcing part or complete rework and labour waste. Using aftermarket machine parts and reconditioned aftermarket Cat parts can greatly reduce the cost and waste with the upkeep of site machinery.
4. Design a consistent workflow.
The fourth lean construction principle is to keep the workflow consistent with no interruptions. You want your process to be predictable and dependable at every step of the way. One way to ensure this is to prioritise effective communication among the stakeholders, customers, project managers, subcontractors, and other parties involved.
A strong collaboration among all parties in the correct sequence creates a steady workflow. For instance, if a segment of the project is unexpectedly delayed, it is essential to communicate the delay with other parties, so they make adequate adjustments to the overall plan. This also applies to parts of the projects that are completed ahead of schedule.
5. Adopt pull planning and scheduling.
We often see the use of “push” systems in the current construction system, where demand ultimately determines production. Lean manufacturing favours “pull” systems, where production depends on real-time demand. This means they only create a product when there is an order for such a product.
In the same vein, lean construction also follows a pull system, ensuring that work is released in line with demand. For example, we can only create frames when footings have been delivered. With pull planning and adequate scheduling, everyone working on the project works together and communicate well to decide the best schedule for materials, labour, and tasks.
6. Aim for constant improvement.
The last of the six lean construction principles is Kaizen, which means to change for the better. There must be continuous improvement as the project progresses.
It is the team’s responsibility to determine areas of possible improvement at every step of the project and put in the work to make such improvements. Improvements may come in different forms, including increased efficiency, minimal waste, and better overall output.
Kaizen requires collective contribution and effective collaboration, just like the other lean construction principles. In the absence of these, the team may struggle to deliver a project of real value.
Integrating Lean Construction Principles In Your Organisation
Becoming a lean company takes time. However, it all starts with carefully implementing each of the six principles identified in this article.
Each project has its own specifics. Therefore, the right lean principle(s) for each project will differ, as well as the implementation technique. Below are some of the conventional methods to implement lean construction;
- Materials and information play crucial roles in project processes. Reach out to your client for their input. The goal is to understand their ideas and how you can transform them into real value.
- What you have when the end result of a project does not correlate to the client’s expected value is waste. You must work with the client to develop a detailed action plan before taking on the first task. What are the potential waste channels? How do you communicate effectively between every group and team member? Providing definite answers to these questions and more is crucial to getting it right with lean construction.
Everyone Benefits From The Implementation Of Lean Construction
Change doesn’t come easy, especially in the construction landscape, which is why the traditional methods have persisted to date. Therefore, it is essential to highlight the advantages of integrating lean construction principles into the industry. Lean construction can improve efficiency and reduce waste to the very least. It also ensures prompt completion of the project and the provision of real value that matches the client’s expectations.
Everyone is a winner with a successful implementation of lean construction principles.