Tips & Adoption for Lean Construction Methods

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Traditional construction project management follows a linear process. Plans are passed from one trade to another for each phase, which can produce roadblocks, weak profit margins, and poor productivity rates. Lean construction methods address many of these issues.  

Lean construction, according to the Lean Construction Institute, is “a relationship-based system that is founded in commitments and accountability. It significantly improves trust. Teams are integrated through collaborative tools and search for ways to eliminate waste — specifically at the hand-off of work.” 

Success stems from getting the right people engaged and collaborating on maximizing value for stakeholders. There are many practices that can be used to maintain flow in Lean processes. Some effective Lean practices and principles are outlined below. 

Last Planner System® (LPS) 

The Last Planner System® (LPS) workflow method was developed by the Lean Construction Institute to increase worker productivity and accountability through tight scheduling and detailed group planning. 

LPS Best Practices

  1. Hold 15-minute daily huddles. If you can’t meet every day, do as many as possible. One is the bare minimum. 
  2. Perform “5 Why?” analysis when an activity is not done and find the true root cause and look for trends within your team. 
  3. Keep Percent Plan (or Promises) Complete (PPC) visible. Celebrate high PPC and challenge the team to find ways to improve when it’s low. PPC is your “pulse” on the team. However, high PPC is not the full picture. 
  4. Maximize the whole, not the piece. Focus on overall finish Milestones. If an interim Milestone slips, but your end Milestone doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. 

(Source: Construction Accelerator) 

 

Kanban 

A Japanese term meaning a signboard, the Kanban acts as a visual signal to initiate work or material movement once downstream capacity becomes available within the system. 

Principles 

A Kanban system can do several things including:  

  • Limit the amount of work in process (WIPs) between workstations 
  • Serve as a visual cue to start and stop production 
  • Enable a pull-based production rather than a push-based one 
  • Prevent overproduction 

(Source: LeanConstruction Blog) 

 

Gemba Walks 

Gemba walks are an effective way to see how work is currently being performed and to determine ways to improve. The walks allow managers and leaders to observe the actual work process, engage with employees, gain knowledge about the work process, and explore opportunities for continuous improvement. 

Best Practices  

  • Visualize the difference between normal and abnormal at the workspace 
  • Spot an abnormal situation 
  • Ask “why?” to the teams repeatedly 
  • Discover something about the technical process (not the organizational process) that explains the difficulty we didn’t know before 
  • Suggest something that can be done about it. 

(Source: Lean Enterprise Institute) 

 

5S 

A practical method to instill a quality culture at the workplace, the five Ss — Sort, Set in Order, Shine/Sweep, Standardize and Self-Discipline/Sustain — help organize where your work is done. 

Principles  

  • Sort: Clearly distinguish needed items from unneeded and eliminate the latter 
  • Straighten: Keep needed items in the correct place to allow for easy and immediate retrieval  
  • Shine: Keep the workplace neat and clean  
  • Standardize: The method by which sort, straighten, and shine are made habitual  

Best Practices  

  • Model the way 
  • Implement early 
  • Trade involvement 
  • You get what you tolerate 
  • Daily routines and accountability 
  • Keep it simple and visual 
  • Plan for appropriate cleaning supplies, waste bins and removal 
  • Link to productivity, safety, quality 

(Source: LCI, 5S In Lean Construction

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