What is Lean Construction and How Can It Work For You??

There’s a long history in our industry of projects that push the limits of human achievement, break new ground in innovative ways, and support communities by providing necessary services. But we all know that in the midst of all that success, there are still projects that go over budget, over time, and, in some cases, leave clients somewhat less than happy. In the interest of ever-greater progress, there are new efforts to embrace lean construction techniques. Lean Construction brings heightened efficiency and culpability to construction projects, so that everyone involved can leave a project with greater satisfaction (and profit).

What is Lean Construction?

At the most basic level, lean construction is an attempt to streamline the building process, by eliminating waste and optimizing existing resources and behaviors. It’s essentially a reevaluation of how you currently do business, to consider how you might be able to pull in some aspects of modern business to deliver the very best projects possible, at the lowest cost. Things from the business world, like key performance indicators (KPIs) and bottom-up personal accountability, are incorporated into the work site to add great efficiency at every level, from inventory and transportation to production.

The main goal of lean construction is to reduce the high levels of waste that can occur in the construction industry and increase value for the client, as well as the builder. With lean construction, the entire building process becomes more programmatic and predictable. The Leading Edge Group has a great video that explains the process in about three minutes, which can help solidify the concept.

The Benefits of Lean Construction:

  • Your clients will be more satisfied: When you complete a job on time and on-budget, your clients will be much happier. Also, with firmly established communications practices, you will have been conversing with the client throughout the design process, making them more invested in the project and more satisfied at job completion. Remember, happy customers are return customers!!
  • Your team will be more united: A predictable process and a shared understanding of responsibilities creates work teams that are closer and more united. And with each employee being held more accountable for quality work, a more collaborative team environment can be fostered.
  • Everything will be more streamlined: When lean construction practices are utilized, you’ll notice that there are less wasted steps in the construction process. There’ll be less overprocessing, less wasted materials, and less waste in your day-to-day processes.
  • You’ll complete projects more quickly: With so much communication, collaboration, and added efficiency, projects will be done at an accelerated rate, which means that you can move onto the next project. This, in turn, means more profits.

The Drawbacks of Lean Construction:

  • It takes time to adapt to lean construction practices: The successful adaptation of lean practices into your construction processes isn’t something that’ll happen overnight. Simply put, it’s going to take both time and resources in order to change the way your company does construction.
  • People get stuck in their ways: The construction industry prides itself on its history, which means that there are a lot of professionals who are committed to the “traditional way of doing things.” This means that you may find that some employees and managers will be resistant to the precepts of lean construction. Unfortunately, this means that lean construction could also lead to major changes in personnel.
  • There’s more responsibility for team leaders: With such a well-oiled process, more pressure falls on management. Your leaders will have to be extra communicative with personnel so that goals are met and waste is reduced. This also means that management will have to be fairly stringent when it comes to performance, which means that more tough personnel decisions will be needed.

Why You Should Care About Lean Construction:

Running a business, you always want to maximize your profits and boost efficiency, which is why lean construction techniques are so valuable. According to a study done by Alexandria University, lean construction techniques were found to be greatly reduce Percent Expected Time-Overrun (PET), meaning that lean construction can be a great way to ensure projects finish on time. It may take time to implement and can lead to some hard choices, but the streamlined efficiency of lean construction may be the ideal option for growing your company!!

Have you seen lean construction practices work at your company?? Let us know in the comments below!!


Jessica Kane is a professional writer for OSHA Campus Online, where visitors can complete a variety of OSHA training courses, 100% online at their convenience.

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