The lean approach initially took over the manufacturing sector, but it has come a long way. Almost every industry uses it now, and construction is not an exception. A growing number of firms are embracing it to derive the immense benefits this methodology delivers. These include lower costs, more productivity, reduced construction times, and efficient project management. The approach is ideal for industries where timeframes, budgets, and safety are critical, and construction is the right fit. Let us explain how the lean principles make a perfect match for the industry.
Identify customer value
The traditional construction methodology focuses on what the customer expects the contractor to build. The plans and specifications for the project show the way. The lean approach takes a deep dive into customer values. It brings together the stakeholders, including the owner, engineers, architects, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers in one place. Collaboration starts early, and everyone stays on the same page until the final delivery.
Define the value stream
If the construction company has a clear understanding of customer value, it can determine the processes necessary to deliver it. The lean methodology entails the use of a set of six sigma tools to define a value stream. It involves defining the necessary materials, labor, equipment, and information for each activity. The resources and steps that do not add value are removed.
Waste elimination is the primary goal of lean construction. Perhaps, it is also the reason that makes the methodology apt for the industry. Waste runs high in construction projects as there is more than one type of waste firms have to manage. Lean construction targets them all, from defects to overproduction, waiting times, transport bottlenecks, inventory issues, and over-processing. Waste elimination goes a long way in cutting down costs and enhancing efficiency for projects.
Ideally, construction projects should have a continuous, uninterrupted workflow that is predictable and reliable. But it seldom happens when firms work in the traditional way. There are disruptions and bottlenecks, both avoidable and unavoidable. The sequence of processes is key to preventing such disruptions and ensuring the timely completion of projects. Clear communication between stakeholders ensures a smooth process workflow, and the lean approach makes it possible. When one process falls behind schedule, everyone gets the message and realigns to avoid the wastes of motion, waiting, and excess inventory.
Ensure planning and scheduling
Planning and scheduling are crucial in the industry because processes are multiple and complex. Creating reliable workflows hinges on work being completed and released based on downstream demand. The lean methodology ensures proper planning and scheduling to connect the dots so that the chain does not break at any time. Stakeholders communicate and collaborate to determine the schedule of tasks and stick with it.
Facilitate continuous improvement
Lean philosophy emphasizes the importance of continuously improving processes and eliminating waste. The mindset is perfect for the construction industry, where process improvement and waste management are critical concerns. It helps firms to identify opportunities for improvement and act upon them during the project. They can even apply the improvements to future projects.
The construction industry is a traditional one, and resistance to change is imminent. But the upsides of the Lean approach are compelling enough to make it a worthwhile initiative for companies.