Foundations. Lean Philosophy
In this century, researchers, consultants, worldwide lean companies... due to
famous cases of corporate crisis like Toyota in 2010 or Delphi, a supplier of General Motors, are
realizing that it is not sufficient to apply lean techniques. In fact, they are continually
referring to articles and blogs about lean behaviors, lean managers, etc ...
this is not about seeming lean, but being lean.
For this reason, and as an initial step towards the lean tools applied to
construction, a lean transformation on site would start by the behaviors of
the site manager, production managers, administrative staff, foremen, and so
on. Then they would be responsible for teaching workers these habits. These
behaviors are described on the lean transformation website.
2. Just in Time
Conceptually, the implementation of JIT in construction is the same as in
industry: the planning and optimization of flows. In the case of planning,
the Lean Construction Institute has developed what is known as Last Planner. It
is a collaborative tool with additional benefits. No software is required,
just the willingness and desire to make things optimal.
Flows to analyze
and optimize are:
- Work units
The VSM (Value Stream Map) is of vital importance for the control of the flow.
One reason for creating this website is precisely to be lean in the information.
The fastest tool for bringing knowledge to more people is the internet. It
would not be a bad idea if each project had to post its web reports, pictures,
certificates ... with restricted access, right?
We should also mention Integration Project Delivery (IPD), which is the
application of the concept of Supply Chain Management for construction, implying
cooperation among all the stakeholders of the project.
In this section I will not explain the famous Smed techniques developed in
the industry. The tools used on site that help us to systematize and better
3.1 Management of the project by cost loading. It is a management tool with many
detractors, but if you use it once in your project with people used to it, you
will become aware of its benefits. It is an ideal tool for continual
improvement. I will introduce a very appropriate aphorism about it.
WHAT IS NOT MEASURED,
CAN NOT BE CONTROLLED
WHAT IS NOT CONTROLLED, CAN NOT BE IMPROVED
IMPROVING REQUIRES CONTROLLING
CONTROLLING REQUIRES MEASURING
All successful companies control and measure long-term frequently.
3.2 Standardize operations and work units
Answering the following questions:
- What do we want?
- How are we going to make it?
- With what materials, personnel?
- Cost and time tasks forecast.
- Persons in charge
does not appear much in lean literature directly. Clearly, if you want to ensure that setbacks do not affect the project deadlines, you should carry out in-depth planning prior to standardization. Then, proactiveness is a consequence of
According to lean experience in manufacturing industry, lean tools are not a necessary
condition to transform your company into
an example of excellence (efficiency and effectiveness by creating customer
value); you must start with people. So in the lean transformation section,
the first steps are lean habits, lean games, coaching, etc. Lean workers´ behaviours are a necessary
and sufficient condition to have a lean enterprise. Lean techniques are tools
to facilitate the path.
these procedures in our works is a challenge, but it is the only way if we
want customer service, reducing time and cost while being mindful of its
quality, not just technically, but also functionally for the end user,
something which is often forgotten. The current financial crisis, business
schools and world economic organizations demand it.
But the question to answer is: Why do I have to apply lean construction to my
site, my contractor or my project?
1. To achieve cost reductions of up to 20%.
2. Currently, we are becoming aware that public debt has its limits and
affects public projects, too. This means meeting the budget and seeking
solutions without economic growth. Therefore, we need more standardization and
3. Last Planner and IPD contracts are facilitators of cooperation. Carrot-and-stick is less used, because the
motivation is intrinsic (see link).
4. To increase site safety and a better working environment.
5. Encouraging the habit of continual improvement in your company is no
guarantee of survival and long-term success, but the enterprise will disappear
if it is not used in this competitive world.
6. Projects are well defined and ordered. Team working, discipline and proactive
attitudes are developed.
7. If you do not apply it, soon it will be used by your competitors.
Nowadays, successful companies are very lean: cooperation, speed, proactiveness,
kaizen and creating customer value (service at lower cost).
8. It is already used successfully in construction. For example, in the case
of cost loading, companies that use it do not want change. They are aware of
their advantages and it is an effective tool to promote continual
9. There is no other way to reduce cost, reduce time and increase the quality
of our project. The manufacturing industry is an example that lean works
worldwide regardless of culture.
How about starting tomorrow and seeing the benefits quickly?
1. Apply 5S. (It is the first step, before standardization in many cases of
all the operations: units of work, administrative, technical, management,
etc. Standardization is the basis for your team knowing the processes
technically and economically.
3. Create a web site.
4. Use smartphones. (You will realize the setbacks at once via photos or
5. Promote continuous improvement, asking employees for a minimum monthly
number of improvements in their activities.
6. Promote cooperation and improve communication.
7. Limit the length of the meetings, forcing people to prepare the meeting.
8. Visit site with the aim of eradicating waste and creating value. Beforehand,
you have to find out how to do it and the performance of the main daily
9. Measure everything in its current state and measure again after the change
has been made. (PDCA, The Deming Cycle)
10. Use Last Planner. Especially in building projects.
The Lean Transformation section shows the
steps to ensure long-term excellence.