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Five Principles That Support the Lean Construction Concept

What exactly is lean construction? We’ve all heard the phrase, but it’s not immediately clear what the specifics are.

In broad terms, lean construction refers to the techniques and policies that are applied to maximise value and minimise waste across building projects. The concept is relevant to the entire construction industry, not just those who participate directly in the building process.

By nature, construction doesn’t always take place in a controlled environment. Unforeseen circumstances and other factors can’t always be prepared for, but correct planning and agile responses will mitigate these events. For our latest blog post, we have looked at five of the guiding principles behind lean construction that can bring about much improved end results.

Establish Value Based on Client Feedback

Truly understanding the project that you are due to deliver is the cornerstone of lean construction. It’s vital that all parties directly involved in a project clearly establish what they need to achieve very early in the planning phase.

In order to produce the best possible end result, project teams should be providing advice and detailing progress to clients as work is carried out. Values and expectations are time-dependent – small changes may be necessary as a build progresses, and these tweaks can improve the end product significantly.

If client values and expectations are not fully realised early on, the negative consequences will quickly come to light. Avoidable rework can have a significant impact on project budgets and can often be attributed to lapses in communication.

Maintain an Agile Design Process

The clear time divisions between design and construction processes no longer apply. Instead, they are often concurrent in today’s construction industry, thanks to the advent of Building Information Modelling. BIM carries significant value in efficient design processes and allows designers to establish physical or clearance clashes early on, in a way that traditional 2D CAD technologies cannot. These issues can then be quickly rectified to prevent unnecessary rework and delays.

When it comes to efficiency in design, the value of BIM cannot be denied. BIM supports collaboration and allows downstream stakeholders to get involved in the design process. Clients can also visualise BIM models throughout the project lifecycle to establish value as required.

Minimise Waste Wherever Possible

Waste has remained a major issue in construction, both in terms of materials and labour costs. The lean construction concept identifies eight causes of waste that need to be minimised through considered leadership.

Inventory: Stockpiling materials that are not immediately necessary – this can tie up budget, take up vital space and lead to degradation if stored for too long.

Over-Processing: Adding features or activities that aren’t providing more value in the eyes of the client.

Unused Talent: Refusing to recognise or establish the specific skills and experience that workers have and match them with correspondent tasks.

Waiting: Lapses in workflow when prerequisite tasks have not been completed or materials not delivered.

Overproduction: When a task is completed earlier than scheduled or before the next task can commence.

Defects: Any process that is not completed correctly at the first attempt, leading to unnecessary rework.

Transport: When items, equipment or staff are moved to a worksite ahead of schedule.

Motion: Any unnecessary movement of workers or material, caused by poor site layout or similar.

Coordinate the Supply Chain and Workflow

Maintaining reliable and consistent workflows is a key focus of lean construction. In order to achieve a continuous flow of tasks, project leaders and workers need to communicate clearly at a micro level to plan and avoid interruptions.

In many circumstances, the most prudent course of action will be to allow subcontractors to collaborate between themselves to organise the most practical working schedule. Waste causes such as inventory, motion and waiting can quickly present if a manageable schedule for workers is not adhered to.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

This principle is valuable for lean practice in any industry, but especially so for construction. Opportunities for improvement can be applied immediately and in subsequent projects.

The construction industry has often been slow to adopt new ideas, but the lean approach is quickly gaining traction due to the clear advantages on offer. When projects are completed on time and on budget, all stakeholders are able to reap the benefits.

Exactal’s Integrated Project Management Solution

ConnectX was introduced to support project managers looking for greater control and transparency in their construction builds. The platform features six modules that improve processes surrounding communication, document management, contracts administration, tenders, defects and quality management.

To learn more about how ConnectX can assist in meeting lean construction goals, don’t hesitate to get in contact with your local Exactal sales team today!