While LEAN principles, as defined for production systems, originated from the Japanese manufacturing industry, LEAN construction delivery methods have evolved to meet the requirements of real property owners and the AEC sector.
Collaborative “LEAN” collaborative construction delivery methods actually predate the term LEAN!
The term LEAN, is was first used by John Krafcik a 1988 article, “Triumph of the Lean Production System.” Job Order Contracting, JOC, a collaborative “LEAN” construction delivery method was in place prior to 1988. In fact, JOC was actively being used by 1988, especially by the Department of Defense, and has evolved greatly since that time. Similarly, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, is also over two decades old. TPS, the Toyota Production System, which shares some, if not many, aspects with LEAN, evolved initially from 1948 through 1975.
While many view LEAN as a set of tools that assist in the identification and mitigation of waste, its actually a CULTURE, PHILOSOPHY, and COLLABORATIVE BUSINESS PROCESS. L
LEAN construction delivery is a collaborative business process with ongoing iterative improvement and depends upon the efficient involvement and use of multiple competencies and participants.
LEAN Construction Delivery Methods share the following characteristics:
- Early and ongoing collaboration of participants
- Focus upon outcomes
- Transparency – financial, planning and technical
- Value-based procurement
- Continuous monitoring – use of key performance indicators, KPIs
- Shared risk/reward
- Common terms, definitions, and data architectures
- On-demand, On-time, On-budget performance
- Meeting establish quality levels
- Continuous education, training, and improvement
- Long-term relationships of participants and service providers
- Waste reduction
- Flexibility without excessive management and control
- Processes supported by, and embedded within “open” technology
Despite the relatively early beginning and clear value of LEAN Construction Delivery Methods, usage is limited to less than 5% of renovation, repair, and new construction. The principle reason is lack of competency and leadership of Real Property Owners and general cultural barriers across the AEC industry. While LEAN Construction Delivery can virtually assure over 90% of projects are delivered on-time, on-budget, and to the satisfaction of all participants and stakeholders, the AEC industry remains mired in wasteful ‘ad-hoc’ practices.
Another key aspect of LEAN construction delivery is gathering the right team. Team members must be capable of planning and executing the right things, at right time, while maximizing return on investment and minimizing risk.
Flexibility is also important, as it allows construction related efforts to adapt to changing conditions/influences. It is the shared competency and expertise of all players, and the standardized information accessible by all, that enables superior outcomes.
All concepts associated with LEAN Construction Delivery must be understood, appreciated, and embraced by all participants…oversight groups, management, service providers, and building users in order to achieve associated value.
The cultural, change management aspects of LEAN are equally important to the processes, tools, and technologies.
The discipline required to implement LEAN Construction Delivery is so counter-cultural to the AEC sector and real property owners, that successful implementation of lean remains major challenge.
A weak understanding of LEAN Collaborative Construction Delivery Methods will lead to implementations without value and/or sustained benefit. In fact, some organizations or even some consultants attempt to use and implement LEAN methods such as Integrated Project Delivery (for major new construction) and Job Order Contracting (for renovation, repair, and minor new construction) as a means to simply bypass traditional procurement procedure, as noted by several independent audits of Job Order Contracts over the past several years.
LEAN construction delivery methods and associated processes should be simple to understand, manage, and execute. An written operation or execution manual, specific to the contract associated with the LEAN construction method (i.e. a Job Order Contract), should clearly specify roles, responsibilities, deliverables, timing, and outcomes.
Owner/service provider communications must be direct, and there must clearly structured methods to prepare and send requests for work, as well as receive responses.
The project pathway, from concept through warranty period must be simple and direct.
Lean construction delivery methods enable all parties to learn from their experiences.
- Senior leadership is in concert with vision and provides authority to appropriate managers and teams.
- Pilot programs are the first stage in adoption.
- Objectives are clearly communicated to all participants (internal and external to the organization)
- Preparation and planning – remove work can be avoided proactively by design.
- Mitigation of fluctuation at the scheduling and operations level – clearly follow and/or stay within quality and output levels.
- Learn from the outcomes of the processes and improve problem areas (transport, inventory, motion, waiting, defects/rework/change orders.
- Maximized use of skills, competencies, and capabilities through ongoing communication and understanding what needs to be learned.
- Mutual respect for every stakeholder’s role, problems, and objectives.
- Team-centric problem solving – developing and engaging people through contribution to team performance.
- Assured adequate training levels
- Focus upon outcomes and value-add work
- Understanding that the role of tools and technology is one of support only.
- Shared leadership across all operational levels, especially operational team leaders
The goals of LEAN Collaborative Construction delivery include several possible, if not probable outcomes….
- Improved quality: Better understanding of client/customer wants, needs, processes, expectations and requirements.
- Mitigation of waste: Reducing activities that consumes time, resources, or space but do not add any value.
- Short project delivery times; Reducing the time it takes to move a project from concept through close out.
- Reducing total costs: Build exactly what is required, and share cost information throughout the project life-cycle.
LEAN – Lessons Learned
- Keep it simple…
- Remember that best value outcomes are the goal.
- Incremental improvements over time.
- Remember there is always room for improvement.
- Trust but measure
- Performance metrics are REQUIRED
- LEAN construction delivery can not be successfully implemented without sufficient aptitude at measuring the processes and outcomes. To improve future results requires and understanding of what is happening now.
- Focus upon communicating and building the CULTURE of LEAN, without undue focus upon tools. In fact, be wary of elevating tools beyond their designed use.
- Understand problems before deciding upon a solution.
- Decisive leadership is REQUIRED for LEAN implementation
- The team makes recommendations, leadership determines what recommendations are implemented.