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The Rise of Lean Construction Concepts and Practices in the 21st Century

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2017 | Construction Litigation

Traditional construction concepts and practices have resulted in many projects ending up off the rails. By that it is meant that many residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects end up being completed beyond the contractual deadline and with tremendous cost overruns.

Lean construction is a fairly new concept and strategy for all types of construction projects. Because it is of relatively recent origin, many individuals in the construction industry know little about the concepts and practices associated with lean construction.

A Brief History of Lean Construction

The concept of lean construction is of relatively new origin. Generally speaking, the beginning of lean construction is traced back to 1992. It was in that year that Lauri Koskela “challenge” the community of construction managers to analyze and consider the evident inadequacies of the time-cost-quality tradeoff paradigm which had dominated the construction industry for decades.

After issuing this challenge, Koskela turned to the production system embodied in the Toyota Production System as the template for a new means of managing construction projects. At the heart of the Toyota Production System is a trio of complimentary elements known as transformation, flow, and value generation.

Detailed Examination of What Constitutes Lean Construction

According to Koskela, Lean construction is described as a “way to design production systems to minimize waste of materials, time, and effort in order to generate the maximum possible amount of value.”

Lean construction involves the design of a production system that works to effectively, efficiently achieve the stated ends through the collaboration of all project participants, commencing at the very beginning of the construction project itself. This goes well beyond the contractual arrangement of design and build. This goes even beyond the constructability reviews where contractors, and sometime facility managers, simply react to designs, rather than becoming involved in the design and associated processes from the commencement of a project.

The ultimate benefits of lean construction are manifold, but primarily include meeting established construction contract milestones, reducing the inventory of material and tools, and ultimately reducing the costs associated with a construction project.

Because lean construction also creates a more stable, deliberate, and organized project environment, safety is enhanced and the number of injuries, including fatal injuries, are reduced.

The Importance of the Last Planner System in Lean Construction

The Last Planner System is the main tool in lean construction. The Last Planner System was developed by the Lean Construction Institute.

The Last Planner System is designed to integrate all elements of a project into one functional, coordinated, comprehensive system. It is designed to incorporate all elements of planning found in or associated with a construction project, including pull planning, make-ready, and look-ahead planning. The Last Planner System also includes constraint analysis, weekly work planning based upon reliable promises, and learning based upon analysis of plan percent complete. The system is also designed to recognize and respond to reasons for variance.

All stakeholders in a construction project are involved in the Last Planner System. This includes stakeholders like owners, construction companies, architects, designers, and others.

The Last Planner System is really a system of interrelated elements. The interrelated elements are most fully and efficiently realized when they are implemented together, in a coordinated manner.

Analysis of the Last Planner System by the Lean Construction Institute reveals significant time savings in certain construction projects. Indeed, there have been identified construction projects that used lean construction and the Last Planner System that reduced the estimated time of a project by 33 percent. When a good many projects overrun their completion dates, this type of time savings literally can be termed revolutionary. Of course, along with time savings comes an associated reduction in project costs.

More Information on Lean Construction

Only the most basic elements of lean construction can be covered in a short article or blog post. With that said, there is a wealth of information about lean construction available via the Lean Construction Institute.

The Lean Construction Institute was established only five years after the original challenge was made that resulted in the development of the concept of lean construction. The Lean Construction Institute is committed to changing the underlying paradigms associated with construction projects. Specifically, the Lean Construction Institute is committed to serving as the “catalyst to transform the industry through Lean project delivery using an operating system centered on a common language, fundamental principles, and basic practices.”

More information about the Lean Construction Institute is available from the organizations website. In addition, a wealth of resources pertaining to lean construction is accessible through the organization’s website.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.