Lean is a word that is well known in the manufacturing world, but the concept has implications for most organizations and the design and construction industry is no different. Typically a new project starts with a client and an idea. The idea progresses to a consultant (either Architectural or Construction) and from there a team is formed to begin putting the idea on paper. The team grows larger as the project progresses to a point where the original client and consultants have limited contact with the sub-contractors actually working on the building. Much waste is acquired during this time period when teams are waiting for the go-ahead from another discipline, waiting for materials or drawings or in some cases, correcting mistakes made from miscommunication.
In a lean construction system, key stakeholders would meet with members from every project discipline at project onset to clarify the objectives of the project. Each member of the team would have the ability to chime in during the planning phase to support or argue the direction of the design as concepts come together. The design team would then finalize the drawings and the bidding process would not be unnecessary as the highest quality building for the allocated budget would have already been established. The team would then use their pre-determined plan to order inventory and map out the stages of construction that can work in conjunction with each other. The ultimate goal would be to eliminate waste by pushing for improved construction techniques as opposed to faster construction techniques.
In this article “IMPLEMENTING LEAN CONSTRUCTION: UNDERSTANDING AND ACTION“, the authors cite uncertainty as a major source of waste in construction management. They mention the manufacturing term “Stopping the Line” as a way to prevent the expensive problems that tend to happen late in the construction process. In manufacturing, when a problem occurs in production, the managers stop the line, make adjustments and minimize loss from defects. Although construction projects do not have a production line, they do have a line of people who are responsible for tasks. Stopping the line in construction management simply means avoiding the uncertainty and minimalizing future losses through quick team adjustments.
According to research, this approach to projects will create the value the client your client is seeking and the trust your team needs to work at its highest efficiency. High-level clients are seeking this type of approach to the management of their projects and the trend will continue to grow as lean thinking expands its reach outside of the manufacturing sector.
For more information on lean construction check out some of the resources below:
Implementing Lean Construction: Understanding and Action
Five Big Ideas that are Reshaping the Design and Delivery of Capital Projects
Applying Lean Thinking in Construction and Performance Improvement