Lean Construction versus regular Project Management

In a previous blog post, we shared seven (or more) areas of waste identified in Lean Construction. In this article, we are taking a step back and dissecting a bit more about the practical application of Lean Management for 6-sigma-lean-constructionConstruction.

The name explains it, right? “Lean” meaning spare, bootstrapped, trimmed. It’s a contextual clue that implies that most construction companies can ASSUME they’re practicing some type of lean measures. Not true! Lean construction actually CONTRADICTS the typical schedule-driven type of project management that bakes losses of time, resources, and profits into every project estimate.

Primary differences

The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) contends that there are KEY DIFFERENCES between lean construction and “ordinary” project management:

  • Control is redefined from “monitoring results” to “making things happen.” Planning system performance is measured and improved to assure reliable workflow and predictable project outcomes.
  • Performance is maximizing value and minimizing waste at the project level. Current practice reduces total performance by attempting to optimize each individual activity.
  • Project Delivery is the simultaneous design of the facility and its production process. This is concurrent engineering. Current practice, even with constructability reviews, is a sequential process unable to prevent wasteful iterations.

Value throughout the project lifecycle

Value to the customer is defined, created, and delivered throughout the life of the project. In current practice, the owner is expected to completely define requirements at the outset for delivery at the end, despite changing markets, technology and business practices. Coordinating action through pulling and continuous flow as opposed to traditional, schedule-driven push with its over-reliance on central authority and project schedules to manage resources and coordinate work.

Decentralizing decision making through transparency and empowerment. This means providing project participants with information on the state of the production systems and empowering them to take action. In summary, Lean Construction is a production management-based project delivery system emphasizing the reliable and speedy delivery of value. It challenges the generally-accepted belief that there are always trade-offs between time, cost and quality.

Contractors not familiar; not applying principles

A study conducted by McGrawHill Construction (MHC) and Dassault Systèmes published in the “ Lean Construction Leveraging Collaboration and Advanced Practices to Increase Project Efficiency SmartMarket Report” revealed that too few contractors were familiar with lean practices and the benefits they offer. In fact, the ‘contractor panel’ involved in the study revealed that 37% were totally unfamiliar with lean, and only 28% reported utilizing ANY of the six principles of lean.

In an article published on the ENR site reviewing the MHC study, the authors summarized:

Lean construction offers the promise of higher and more stable profit margins for the construction industry as a whole, but the relatively low industry-wide implementation of lean practices suggests that there is a need for leadership in adoption, a role that trade contractors may be well positioned to fill. Wider adoption by the trades can help spread awareness of the benefits in the industry, especially since exposure by other project team members to the benefits of lean on a project can spread knowledge and interest in lean throughout the industry.

Six areas of lean practices include:

  • Lean Construction: Elimination of waste from design and construction processes.
  • Pull Planning: A targeted, specific tool involving the definition and sequencing of events on a project, working backward from a target completion date.
  • Last Planner: A comprehensive trademark approach developed by the Lean Construction Institute that includes several layers of planning and full commitments to schedules from the entire project team.
  • Just-in-Time: Delivering just the amount of material needed when it is needed.
  • Toyota Way: A system for providing the best quality, lowest cost and shortest lead time by eliminating waste in processes and procedures.
  • Six Sigma: A set of strategies, techniques and tools for process improvement that identify and solve root problems.

Do you want to know more about how your Sage 300CRE or Sage 100 Contractor software can help you implement lean practices? Talk to Mark Jensen (100 CON) or Tony Merry (300 CRE) by calling 480.423.87300, or visit the LCI website at http://www.leanconstruction.org/.