Lean & Efficiency


Adopting a lean approach is an important step towards improved efficiency and reduced waste in the construction industry.


Originally conceived in the manufacturing industry, the lean approach is a philosophy that can apply to construction and other industries. It emphasizes constant collaboration and emphasizes value to reduce waste and improve efficiency.


The construction industry certainly stands to benefit from adopting these principles. An estimated 69% of construction projects run over budget and over time. There could be a multitude of reasons why this happens.


But, if construction companies adopted lean, they could reduce costly errors and delays that cause problems by means of better risk management. So, let’s explore how lean improves efficiency in the construction industry.


Using The Lean Approach in Construction

Many construction sites and companies favor a kind of mass-production approach. This results in the formation of different groups, each assigned to one type of job. There is usually very little interaction between groups.


The lean approach emphasizes the importance of all teams working together as one. It calls for constant collaboration among all stakeholders involved in the project. This helps to prevent any miscommunication and keeps everyone on the same page.


Lean also encourages thorough planning. Having clear objectives in place from the beginning of the project can help keep everything on track and promote better safety and compliance. It also makes it easier to monitor progress.


In the construction industry, you are not dealing with the controlled environment enjoyed by the manufacturing industry. In other words, adopting the Lean construction approach comes with a different set of challenges at each site.


Fortunately, one of the key aspects of the Lean approach is adaptability. The constant collaboration allows teams to continually revisit and improve their risk management plans at each stage of the project. Having this adaptability and flexibility means that it is easier to adjust when something goes wrong. Ultimately, this makes construction projects run smoother and more efficiently.


How Lean Construction Improves Efficiency

Making the switch to lean construction might seem like a huge initial investment. But it is an approach that will help save you time and money in the long run.


Inefficiency is one of the greatest challenges facing the construction industry today. So let’s take a look at the ways in which the lean approach can help improve efficiency in the construction sector.


Improved productivity

Adopting a lean construction approach at every site will allow for standardization throughout your projects. When this standardization is combined with increased collaboration among stakeholders, you can easily adapt plans to each respective building site.


Constant, adaptive planning will allow for increased schedule reliability and predictability. This reduces the amount of time spent waiting around for materials, equipment, and information. As a result, you reduce delays and complete projects on schedule or even with time to spare.


In fact, a study by McKinsey showed a 10-30% reduction in estimated project completion times when contractors followed a collaborative lean approach!


The lean approach also allows for innovation as long as standard processes are followed first. This empowers everyone on the construction team to think creatively and efficiently about safety and compliance, employee time management, and risk management overall. They have the opportunity to find ways to improve their operations and make things more efficient while delivering value to the client. This freedom to innovate boosts productivity thereby improving efficiency at the same time.


Reduced waste

A lean construction approach reduces waste, not just in terms of materials, but also in terms of time, effort, and, at the end of the day, money.


The construction industry is famous for its high volumes of material waste. It is estimated that of the total weight of building materials delivered to a site, around 30% will become construction waste.


Let’s put that into perspective. A study conducted in 2003 reported 170 million tons of waste stemming from the construction industry in the US alone!


Lean construction, with its emphasis on planning, allows for the utilization of prefabrication. Prefabrication is when building components are cast and cured at a manufacturing site. Then, they are transported to the construction site and assembled. This method can also provide better risk management as items are delivered ready to assemble instead of site fabrication.


Prefabrication is the definition of efficient construction. It greatly cuts down on wasted material and allows for rigorous quality control checks at each step - saving time and money.


Reduced costs

Reduced waste and improved productivity at construction sites improve cost controls. In turn, this results in higher profit margins.


Implementing a lean approach means placing a focus on planning. As a result, there will be fewer errors and less need for rework or extra work - meaning fewer delays and more efficient employee time tracking.


Because lean promotes collaboration and transparency, workers will also feel comfortable reporting any incidents. This contributes to a safer working environment as site managers can take care of problems quicker. Fewer accidents and mistakes will save a construction team both time and money.


Implementing Lean in Construction

When implementing the lean philosophy, remember that it is a continuous process. There are always going to be fluctuating conditions in the construction industry that cause errors or delays. But, adopting a lean approach can significantly reduce inaccuracies and help you keep on schedule.


With lean construction practices, you can better manage your projects. This includes materials, labor, waste, and more. Utilizing this type of collaborative approach means that you will always know what’s going on with your projects.


The adaptability of lean also makes it easier to mitigate any problems that do occur so that you can stay on schedule and within budget. Over time, you can identify areas that need improvement and put new strategies in place to reduce inefficiencies.


So, implementing lean principles is highly beneficial for construction companies as it saves you a lot of time and money.


Final Thoughts

What lean construction aims to do is maximize the efficiency and value of the output. At the same, it places a focus on minimizing waste.


Essentially: use only that which is absolutely necessary. To achieve this, teams need to practice the cornerstones of the lean philosophy. This includes adaptive planning and constant collaboration.


When these approaches are combined with standard construction procedures, construction companies can minimize waste and maximize productivity. In the long run, switching to this style of construction will save you and your team time, money, and effort.


If you’re looking for a place to start, be sure to check out SkillSignal. It’s the perfect platform for streamlining your operations through use of their safety software for construction.




Reference List

Lean Construction Improves Efficiency And Productivity

Increase Project Efficiency Through the Adoption of Lean Construction

Construction Waste - an overview

Lean Construction | Principles, Methods & Practices

How to Increase Efficiency with Lean Construction

Lean Construction and how to eliminate time and cost killers.

Lean construction

Lean Construction - Leveraging Collaboration and Advanced Practices To Increase Project Efficiency (McGraw Hill Construction).

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