How Lean Building can Eliminate Waste and Improve Efficiency
Economic pressures (that include preventing another recession) are pushing hard on today’s construction industry to improve productivity and eliminate waste. Over the past 20 years, the manufacturing sector has increased its labor productivity by 3.6%, and the construction sector by only 1%.
Increasing productivity has an array of benefits, including addressing the chronic labor gap for the industry, reducing materials and costs, preventing accidents, decreasing stress for workers, increasing customer satisfaction with reliable timelines, and enhanced worker accountability and job satisfaction.
Yet unfortunately, the construction industry is actually second to last within all U.S. sectors when it comes to levels of productivity. How can we make a change? Instituting lean construction.
The 5 Principles of Lean Construction
Basically, this method of production that is strongly focused on reducing time, materials, costs and effort on a construction process needs a clear-cut strategy from the beginning. Here are the principles that align with minimizing the bad and maximizing the good.
- Identify value from the customer’s point of view. Looking past what the customer wants you to build, but why they want you to build it establishes trust and deep understanding from the start.
- Define the value system. Only add steps to the process that are adding the value to the project that the customer wants, removing unnecessary tasks or effort.
- Eliminate waste. This includes waste from defects, overproduction, waiting, not utilizing talent, transport, inventory, motion, or over-processing.
- Design a cohesive flow of work processes. In traditional models, mass production includes little to no interaction between each touch point of a project, with only the worker’s one job being their main focus. In lean construction models, employees, distributors, and all managing parties work cohesively together throughout the project, continuously verifying and communicating how the original strategy and timeline is being carried out.
- Continuously improve. At the heart of the lean construction philosophy is the necessary ability to be flexible throughout the process. Recognizing opportunities to eliminate waste, either in material or effort, and acting upon them is a critical part of the method.
Ditching Traditional Methods, Improving Efficiency
We’ve discussed modular construction in a few of our previous blog posts, but it’s also very relevant to the issue of “building lean.” This process of creating structures in a controlled environment, then taking to the jobsite reduces waste of materials and saves time by simultaneously building the structure (in a place where weather elements won’t push the timeline) while getting the jobsite ready. This is certainly a process that would fit in with the philosophy of lean building.
A Leaner, Cleaner Future
In a McGraw Hill Construction survey, 84% of companies who were questioned reported higher-quality projects since moving from traditional processes and adopting lean construction. Additionally, 80% saw greater customer satisfaction, 77% experienced greater productivity, and 77% saw improved jobsite safety.
We are taking every opportunity we get to worker towards cleaner, more efficient and productive strategies as we approach construction projects. In a recent cold storage industrial job, we reduced waste and time by implementing modular construction. Check out the results, and let us know what you’re looking for in your next construction project!
As co-owner of Galbraith/Pre-Design, Inc., Mark Galbraith is responsible for the construction of commercial facilities in nine states. Continuing his family’s tradition of commercial and industrial construction in south central Pennsylvania and beyond, Mark’s experience includes site analysis and selection, pre-construction services, field engineering and project management.