Let’s start with a video on Lean Construction.
>> You can find other videos on our LeanVlog.
What is Lean Construction:
A recent report produced by Glenigans in partnership with the Construction Industry Training Board and endorsed by Constructing Excellence and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills was released in December 2014 revealing that amongst the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for construction projects in the UK (including housing), that:
- 45% of projects came in on time or better.
- 55% of UK construction projects were delivered late.
What the Construction 2025 report is requesting
- is not ‘just’ that 100% of projects are delivered on time
- but that 100% of projects slash their duration by half and costs by a third!
I’d say it’s safe to assume that near-zero of the above 45% projects achieved the 50% duration target outlined in the Glenigans report, and hence the Construction Industry has a lot of major challenges to overcome in the next 10 years.
The main revelations in the study of production output began in 1887 (Womack, Jones and Roos, 2007), within the automotive industry at least.
Some interesting numbers on big construction
the construction of projects like the Great Wall of China and the great pyramids of Giza will have gradually discovered ways of doing things quicker and easier, it seems to be part of our human nature, we continually refine processes to make things easier, we will naturally start to see repetitive patterns in something we do over and over again whether it be building ships for the Venetian Arsenal in 1473 taking an hour to build an entire ship, or building an entire 57 storey sky scraper fully finished and furnished in just 19 days (Mini Sky City project).
Petronas Tower 1 which was just 29 storeys higher took 6 years to build in comparison.
Lean Construction = Lean + Construction
Since the inception of the term “Lean” in 1997 by Womack and Jones, two authors who studied the work of Toyoda and Ohno at Toyota; the lean concept has been studied, copied, analyzed, dissected and implemented in all areas of the industry from:
- Public Health
- Manufacturing of Steel
- Production of Houses, Buildings and motorways.
- many many others.
The lean concepts applied to construction is named Lean Construction.
You may be asking yourself in that case then, why have I never heard of Lean?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
After studying 10,000 SME contractors in the UK, whom according to the Office of National Statistics make up 98.86% of the UK’s construction sector, it turned out that only 50% of respondents had heard of the term “Lean” before, whilst only 9.5% of respondents knew that their companies were implementing lean.
According to one well-respected lean academic, Lauri Koskela;
current theories of Construction Management are completely incapable of managing construction projects today by managing all levels of resources, communication, and data, let alone the physical construction/demolition processes.
I completely agree.
I have seen all manner and sizes of construction projects and when you stand back and take an overarching view of it all, the financial loss, loss of quality and loss of time are flooding every activity on the job.
Believe it or not,
these construction management schools of theory as taught to myself on my accredited degree, my MSc and as used in all but one construction company I have worked with are outdated, ineffective and archaic in how they deliver any construction project.
Money just bleeds from every single pore that the project has.
One of my prior work colleagues, mentors and perhaps the greatest lean consultant alive today told me that 90% of any construction project is a complete waste!
And thus a target for elimination.
This raises a very pertinent question. “What is the waste?”
I surveyed 10,000 SME construction firms in the UK to analyze their understanding of waste in terms of the lean definition.
And over 98% of firms did not know what it meant, other than by giving generic examples such as off-cuts of plasterboard, timber, packaging, etc.
This is the traditional construction management approach to looking at construction though. These rose-tinted glasses are so dark, you are in effect blind to the problems in your project.
This demonstrated that the only wastes seen are typically what ends up in a skip.
Traditional CM methods focus on prior trades as the key item in progressing works towards completion.
Some construction managers don’t even see materials and resources as a controllable item that can affect the output of a project’s goals.
Lean looks at 7 flows within the construction, and once you see this list, you will process what each item means and develop an understanding of what is meant, but like many, like myself not too long ago the next question that follows is the one that stops us in our tracks from progressing.
The 7 flows in Lean Construction:
- Prior work
- Safe external conditions
- Safe space
To develop any project successfully by delivering perfection in every aspect, we must analyze every element of the above items within a construction project, an example of how each may be broken down is below:
- Construction Trades
- Trades foreman
- Trades managers
- Trade directors
- Clients designers
- Clients financiers
- Clients stakeholders
- Own project office staff
- Own site staff
- Own architects/designers
- Legal teams
- Members of the public
- Project stakeholders
- End users of the item you are building
- Local and national government, councils etc.
- Emotions/training/equality, etc.
- Design information
- Drawing versions and revisions
- Requests for information (RFI’s)
- Design changes
- Material data (weight, cost, size, cash, handling, installing, manipulating and processing)
- Health and safety
- Site signage
- Contractor RAMS
- Successful Delivery (meaning understanding, comprehension, and acknowledgment) of RAMS knowledge to each contracting individual
- Safety files and handover
- Safe systems of work
- Plant and machinery type and specs
- Calibration data and continually monitoring that data
- Setting out/engineering data
- Environmental and historical data
- Language barriers
- Mixed/inconsistent medium of communication, email, phone, text message, meetings, etc.
In fast paced billion pound projects I have seen the email method of communication fall flat on its face, and just never be used due to the simple inefficiency of it and information overload.
We could literally go on and on with these lists above, I have barely scratched the surface.
Unless you and all of your employees have IQ’s of 180+ and extremely inquisitive minds, there is no way you could naturally handle processing all aspects of the above tiny elements and all of their sub-sub headings of task and project impact for each and every possible scenario that could go wrong, analysing all opportunities and threats.
And that’s why nobody has succeeded in trying.
we have over 70 years of dedicated research, analysis and development in the above flows with the Toyota Production System. As cliché as it sounds, this lean philosophy and culture has to become an organization’s way of life, encompassing everyone from Chief Exec, to the apprentice bricklayer and cleaner.
Hopefully you can see how the tiniest of events in the smallest of tasks can create delay, poor quality and/or increased costs, however, small they be.
The Seven Wastes in Lean Construction
The definition of waste we need to be concerned with is the noun variant:
- an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.“it’s a waste of time trying to argue with him” synonyms: squandering, dissipation, frittering away, misspending, misuse, misapplication, misemployment, abuse;
- unwanted or unusable material, substances, or by-products. “nuclear waste” synonyms: rubbish, refuse, litter, debris, dross, junk, detritus, scrap;
When talking and looking at the 7 lean wastes, what we are doing is defining 7 major categories of how waste occurs in a project under all those areas of the 7 flows above.
All of the 7 wastes can be found in each one of the individual flows if you look for them.
The 7 wastes are:
- Transportation of…
- Inventory of…
- Motion of…
- Waiting for…
- Over-processing of…
- Overproduction of…
- Defects in…
Now over the years many “extra” wastes have been designed by other people, but we prefer to stick to the traditional 7, with the exception of one additional type of waste, and that is:
- Skill, or Human Potential
As a supervisor, manager or director;
you have to realise and accept that the people at the workplace, performing their trade, are the potential experts in their field.
I say potential as the rare apprentice will not have the knowledge or experience of somebody that has had that trade in their family for generations or somebody who has practiced it for 10+ years.
The most devastating thing I see when looking at works being done and talking to the trades is that they are performing work the way they have been told to work, despite raising objections once or twice and trying to explain the reason behind plastering a different way for example. This not Lean Construction at all.
you guessed it, the enforced way is slow, wasteful and costly to the project. Not to mention a morale killer for the men on the ground.
Take my word for it, when you see somebody at management level barking orders, degrading employees or ganging up against another peer, it is because that manager doesn’t know how to do the job properly, and the only way to protect their position is to belittle and intimidate anyone that may, or already has recognised it.
These are not the types of managers you want in your organization, and in fact, one of the key principles in making the lean implementation successful is to banish the command and control hierarchy/structure, and to eliminate the blame culture. This is also named the Lean Management.
modern Lean construction management and management principles, in general, are all about collaboration and sharing knowledge and skill.
My closing thoughts on this introduction to Lean Construction are these.
I was challenged with facilitating a contractors delivery of a 14-week program of temporary works on a billion pound project in 6 hours, with zero risks of harm or risk to safety, zero cost increase, zero defects and improved quality.
Sounds like the impossible iron triangle doesn’t it?
I didn’t quite meet the target set for me.
But at £125,000 per day in critical path cost, delivering the entire project over a 48 hour period, or two days saved a lot of money, and improved conditions for stakeholders wide and far.
The idea of delivering value is simpler than the concept of waste and flows, but probably more important in the criteria for success of lean implementation.
I look forward to writing our next article where we will be discussing value, flow, non value adding processes, value adding processes, waste and how we identify them, eliminate them and smash project goals in delivering value to our customers.
Jonathan Baker | PGCert | FCMI
[email protected] – a vision for the future
+44 (0) 7506 272018