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Lean Construction principles

Lean Construction: 6 Key Principles and Benefits in AECO

Reducing waste and optimizing workflows. Discover all 6 principles of Lean Construction and how to implement this methodology in construction

Aspects such as budget, timing, and customer satisfaction in the construction industry are crucial for both short-term and long-term success. The lean approach, applied to the construction industry through the use of specialized construction management software, aims to maximize the so-called client value and minimize the waste of time and resources. So, let’s take a look at what Lean Construction is, its key principles, and the benefits it brings to the AECO sector.

What is Lean Construction?

Lean Construction is an approach to construction workflows that focuses on collaboration and relationships. The goal of Lean Construction is not only to concentrate on the final product but also on the collaborative aspects of planning, design, and construction process management.
Lean construction can be defined as a set of procedures that optimize the efficiency of the construction workflow through decentralized decision-making and wider information sharing. The main objectives of Lean Construction are to:

  • maximize stakeholder value;
  • minimize waste;
  • emphasize and promote collaboration among teams.

What are the 6 key principles of Lean Construction?

The primary goal of lean construction is to achieve greater information sharing within the construction process and thus reduce waste and inefficiencies in the use of human and material resources.
To achieve these goals, Lean Construction is based on the following six key principles:

  1. Customer Value Identification:
    In a traditional approach to the construction process, the common goal of designers, contractors, and builders is to produce the asset as per the design. Lean Construction shares this goal but adds value by interpreting the construction’s value to the clients, understanding why the client wants to complete that specific project. This means establishing trust and collaborating with project stakeholders from the beginning to determine what qualifies as value for the client.
  2. Value Stream Mapping:
    Defining the value stream is one of the most important steps in the lean methodology. Once there is a clear understanding of value from the client’s perspective, it becomes easy and crucial to outline all the processes necessary to deliver that value. This process is called the value stream and involves determining, for each activity, the necessary time, useful information, equipment, and materials. Any steps or resources that are deemed unnecessary are then removed to reduce waste and inefficiency.
  3. Waste Elimination:
    As mentioned earlier, the main goal of Lean Construction is to eliminate or minimize waste in every activity of the construction process. Lean construction addresses this principle for all major types of waste and inefficiencies, including defects, overproduction, waiting, underutilization of talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excessive processing.
  4. Process Workflow:
    One of the key principles of a lean construction project is a continuous and uninterrupted, reliable, and collaborative workflow. In Lean Construction, communication, collaboration, and information exchange between parties are essential to achieving the set goals and thus avoiding waste of materials and resources.
  5. Planning and Scheduling:
    To achieve the set goals, it is essential to efficiently and accurately carry out the initial planning and scheduling phases. During these early stages of the construction workflow, it is necessary to involve contractors and subcontractors, the individuals who are directly responsible for the physical construction of the asset.
  6. Continuous Improvement:
    The belief that it is possible to continuously improve processes and eliminate waste is the overall goal of the lean philosophy. Opportunities for improvement are identified during each construction process and are then applied throughout the same project, if possible, and in future projects.
The 6 key principles of Lean Construction

The 6 key principles of Lean Construction

What are the benefits of Lean Construction?

As we’ve seen in a previous article on Lean BIM Construction, the concept of lean production or Lean Manufacturing was originally applied in the automotive industry. So, why is it useful to implement this methodological approach in construction? What benefits does it bring? Let’s answer these questions by analyzing the main benefits of a lean approach in the construction industry:

  • enhancing team collaboration: Lean Construction requires different departments and project teams to collaborate during the planning, design, and execution phases of the project. This helps prevent costly errors and supports just-in-time availability of materials and workers.
  • optimizing resource use efficiency: This aspect limits costs and reduces waste of materials and time by efficiently using available resources and implementing continuous improvements where necessary.
  • facilitating cost control: In Lean Construction, labor, material, and overhead costs are applied only to what is included in the value stream. This allows the project manager to reduce costs by removing what is not deemed necessary from the specific value stream.
  • improving customer satisfaction: Being able to deliver a construction project to the client quickly and after interpreting the so-called client value will reflect in the client’s satisfaction, increasing customer loyalty.

What are the steps for implementing Lean Construction?

The implementation of the lean approach in the construction industry undergoes variations and adaptations depending on the specific project.
However, there are some steps that are valid and adaptable to all construction workflows for the correct implementation of the lean methodology, which are:

  • finding the so-called Change Agent: One of the characteristics of Lean Construction is the decentralization of the decision-making process, which becomes more collaborative and communicative from the early stages of the process. This change may be challenging to implement in a traditional construction process. That’s why the figure of the change agent, someone who is not influenced and is loyal to the principles of Lean Construction, is essential for the correct implementation.
  • providing training: As with any new technology or methodology, the correct implementation of Lean Construction involves training all teams. Staff needs to be trained to start seeing projects from a broader, more lean perspective. This means looking at the overall project rather than specific activities and adopting a collaborative and cooperative approach to avoid errors and waste in the subsequent steps of the process.
  • identifying problems and potential improvements: Lean Construction is constantly attentive to possible improvements that can be made during the construction process or that may be useful for future projects.
  • mapping the value stream: We’ve seen that identifying the value that the project has for the client is one of the cornerstones of Lean Construction. Once identified, it is useful to map the value stream to have a clear and visual representation of the steps needed to achieve the objectives and satisfy the client.

Therefore, Lean Construction ensures that all professionals are involved in a collaborative and proactive manner and focuses on minimizing interruptions in the construction process that can result in loss of time and money. To achieve these goals, Lean Construction uses specific construction management software that allows for issue management, meeting deadlines, and consequently, ensuring customer satisfaction. All you need to is to simply implement them into your construction workflow, starting off with a free one-month trial!

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