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Lean Construction - what is it and why does it pay off?

The implementation of the "less is more" principle into the planning and management of construction processes, gave rise to the concept known as Lean Construction. The approach combines a number of techniques that are based on minimizing waste, streamlining processes and using existing resources more efficiently. As a result, Lean Construction makes it possible to reduce costs and shorten the duration of projects, among other things. Wherein lies the success of this method?


From this article you will learn:

- What is Lean Construction and what is its genesis?

- What tools are used in Lean Construction?

- What are the benefits of implementing Lean Construction?


What is Lean Construction and what is its purpose?

Lean Management is a management approach historically derived from Japanese philosophy, culture and history, but also incorporates elements of American methods and tools. Before the philosophy pioneered by Toyota began to be promoted worldwide, the Toyota Production System (TPS) was developed in factories producing the brand's cars. It was a set of techniques and tools for managing processes to increase production efficiency. An anecdote circulates that Americans were surprised during a visit to Toyota's production facilities to discover that there was no worker who fit doors with a rubber mallet at the final stage. The Japanese explained that at their plant, door fitting is done at the design stage.

Lean Construction is about exactly the same thing, only on the construction site. The approach gained popularity in the 1990s as a way to minimize delays, costs and errors. By implementing Lean concepts, the construction process also becomes more predictable and stable.

How does Lean Construction work?

Lean Construction can be simplified as much as possible to three basic principles on which the whole concept is based. These are:

  1. elimination of wasted time: by this term is meant the reduction of time spent on unnecessary activities that add no value to the construction process;

  2. improving workflow: this means streamlining processes so that they run as efficiently as possible;

  3. harmonizing work: that is, coordinating the work of the various people, companies and entities involved in the construction process to avoid delays.

Lean Construction uses a number of techniques and tools to achieve its goals.

Tools used in Lean Construction

Lean Construction is an approach to construction project management, the elements of which can be easily tested and implemented based on a variety of practical work scheduling methods. Putting them into practice brings more flexibility to long-lasting projects while maintaining control over the progressive stages of the work, which is sometimes hard to achieve in construction because the initial work schedule at some stage diverges from reality.

  • Last Planner System, which involves scheduling work in a flexible manner by means of setting goals we want to achieve and tracking their progress on a regular basis. By looking at the process on an ongoing basis, if there are delays, you can effectively make changes and correct initial assumptions. After all, the schedule does not serve as a task to be ticked off at the beginning of construction, but is an integral part of it at each stage of implementation, changing dynamically and mapping real progress, not just assumptions.

  • Value Stream Mapping is a technique that allows us to visualize how work and information flow is organized in a company, and therefore also finds great application in construction, where many documents are accepted every day. Thanks to process mapping, we can take a critical look at the way information flows and identify in advance the processes that take up time unnecessarily, as well as think about what the ideal process would look like and work towards it through periodic workshops.

  • Kaizen - an approach that focuses on continuous process improvement by making small but systematic improvements. Using Kaizen, we constantly look at our plans and constantly change them, adapting them to current conditions, as it is a cyclical process. We treat any problems as an excuse for improvement, looking for simple rather than perfect solutions.

  • Visual Management - just as a laptop computer shows the status of a battery in an understandable way, we can visualize the progress of work in construction and think at a very preliminary stage about making any materials we create legible to people not connected with the project. This will save time wasted in decoding information and findings on what stage of work progress we are at. When everything is transparent from the beginning it is easier to identify problems and make decisions.

The Lean method and ways of enforcing it strive primarily to minimize errors and efficient decision-making through continuous improvement. BinderLess fits in perfectly with these principles, thanks to its ability to coordinate workflows online, the platform enables better planning of processes at the initial stage and makes it possible to detect downtime as soon as it occurs.

Benefits for construction companies

Applying the Lean approach requires changes in organizational culture, a different approach to work, and process changes, but the challenge is worth it. By using the Lean Construction methodology, a company can:

  • increase the efficiency of its projects, shorten their execution time and increase profits

  • minimize costs that result from waste and imperfect processes,

  • improve the quality of construction work,

  • become more flexible and adapt more easily to changing site conditions,

  • make better use of employees' skills and knowledge, which increases their commitment and motivation to work,

  • improve communication and information flow.

Implementing Lean Construction is a solution for those construction companies that want to increase their productivity, improve the quality of work and minimize costs and thus - increase competitiveness.

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