According to a study conducted by the Construction Industry Institute in 2012, 57 percent of the tasks that construction workers perform at a job site are a waste of time and resources. Although projects do get completed, they often go over budget and over the target date agreed upon with the client. They are also grossly inefficient. This leaves clients dissatisfied and construction companies that can’t attract repeat business.
The obvious solution is to institute lean construction principles. This offers less waste, reduced costs, improved value to the client, and the ability to consistently meet deadlines or even come in ahead of schedule. Even so, getting those involved in the industry to embrace the idea of lean construction has proven to be challenging. This goes from everyone from the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company to those on the front lines creating new building projects.
Learning to Identify and Eliminate Waste
A change in construction industry culture from seeking to complete projects at all costs to recognizing wasteful habits and making a plan to change them is the first step in implementing lean construction practices. The bidding process is just one example of this. Bid captains often walk miles each day trying to track down the response to their bid. By switching to a more open floor design, bid captains can decrease the time they spend wandering around and increase their productivity. As an added bonus, subcontractor meetings can be scheduled for the most productive moments during the bidding process.
Last-planner system scheduling is an effective method of scheduling using lean construction principles. This requires teams to start with the target completion date and then work backwards to determine the tasks that must be completed to meet their goal. Also known as bottom-up management, last-planner system scheduling also requires teams to define tasks as well as put them in order. The driving force behind this system is for construction crews and management to decide which tasks create the most work for them and commit to a more efficient way of doing things.
Merging Integrated Project Delivery with Lean Construction
Integrated project delivery is an offshoot of lean construction with a structure familiar to anyone who works in the construction industry. At the start of a project, key trade contractors, designers, the client, and construction managers meet to create a contract that is mutually beneficial to all. The risks and rewards of the project are shared among the entire group. The concept sounds simple, but it has a profound effect on how it gets people working together as a team to achieve the same goal.
Incorporating the lean construction concepts of pull planning, Big Room co-location, and target-value design serve to improve efficiency and collaboration even more. What is truly exciting about both construction approaches is that they work well on projects of any size. The methods a construction team uses to complete a project are not nearly as the results that occur when everyone feels personally invested in the outcome. When management and work crews care about increasing efficiency and reducing cost, the client is the ultimate winner.