What Is Lean Construction and Why Should You Care?

What Is Lean Construction and Why Should You Care?

By Jessica Kane

The construction industry in America is in crisis. As an industry, it is struggling with inflation costs, poor quality standards, competent labor shortages and worker dissatisfactions. All being symptomatic of the deeper problems inherently within the construction fields.

The primary realization by professionals in the construction fields is that these problems have basic solutions. There needs to be focus put on improvement of safety and quality standardization that respond to a new world of industry challenges. So, this response comes in the formulas and ideologies that promote lean construction today.

What Is Lean Construction?

Lean construction is a method of design for production systems. The methods are used in construction environments with the goal of putting new limitations on time, work requirements and wasting resources in the construction process. Lean construction seeks to ensure that work gets done quicker and at a lower cost for the entire project.

The overall impact of the lean construction methodology attempts to maximize construction value while minimizing the economic cost involved. This is done by placing new limitations on design, planning, activation and maintenance. Using lean construction methods creates increased productivity in all areas of the construction industry.

Three Principles

There are three key principles applied in lean construction methods that make the construction process work more effectively. The process is implemented so that all the individuals within a company reap the benefits.

Everyone is taken into consideration from the construction workers, architectural designers, business owners to the tradesmen and journeymen. The goal is to ensure higher quality and cost-effective work at a faster rate, using these three principles.

Concurrent Engineering and Design

Using a process method that is the same from start to finish is at the heart of all lean construction workings. Having concurrent specifications that apply to both design and engineering makes this possible. This saves money, resources and amounts of time involved for all processes. This kind of integrated system working leads to team building that is purposeful and mindful of how important collaborative effort is in any construction industry. Team building creates greater motivation for success and personal reward, as individuals gain skillsets necessary to work more effectively.

Explicit Objectives for Delivery Process

Delivery and transportation of products or services must be streamlined. This is only done with strictly regulated protocols to help speed up efficiency. Making sure that all delivery work is preceded with a set of objectives aimed at time management is of particular importance. Lean delivery means creating a system that improves itself in a collaborative way. Collaboration between various parts of the delivery process allows for greater integration of the already existing structure, and cooperation internally.

Employment of Project Control Across Entire Project

This is a principle which is implemented across the entire individual project life cycle. All aspects of work are overseen with project control factors from designs to deliveries. Maintaining a basis of project control makes possible the repetition and cross training of employees, while still making it possible to improve upon the work processes. Employment of project controls allows for the new lean construction method to become permanently implemented across many divisions and regions of a large company structure.

Why Should You Care About Lean Construction?

It is obvious why employers should care about lean construction, because it promotes everything towards productivity and profitability. The real question is, why should the average person care about lean construction methods? Why does it matter in the real world, outside of the construction industry. Well the reasons lean construction is important to the industries it supports are not dissimilar to the reasoning that the public is learning to care about such methods in local industries.

Here are some of the predominant examples of how lean construction benefits all of us:

Production of Higher Quality Profits

When an industry is more successful, it can pass on the profit margins to the consumer and clientele. Increased production is a primary element of lower costs, because this promotes all levels of company success and instills morale within the industry, as a whole. Production of higher quality profits means that even more savings can be passed on to the consumer. If better quality is being provided and it costs less to provide this to the consumer, everyone in the marketing chain benefits. This assumes that most successful companies are not solely inspired by the bottom line of profitability. The assumption is that companies want to create lasting profitability and stay profitable for more than a few years, decades or longer. Otherwise, profitability will simply lead to a company that cashes in and never sees the light of the longer term results. Thus, lean construction methodology isn’t really designed for the short sighted company, or as a method for skimming off the top. Profits and investment are assumed to benefit all in the lean construction viewpoint.

Protecting the Natural Environment

Working together to create a green friendly market landscape is the progressive view of modern business. It is not enough to just build things, there should be a sound set of regulations that guarantee the ability to build lasting works. Things should be made in ways that do less damage to the environment and help keep it in a more natural state. Using materials, resources and green friendly technologies is an important part of this continually evolving process. Most lean construction methods begin with the existing infrastructure, trying to improve on the ways the existing companies can have less impact on the natural world. This is a benefit for all people, not just those who are employed or own businesses. Protecting the natural environment is at the forefront of all lean construction methods being utilized today.

Projecting Better Social Infrastructure for Workers

As the construction industry changes outwardly, it is also going through many changes internally. The projection of a healthier and safer work environment is integral to the continual improvement of the working process. Creating safer work environments is not just about safety standards and worker protocols, although these are of prime importance. Additional emphasis needs to be put on worker confidence with the industry itself. Employees need to have a social infrastructure that allows them to feel safe generally. Safe to address problems at the workplace, safe to express concerns about economics, and safe to suggest improvements that maybe less important to the corporate structure of things. Allowing employees to express themselves and feel heard is a big issue that must be dealt within, if a company expects to utilize lean construction as a business model.

Employment of Younger Talent in the Construction Industries

As lean construction provides a healthy, and pleasant environment the goal is also to attract new workers that will carry on improving the business. Companies are business entities, the people working within them are not going to live forever, nor work for any business beyond their lifetime. This is important, because companies have their own life cycles and must be prepared to employ new talent to carry out their long term goals. The success of one generation will be passed onto the next generation, and so on and so on. The employment of younger talent in the construction industries is a sure way to continue refining the leaner process and train new talent to continue this in the decades that follow. A younger generation of people are coming up in the world, their goals are more similar to the lean construction ideologies, but it is simpler than that.

The new generations are living in the world, seeing it for the problems that it really has. It isn’t progressive for young people to be concerned about the environment, they just are. It isn’t progressive for younger talent to seek higher quality productivity standards and want to pass it on in saving to the consumer, their generation sees this as a standard business practice. Finally the next generation does not need to be told why they should care about lean construction methods, because this already is part of their worldview and how they see the world she be.

The End Results…

In conclusion, lean construction matters because it brings about a way of improving the industries that it impacts. Traditional ways and approaches to construction working can be implemented, but they certainly can be improve. This is for the benefit of the whole industry, from the worker to the consumer. Lean construction focuses on sustainable practices, including green friendly and greener business practices. Even things like solar tech and energy efficiency are being evaluated in the lean construction being used today, making the first steps leave a lesser footprint. The end results impact us all directly and indirectly, but we all share in these results as our common ground. We all have a stake in the way lean construction stands to better our world and our lives. In the future, it will make a difference without having to be learned. Lean construction will become an integrated and natural part of the process for all relative industries.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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