Today’s construction professionals are struggling to keep pace with burgeoning projects and client demand. They need tools and solutions to help them maximize their efficiency, minimize waste, increase productivity, improve operations, and reduce operating costs.
To do that, they’re taking a page from lean management principles, established by Toyota years ago for manufacturing optimization.
Companies across the globe use these “lean principles” to reduce or eliminate transportation waste (including non-value added movement of parts, materials, or information between processes); waiting (for people parts, systems, or facilities that are idle awaiting work completion); overproduction (including producing sooner, faster, or in greater quantities than the customer requires); defects (any products that the customer deems unacceptable); inventory (like idle materials, work-in-progress (WIP), or finished goods); movement of materials, people, equipment, or goods that does not add value to the outcome or business; and extra processing (work performed beyond the customer’s standard requirement).
But how are lean principles different for the construction industry?
Construction has added and/or unique demands: It must better manage construction project delivery throughout the entire industry (owners, designers, architects, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, and end users)—not just the work that occurs during the construction portion.
And since each construction project is often one-of-a-kind, there’s little or no interaction between the many stakeholders, creating work and information silos. The resulting project unpredictability results in lost time, waste, and stress.
On the other hand, lean construction is focused on predictability and flow and ensures all parties have clear goals, benchmarks, and objectives from the beginning to the end of the construction process, collaborating as a single customer-focused group.
To meet their goals and objectives, some construction firms are now using integrated project delivery (IPD)—a cost-and-profit-sharing delivery method—to eliminate typical contract barriers and ensure all project stakeholders make “project” decisions rather than “trade” decisions.
In addition, last planner system and IPD or “pull planning” work plan methods create a backlog of tasks that are ready for execution; ensure commitments to tasks will be achieved in the next weekly work plan; and review and assess the success of those commitments. By monitoring progress against planned commitments, decisionmakers can identify potential upcoming risks and work towards mitigating or eliminating them before they occur:
- Phase scheduling–a collaborative planning and sequencing of tasks to complete the phases of work defined in the master schedule—is typically accomplished with pull planning as a team. The team works backwards from clearly defined milestones, identifying all tasks required to complete the milestone with satisfactory handoffs occurring between tasks.
- During look-ahead planning, teams identify constraints that will prevent upcoming work from being completed as planned, the goal being to mitigate these constraints before they become a problem to the project.
- Commitment planning—done on a weekly basis—means teams meet to discuss current and future work-in-progress. The goal should be to commit to the approach to achieve completion of all work for the upcoming week.
Finally, teams seek to leverage learning to ensure ongoing process and project improvement by doing a project post mortem and noting areas that have worked well (plus delta) and those that did not and/or need change (minus delta). They can then manage subsequent projects more successfully.
Learn more about how Command Alkon applies lean principles to solve construction project management challenges.
When it comes to getting ahead, the construction industry will benefit by looking at the value gained by taking advantage of lean principles.