The lean construction can be understood as a technique used to design production systems in a construction environment with an aim to decrease time, effort, and a waste of materials. It is all about planning and workflow efficiency.
The term was coined by the International Group for Lean Construction in 1993, and it is an approach developed by Toyota following World War II.
The lean construction technique is not new in the industry. It emerged as a solution to fix the declining productivity of the construction industry internationally.
Just as the mood board interior design addresses the challenges in the design industry, lean construction technique addresses the challenges in the construction sector.
Over the years, lean construction tools have emerged and have been effectively applied in simple and complex construction projects.
In this article, let’s delve deeper into understanding the lean construction technique and why it matters in the construction industry.
Lean construction saves time and money
This technique makes sure that the projects are not stretched over long periods of time and, at the same time, ensures that the expenditures incurred during the building process are lowered.
It aims to maximize value and minimize expenditures involved during construction project maintenance, planning, design, and activation. This technique increases the productivity of the construction industry, globally.
So, what are the characteristics of lean construction?
What are the essential characteristics of the lean construction technique?
- It is based on concurrent design and engineering.
- There is a set of clear objectives for the delivery process.
- It involves the employment of project control, which is executed across the project life cycle, starting from design to delivery.
The design approach involves a collaborative team approach. Everyone in the project, starting from the constructors and architects to designers and owners or tradesmen are included. As everyone is taken into consideration, it ensures a high-quality project that is delivered faster and is less costly.
This leads us to the principles of lean thinking:
The principles of lean thinking
Lean construction employs lean thinking principles while executing the construction process as it results in a highly profitable and flexible company. They include:
- Taking the customer’s perspective into consideration as you define the design value of the construction process.
- Taking into consideration ideas that lead to big performance gains so as to improve the performance of the construction project.
- Taking proactive steps to implement project expenditure and control management.
- Assessing a project planning performance to results achieved making use of a metric that defines the planning to be used in lean construction.
- Specialized experts make it a priority to solve a problem that can be resolved in one day over the standard process used to deal with the same problem in a week.
- Eliminating waste- defects, overproduction, waiting, not utilizing talent, transportation waste, inventory waste, and so on.
- Incessantly making improvements to further eliminate waste and add value.
Levels of lean construction
As per Greg Howell, co-founder of the Lean Construction Institute, there are three levels of lean construction. It ranges from impeccable coordination, which is the most basic form to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), the most advanced form.
If you use the basic level, you can execute the approach through the hard bid process. It chiefly relies on extensive coordination on the construction site and avoiding problems that avert projects from starting and finishing as planned. But to execute the advanced form of lean construction, you will have to involve the contractor and subcontractors during the design phase so as to maximize results.
Why lean construction matters?
There are plenty of benefits of implementing lean thinking in a building project.
1. You can gain quality profit margins
Lean design and construction can help build capital assets in an organized manner. And the end result positively affects everyone involved in the construction process, starting from the owners of the construction to those utilizing the facility being built.
The tenants who reside in a building built under a lean design approach can save more in rental costs vs. a traditional approach. It happens as the operating cost and break-even point for recovery is seemingly lower while applying the lean design approach.
To cite a real-life example, Sutter Health, a colossal non-profit hospital system that serves more than 100 communities in Northern California, took advantage of lean construction and Integrated Project Delivery to serve more communities.
Reportedly, it allowed them to deliver $1.5 billion of work on-budget and on time, and they were left with $3 billion of construction tracking on-budget and as planned.
The lean construction technique centers on sustainable construction practices that are Eco-friendly and ensures green business practices. It also leverages solar power while designing the building footprint to maximize energy consumption.
Moreover, when you execute the lean design, it leads to the production of little construction waste. You also get by-product materials that are not toxic for the environment. It benefits both direct and indirect community stakeholders.
In fact, while building the Athlete’s Village for the London Olympics in 2012, the project team executed a No Waste Lean Construction training program. Reportedly, there was 13% less waste production over a six month period. The team also saved £94,000 in waste disposal costs.
Other benefits include:
- Providing competition among construction providers, thus boosting the local economy as well as increasing job markets
- Reduced risk factors and a higher rate of safety as a result of increased worker focus and understanding
- Improved overall outcome owing to increased communication and fewer workers
- Reduced stress for workers and management owing to fewer workers
- Increased customer satisfaction
- More worker accountability
- More job satisfaction leading to increased performance commitment
In recent years, the number of companies implementing lean construction techniques is steadily increasing. There are plenty of learning tools, books, classes, and seminars available for those who are interested.
Moreover, lean building has shown a considerable boom in the industry. It will be appropriate to cite that lean is key to the future of construction.