What is Lean construction?
Lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of Lean Manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs. Because it is a philosophy, lean construction can be pursued through a number of different approaches.
This fact sheet outlines the elements of lean manufacturing and suggests how these might be adapted to deliver lean construction in practice.
The Lean Principles
- Eliminate waste
- Precisely specify value from the perspective of the ultimate customer
- Clearly identify the process that delivers what the customer values (the value stream) and eliminate all non value adding steps
- Make the remaining value adding steps flow without interruption by managing the interfaces between different steps
- Let the customer pull don’t make anything until it is needed, then make it quickly
- Pursue perfection by continuous improvement
Lean thinking can establish a clear definition of the owner’s needs, including scope and hand-off criteria of all trade specialists, and rigorous management of hand-offs between trade specialists. Based on a Master Schedule with key milestones, stakeholders develop the specific plan for each phase in a collaborative scheduling workshop. The object is to keep the team working on well defined deliverables at a reliable and predictable pace and to eliminate re-work and waiting.
Use of 3D and 4D modeling as Lean tools; to model owner’s process flows and discover conflicts in design documents, shop drawings, and coordination drawings. It can also model site logistics issues and the sequence of construction looking for ways to improve the flow of work by all parties.
LEAN CONSTRUCTION – A CONTRACTORS PERSPECTIVE
The concept of lean construction is concerned with the application of lean thinking to the construction industry. It is about improved delivery of the finished construction project to meet client needs.
In lean construction, owner, designers, general and specialist contractors, and suppliers work together to produce a value-adding, constructional, usable and maintainable facility. Constructing Excellence define Lean Construction as ‘a production management-based approach to project delivery – a new way to design and build capital facilities. Lean production management has caused a revolution in manufacturing design, supply and assembly. Applied to construction, Lean changes the way work is done throughout the delivery process. Lean Construction extends from the objectives of a lean production system (and the five principles stated above), and applies them in a new project delivery process.
In essence, Lean is about designing and building a solution that meets client needs and getting it right first time. Improvement of processes and elimination of waste is fundamental. To achieve this it is essential that we work closely with the client in order to deliver a product that meets their needs. Lean needs to focus on delivering value by addressing the lowest total cost as opposed to being driven by price. To do this it is necessary to focus on process that can be improved and remove all those elements that do not add value. Design is paramount and can be helped by engaging expertise that will deliver a build able solution. It is essential that a clear strategy and policy are defined and understood by all elements of the supply chain.
Lean Construction in Practice
Integrated Teams and Integrated Supply Chains for Construction, is crucial in delivering the continuous performance improvements targeted in Rethinking Construction. Improved time, cost and performance are the main drivers for this procurement process.
Integrated supply chains, often using the term partnering, are an essential part of improving the performance of the construction industry and delivering better client satisfaction. Accelerating Change goes further by insisting that the integration of teams and supply chains is one of the three main drivers to accelerate change in our industry. There is the need for both integrated teams and integrated supply chains to be together so that effective integrated supply chain can ensure close and early collaboration between subcontractors, designer / consultants and product suppliers allowing the lead.
Achievements and Benefits
The supply chain has fostered a spirit of partnership, which has contributed to the project meeting extremely demanding ministerial targets.
The Results Have Been Impressive:
- 12% saving on construction costs against target cost (estimated total £80 million)
- Reduced component prices by 25% on average (estimated total £40 million)
- 89% of all projects achieved target costs
- 86% projects completed on Programme
- Accident statistics 10 times better than HSE published construction statistics
- Supply chain performance improvement–average 5% quarter on quarter
- No contractual disputes:
Selecting the Right People
The key to success was the selection of a management team with the vision and experience to produce a significant step-change in the way construction projects operate and set new standards in relationship development and knowledge sharing.
Many organisations continue to rely on the competitive tender route, with the emphasis on lowest quoted price as the preferred way to select and appoint the supply chain.
Benefits of Lean
The following benefits have been reported from the successful application of lean. Consistent savings of up to 30% have been delivered against a traditional approach.
- Shorter order fulfilment lead times
- Less project down time
- More innovation
- True cost reduction
The future of Lean Construction
We believe that lean thinking and agility can exist side by side in organisations, and deliver sustainable competitive advantage to organisations.