The industry of construction has come a long way - being a key part of societal functions for hundreds of years. Despite its long-standing existence, certain practices need to change and evolve to keep them efficient. Lean practices are the best way to do this for the construction industry.
In the years passed, the inefficiency of construction projects, and of the construction industry as a whole, has had detrimental impacts on profits among other things. Introducing a Lean construction method, rather than sticking with the traditional model, will eradicate all these difficulties and inefficiencies.
In fact, taking the Lean approach ensures that firms using it are several times more competitive.
How Lean Benefits The Construction Industry
Lean construction, the approach proving to be a game-changer in the construction industry, actually began in manufacturing. However, it has since been tailored to fit the needs of construction. It has become somewhat of a best-kept secret used by various firms to up their competitiveness and optimize their businesses.
The approach is a specific way to design the construction process. This design optimizes the entire process and brings several benefits, which we will outline below. Companies in the construction industry use Lean practices in several ways, including organizing the site of the job and the building process.
With Lean, the planning process takes more time than the traditional approach to construction might. Yet, this approach still proves to be more beneficial.
To show the benefits of the use of lean to the construction industry we will be referring to two studies. The first is by McGraw Hill Construction (bringing together the opinions of 94 lean practitioners).
The second is a case study presented by David MacNeel of Baker Concrete comparing the construction of two identical buildings (hot-dip galvanizing lines) of which one used traditional methods and the other applied the Lean method.
The Quality of Construction
According to the study by McGraw Hill, the quality of construction increased as more Lean practices were implemented in a job or project. In fact, 84% of the survey participants said that Lean contributed to high construction quality.
In other words, when workers use more Lean practices on-site, there is a higher level of quality in the outcome of the construction project. This means that the more comprehensive your approach is to Lean, the bigger your benefits in terms of construction will be.
All firms have the goal of keeping their customers happy, of course. Both studies show that using Lean methods improves customer satisfaction. For instance, MacNeel’s customer was happy with the Lean project - noting that it was the fastest build of a Galvanizing line anywhere in the world.
Based on the McGraw Hill study, the faster rates of project completion, lowered costs, and better quality construction (all brought on by the use of Lean) directly affected the levels of customer satisfaction that each practitioner achieved.
As a sub-benefit, the firms making use of a Lean approach became more competitive in the industry.
Increased Levels of Safety On Job Sites
MacNeel reported that the potential of implementing Lean was that there would be 50% fewer injuries on site. He explained that this is a result of better planning, which takes health & safety measures and procedures into account. After the completion of the project, his comparison between the Lean project and the traditional one showed that there was 65% better safety on the lean project.
Similarly, 77% of the 94 Lean practitioners interviewed by McGraw Hill reported that safety was one of the best benefits of taking a lean approach. According to these risk management practitioners, the more in-depth planning process necessitated by Lean allowed them to place more emphasis on each individual worker. Thus, they increased their construction safety standards significantly.
When comparing his Lean and traditional projects in the case study, MacNeel found that formwork rental was lowered by 75% on the Lean project. He also found that equipment rental was lowered by 28%. This was because the team was able to use fewer generators and lifts, for example, as they had made plans to share.
In addition to lowered use of equipment, employee time tracking would show a cost savings since there would be less equipment to be maintained.
McGraw Hill proved the same point as 78% of their interviewees reported higher levels of sustainability and reduced waste.
Using the Lean approach comes with several other benefits too. This includes increased productivity, higher levels of risk management, saved time, and more reliable information from other parties.
Looking at the saved time in more detail, you can see how powerful the Lean method really is. Through the use of pull planning (instead of push planning), there is a much smoother flow of work. How it works is that the planning starts at the end and works backward.
This leads to several time-saving benefits, including the fact that things become more predictable and fewer errors occur. Not to mention, it emphasizes the end-goal or objective, thereby ensuring that the project meets the customer’s needs best. Similarly, planning in this way helps to predetermine all requirements so they are unlikely to change. This includes labor, equipment, and materials - resulting in fewer delays throughout construction.
Due to planning, communication, and clear objectives, Lean construction is also much more efficient. On construction sites, workers tend to finish their daily goals on time meaning that Lean enables firms to stay on schedule.
It’s Time To Start Implementing Lean
There are many benefits that come with implementing Lean construction practices. Ultimately, the approach makes firms more competitive and gives them an edge in the construction industry. It would be difficult to dispute that Lean is the way of the future. In fact, Lean paired with a construction management software is possibly the best combination to take construction industry firms to the next level of success.
Some may argue that the time it takes to plan using the Lean method makes the entire process not worth it. Yet, it is clear that those extra planning hours only serve to benefit firms tenfold. In addition, using a management software tool like SkillSignal can significantly ease the process of implementing Lean methods by aiding in risk management, employee time tracking and site safety.
So, it’s time to start incorporating Lean practices in your construction firm to up efficiency as soon as possible!
- 2012-14th Annual LCI Congress: Day 2 - Lean vs Traditional on an Industrial Project by David MacNeel - https://vimeo.com/52961759
- McGraw Hill Construction SmartMarket Report - Lean Construction: Leverage Collaboration and Advanced Practices to Increase Project Efficiency. - http://www.leanconstruction.org/media/docs/Lean_Construction_SMR_2013.pdf
- Lean Construction and Its Impact on the Construction Industry - Essay by Ty Gilliam Oklahoma State University - https://tagilli.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/essay-4-lean-construction-and-its-impact-on-the-construction-industry/