What is Lean in construction? 4 tips to start applying the Lean principles

KYP Project

The concept of Lean construction started in the car industry with Toyota, and is about 100 years old by now. The concept behind Lean management can be applied anywhere; working with Lean principles has its advantages in construction as well. Read all about it in this blog.

Let’s start with a definition: Lean construction is the continuous improvement of how you perform work in construction. You do this to reduce waste, with the long-term goal of eliminating waste altogether. ‘Waste’ in this sense means time and materials, for example, but it’s also about improving communication and the flow of information.

A sidenote about working Lean and Lean management
Some might call it working Lean, others might call it Lean management; both terms come down to the same thing. In this blog, we will be using these terms interchangeably and mean the same thing.

What is Lean construction?

When you start working on improving your work processes and reducing waste, you are engaged in Lean management. Lean management in construction has 3 main characteristics:

  1. Ensuring that all work that is carried out actually adds value.
  2. Reducing or even preventing waste of, for example, energy, time or money.
  3. Continuous analysis and improvement.

Working according to the Lean principle means that you always learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can always be made, but within Lean, this is actually something to be glad about: as long as there are mistakes, there are opportunities for improvement.

The principles of Lean construction

The Lean Management Institute has defined characteristics for working Lean. In short, Lean management means that – while looking at your work processes – you’re always thinking of:

  1. The value assessment of the product or an action. It’s important to look at what actually adds value for the customer.
  2. Optimizing operations. Working Lean means always looking at how you can improve the work that adds value.
  3. Preventing waste as much as possible. As mentioned before, waste is meant in the broadest sense of the word. You’ll try to shorten turnaround times, optimally plan the use of other parties, and avoid duplicate work.
  4. Reducing tasks that add no value. Some tasks provide little or no value, but you can’t remove them from the process entirely. Try to keep this task as short as possible.
  5. Thinking from a ‘demand-driven system’. Sometimes this is refered to as thinking from ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’, and it means that you design your work processes to respond to existing customer demands as much as possible.
  6. Continuously improve your work. Always look at how you can improve your work. This means that you don’t hide mistakes, but solve them once and for all.
  7. Strive for a learning organisation. Again, mistakes are learning moments. To truly apply Lean, you must have room to look at and improve mistakes.

4 tips to start applying Lean management in construction

The concept behind Lean construction is not very complicated. The actual implementation of Lean management can be trickier. Organisations that want to work Lean must make time and room to look at their work processes. We have a number of tips to immediately start applying Lean:

  1. Use a project plan. By making a project plan, you will have all the tasks that need to be done in one overview. This will help you plan activities in a logical order and prevents you from forgetting tasks.
  2. Make a visual construction schedule. Plan more efficiently by making a construction schedule: you can do this by linking the activities from your project plan to the people responsible for them. Thanks to this schedule, you deploy the parties involved at the right time, and you have an estimate of the lead time. Certain tools, such as the construction scheduling software from KYP Project, make it easier to draw up a schedule. In addition, this software often supports you in surrounding tasks, such as communicating changes with third parties, tracking progress, and collecting statistics to be more efficient in your next project.
  3. At the end of a project, plan a moment to look back. Optimising actions, improving work, and learning from mistakes are important characteristics of Lean management in construction. This is only possible if you look back at completed work. Therefore, include a moment to do so in your schedule.
  4. Communicate with stakeholders. From the project partner on the construction site and the supplier who delivered the materials, to the quality controller: everyone who worked on the project can have valuable input. Make sure to ask them for their thoughts on the project and the work.

Lean construction is easier with KYP Project

Lean project management starts before the first brick has been laid. Successful application of the Lean principles in the construction sector starts with setting up the schedule. Drawing up a Lean construction schedule is easier and faster with the online scheduling software by KYP Project. With our scheduling tool:

  • You’ll always have your schedule up-to-date;
  • You have a quick overview everywhere, at the office and at the construction site;
  • Everyone will be automatically informed of any changes in the schedule;
  • You can get insights into every project with KYP Analytics;
  • You can easily work together in a Lean way;
  • And so much more!

Work faster and Lean in construction with online scheduling software

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