Best Tips for Implementing Lean Construction into Your Business
A few months ago, Matrak hosted its first-ever webinar about how to set yourself up for lean construction success.
While there were many insights shared throughout the webinar, we understand that not everyone was able to attend — and that’s totally okay!
In this article, we’re going to share the highlights and key takeaways from the webinar. We’ll also answer some of the great questions that were asked about lean construction. Think of this article as an abridged version and a resource you can easily come back to, especially if you don’t have time to watch the whole webinar on our YouTube channel.
Lean 101 – What is lean construction
Lean construction is a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste and maximising value. It involves different tools and techniques that enable your team to operate in a ‘lean’ manner and therefore maximise productivity.
A lean construction model provides many benefits for teams. It allows team members to identify hidden problems in the current framework and eliminate them, meanwhile reducing waste and inefficiencies to boost overall quality across every touchpoint of a construction project.
Often, lean construction has been touted as a solution to reducing the vast amount of waste our industry tends to produce year on year. Being a hot topic in the construction industry, it prompted many of our webinar attendees to ask…
When did lean construction start?
While this wasn’t directly addressed in the webinar, it’s still interesting to know. Lean construction borrows from the manufacturing approach developed by Toyota after World War II. The term ‘Lean Construction’ was coined by the International Group for Lean Construction when it was founded in 1993.
However, the concept itself didn’t really gain traction until 1997. Two construction practitioners named Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell started the Lean Construction Institute as a way to develop and share resources about how to improve the management of construction projects. They used many of the principles of the Toyota Production System and Lean production methodologies, adapting them to better fit a construction context.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and lean construction is steadily being adopted as an essential framework for many construction projects in Australia and beyond.
Lean construction is a journey, not a checklist
The line above was mentioned in the webinar and we couldn’t not add it into this article. What this means is that lean construction is all about continuous improvement. It doesn’t follow a typical arc of beginning, middle and end. There is no final destination.
When adopting lean construction into your team, you need to constantly discuss important questions such as:
- Have we identified the Why, and is everyone aligned on it?
- What targets do we want to achieve?
- How does our team want to look long term? In 1 year? 3 years?
Answering these questions gives you and your team solid benchmarks to work on. Then, once you’ve achieved those goals, you can then ask yourself these kinds of questions again to enable further improvement and growth.
Adopting lean into a company needs a ‘sphere of influence’
By ‘sphere of influence’, we mean somebody in your organisation that has a high level of authority to be able to make things happen. Adopting lean fully into your team can take some getting used to — it’s certainly not instantaneous — so it helps to have an authoritative figure to help foster and nurture its implementation.
That said, you don’t need to be in a particular role or level in your organisation to adopt lean methodology. Everyone from CEO’s, head contractors to subcontractors can use lean techniques and tools to optimise processes, reduce waste and improve overall quality.
The key to lean construction is ensuring everyone in your team gets involved in the methodology and plays their role, similar to a supply chain. By achieving these, there is even potential for a cultural shift to happen within your organisation, as a lean construction model has the ability to foster a more communicative and collaborative environment.
So, what are lean construction techniques? Plus, essential tips to consider
Pull planning is a common and popular technique in lean construction that is designed to improve project efficiency. You can actually read all about it in our deep dive article.
But to keep it simple and straightforward, here is a quick guide of do’s and don’ts when adopting a lean framework.
- Focus on the project, not the people
- Seek to understand than to be understood
- Listen to your workforce
- Build a process that resonates with your team
- Iterate and continue to make improvements
- Digitise a poor process
- Implement a ‘solution’ you think you need, without identifying the problem first
- Implement technology just because it makes the problem go away
The Wrap Up: Lean construction benefits everyone
Indeed, adopting a lean construction framework has the power to improve efficiencies, increase team productivity and reduce waste.
Most importantly, prior to actioning any tools and techniques, you must first identify your purpose for adopting lean methodology in the first place. Never go into this blindly — identify the problem first.
The key to ensuring a successful lean model in construction is remembering that it’s a journey, not a checklist. It is something that requires constant improvement and regular check-ins with your entire team.
Lean is an opportunity to connect everyone and hold each other accountable, which makes it all the more important that everyone in your team gets involved. According to Andrew Czompo, Principal Consultant at Inginium and one of our guests in the webinar, adopting lean correctly can improve your ROI by 200%. So it’s a win-win both for your team and your clients.
Matrak was founded in 2017 and provides innovative mobile-first end to end supply chain tracking software solutions to the construction industry. Our app is available on all iOS, Android and Windows devices and has helped more than 157 projects in over 5 countries to enable the power of supply chain transparency.
Stay in the know!
Subscribe to get the latest articles from Matrak.
Book a demo with us to see how Matrak can help track all your projects.Book a demo