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Lean Construction Defined and How to Implement It

Uncover ways to get started with Lean construction by learning how to implement Lean construction thinking into your jobsite.

Lean construction helps increase productivity, efficiency, and quality at lower costs throughout a construction project. Lean construction holistically helps management improve the construction process with a different approach to production management. The Lean project is a collaborative management, customer, and integrated project delivery effort.

5 Core Methods of Delivery in Lean Construction

Providing clients with the best service and quality throughout the project is vital. However, doing it efficiently while saving time and/or money makes a difference. There are five core methods of delivering a Lean project:

  • Conditions of satisfaction
  • Pull planning
  • Target value design
  • Set-based design
  • Choosing by advantages

Looking at Lean construction case studies related to Lean construction projects is essential to understand the process wholly. In addition, case studies can help you understand the concept of waste and how Lean construction can help avoid it.

Examples of the pitfalls in the implementation of Lean construction thinking include:

  • Overproduction: Production occurring before it is needed, or overproduction that is not needed
  • Defects: These are errors usually caused by incorrect information that causes some aspects of the project to be reworked or scrapped
  • Waiting: Wasted time waiting for the following process to occur
  • Non-utilized talent: A project should utilize all team members to their maximum capacity in skills, knowledge, and talent
  • Inventory: Processing excess materials and products
  • Transportation: Moving products and materials unnecessarily
  • Motion: Too much extra movement going on
  • Extra-Processing: Extra work or higher quality than called for

Managing Expectations

Expectations for both the project and process need to be specific while coordinating the flow of information and services. For example, helping the client budget for valid design solutions and defining the design space to formulate the best possible solutions. Finally, there must be a robust decision-making component that sticks. A clear decision helps deliver reliable design solutions at lower costs. It also helps decrease waste and create a competitive value advantage with more efficient workflows.

Firms with numerous team members with Lean construction certifications can successfully market to clients looking for a cost-effective way to get their projects done with quality and value at a lesser cost. While it may take time to get the processes fully running and everyone up to speed, the value-added benefits outweigh the growing pains of the learning curves and process implementation.

Lean Construction Organizations Offer Training and Education

Firms implementing Lean construction techniques can go through a Lean construction certification class to implement the process effectively. In addition, the Lean Construction Institute is an organization dedicated to assisting owners, design professionals, contractors, and trade partners in learning and moving forward within the construction industry through workshops, education, books, articles, and more. The LCI program includes Lean construction articles and self-instruction through a Lean construction PPT format. There are also multiple Lean Construction Institute Communities of Practice in different states to help individuals connect locally, participate in education courses and workshops.

The Associated General Contractors of America, (AGC) which is the driving force in the construction industry, offers education and training, networking opportunities, and advocates on behalf of all the entities within the construction industry.

Another route is to partner with solutions like Touchplan, where Lean construction is inherently built into the process and outcomes. While specific presentations and other documentation can be helpful, learning happens by doing.

Utilizing these resources offered through the Lean Construction Institute and other organizations can help firms and their teams better understand the efficiencies gained through adopting the Lean construction principles and processes. As technology continues to advance this concept and the traditional construction methods are revamped, Lean construction, its reliability, and predictability are poised to become the go-to method for efficient projects.

How to Earn a Lean Construction Certification

You can earn a Lean certification from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The AGC, the LCEP, or Lean construction certification, results in the CM-Lean or Certificate in Management–Lean Construction. There is a partnership between the Associated General Contractors of America and the Lean Construction Institute (LCI™) training curriculum to assist in obtaining the CM-Lean. Training and educational institutions offer certification as well.

There are also opportunities for a Lean construction certification in Canada through the Lean Construction Institute of Canada and the Canada Construction Association. The certificate is a seven-unit series instructing all aspects of Lean developed by the Associated General Contractors of America and endorsed by the Lean Construction Institute.

Do you need a pull planning certification? Students can learn the fundamentals of pull planning as part of the Lean construction education course curriculum resulting in the CM-Lean. The curriculum includes Pull in Production, Lean Workstructuring, and The Last Planner System®️ as part of the overall process.

If you are looking to obtain a Lean construction certification free of charge, the Lean 101 course is available by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Teams with multiple individuals who have the certification are in a better position to move forward successfully. In addition, utilizing quizzes, quizlets, and other resources from individuals who have successfully gone through the courses and program makes a difference.

Lean Construction Educational Materials

Obtaining the proper lean construction learning materials can help get the information necessary to complete the program and receive the CM-Lead certificate. In addition, numerous industry leaders have lean construction articles and lean construction eLearning opportunities to help students and individuals within the industry who want to stay informed on industry news.

Taking the time to find and review a lean construction case study is invaluable in providing an actual scenario that states the problem, what was done to rectify it, and the outcomes from the implementation. For industry professionals, learning never stops. Having access to these tools and resources helps push the industry further and keeps everyone on the same page.

Once the Lean construction designation is obtained, it’s time to put Lean construction management to work. With the construction industry going through several changes, implementing a Lean construction model saves money and increases efficiency.

Why is Lean Construction Management Important?

Today’s firms understand how crucial it is to adapt Lean implementation in construction projects. Leveraging Lean construction technology standardizes processes with seamless integration. This makes the process better and faster while creating a system for long-term sustainability.

The Touchplan software understands this approach, implementing the Last Planner®️ System to measure, validate and continuously improve the building process in real-time, improve team communication, run smoother projects and reduce the overall project time.

A team with Lean construction experience can complete projects efficiently and reliably. This helps add value in a few ways. From a client perspective, the focus is on consuming as few resources as possible while still delivering on schedule. From the pre-construction process through every phase, utilizing Lean principles keeps everyone working together.

How does Lean thinking complement the construction process?

First, Lean thinking helps establish the owner’s needs, including the scope of the project, handoff criteria for all contractors and specialists, and the management of that process. Second, with a defined set of key milestones, a Lean construction plan can implement a specific plan for each phase on a master schedule with collaborative scheduling. This way, the team is consistently working effectively and efficiently on deliverables that will eliminate waiting or fix problems. Finally, utilizing a Lean construction technology like Touchplan, process flows, and design conflicts are easier to detect and manage.

Having the foundational knowledge of Lean construction and using a Lean construction guide throughout projects helps keep things in order from start to finish. However, truly embracing the concept of Lean construction is no longer how but when. With the industry constantly changing, construction firms must look ahead to see how things are and will be done. Embracing technology, tools, resources, and education will make their mark and offer competitive value. Lean construction is the way.

Examples of Reducing Waste

There are quite a few firms that have pivoted to become a Lean construction organization to reduce waste.

Some exemplary adopters of Lean construction utilize the features in the Lean construction management software, Touchplan. For some, the critical flow unit during construction is people. For others, it’s the actual process. Here are a few examples of how Lean construction has helped firms with their projects.

Lean construction examples are all around, including outstanding projects that Touchplan helped facilitate. A recent e-book produced by Touchplan entitled Revisiting the Five Big Ideas Transforming the Design & Construction Industry includes case studies showing the benefits to Lean construction through Touchplan ; and it also examines how teams use Lean construction principles to manage projects, including:

  • PPC pull planning during the design and construction phases
  • The Last Planner® System
  • Heavy emphasis on handoff work planning
  • Takt time and location-based scheduling

Touchplan has supported over $54 billion of work using Lean project delivery to support on-budget and on-schedule projects. Touchplan focuses on developing a scalable, sustainable Lean construction process across organizations. This results in a more fluid construction process, eliminating variability within jobs, higher-quality project work, a lessened amount of resources on rework due to miscommunication, and higher overall efficiency.

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