Lean construction is a philosophy that comes from the concepts of Lean Manufacturing, system developed by the large Japanese car manufacturers, initially introduced by Toyota. Its objectives are, broadly speaking, maximizing value and minimizing waste. This way of thinking has transformed many industries, and it has a lot of potential benefits for construction.
One of the foundations of this philosophy is the people. Real and effective collaboration among all the stakeholders is essential, and everyone should be treated as equal, increasing the ‘team feeling’ and everyone’s satisfaction. That is why lean always focuses on keeping workers motivated and involved, through information sharing and useful feedbacks.
Other important principles are continuous improvement and innovation, from the top of the company to the bottom, and elimination of all kinds waste. Waste not in the usual meaning, but mistakes, redundant activities , delayed imputs or messy work places.
One successful example of how Lean thinking can improve project outcomes in construction is the Temecula Valley Hospital, in California. The project cost was down to $1.1 million per bed, when the average in this state is $2.0 million. And also the project was finished 4 months faster than the initial schedule, isn`t it great? Lean manufacturing techniques, 3D modeling, innovation and collaboration were key.
Eventhough manufacturing and project management in construction have several differences, its principles can be adapted to many other fields, and multiple examples shows how lean construction implementation can help to reduce costs and make work more efficient.