Lean construction: What it’s all about and how to implement it in your project?

It is estimated that 70% of projects exceed the initial budget, as well as the delivery date. Lean construction attempts to solve this problem by implementing a smarter and more efficient way of working.

However, in a conservative field such as construction, implementing this concept has its challenges.

In the traditional approach, communication failures, date conflicts, untimely delivery of materials, etc., cause deadline times to extend and costs to increase. Lean construction offers a solution to that.

As leaders in prefabricated modules, we at Hydrodiseño promote the implementation of this kind of approach that proposes to change the traditional paradigm within the construction sector. Therefore, in this article, we will talk about what lean construction is, its principles and benefits, and how you can implement it in your projects.

What is lean construction?

Lean construction is a collaborative process including all parties involved in the planning and production of a construction project (including the workers).

It is estimated that 90% of construction projects worldwide often end up costing more than what’s initially planned and are delivered with some margin of delay.

Additionally, it is estimated that inefficient communication between all parties involved in these projects creates approximately 57% of the waste generated.

These are some of the challenges that the lean methodology seeks to eliminate or reduce. A methodology that began to be implemented in the sector in the 1990s.

Lean construction has a holistic approach, seeking improvement in all areas and dimensions of construction projects. Also, it helps to achieve the sustainability goals of projects, something that has become especially important considering the latest statistics on sustainable construction.

To achieve this, there are three relevant aspects to consider:

  1. Early incorporation of all participants/players: This is estimated to decrease 51% of conflicts and rectifications on site.
  2. Detailed planning: Reduces about 45% of conflicts among tasks on site.
  3. Weekly work planning: Reduces about 52 % of the rectifications in the daily work of the operators and workers.

In what type of projects can lean construction be applied?

Generally speaking, it can be applied to any project that seeks to reduce project costs and delivery times.

Whether it is a new construction, a renovation, or an interior design project, lean construction can offer great advantages and benefits without requiring significant investments, although it does require sufficient and skilled human resources to carry it out.

Principles of lean construction

A fundamental difference between traditional work and the lean approach is that in the former, problems are solved during construction as they arise. In contrast, the lean approach seeks to establish well-planned strategies that anticipate such problems and devise effective ways to avoid them and/or foresee their possible solutions.

The goal of lean construction is to ensure that the project is completed on schedule, with as little waste as possible, and reduced costs by providing predictable and repeatable results.

Let’s look at some of the fundamental principles that apply to lean construction:

Eliminate everything that doesn’t add value to the workflow

The fundamental basis of lean construction methodology is to eliminate from the workflow everything that doesn’t add real value to the final product.

To this end, it brings together all the parties involved (client, architects, contractors, engineers, workers, etc.) to plan the process in detail and thus streamline it and make it more efficient. Covering all the steps from raw materials to finishing

Focusing on the customer and adding value to the construction process

Another of the principles to be considered in lean construction is the need for a clear and deep understanding of the client’s needs and that all work areas share common knowledge and objectives to achieve the same results.

All this is to develop competitive advantages and deliver works that make sense to the end consumer.

Standardizing processes and reducing variability

It must be ensured that projects can proceed without interruptions or problems after eliminating all non-value-adding operations in the workflow.

Clear and effective communication and efficient work sequencing are necessary. For example, when one part of the project is delayed, the entire team must be aware of such delay and make the necessary adjustments to avoid wasting time and excess inventory.

On the other hand, standardizing processes is essential in lean construction. Although each project has particular characteristics, adopting work patterns that seek to reduce the variation from one project to another helps to avoid problems and make the whole process more efficient.

Just in Time

Planning predictable delivery schedules saves both time and money, without the need to stock costly inventory. On the contrary, when there is no proper planning in this sense, losses and delays are generated.

This is why the optimization of work cycles is one of the fundamental principles of lean construction methodology.

Ensuring that processes are transparent

Transparent management, as well as clear and efficient communication, facilitates the identification of points of failure and ensures continuous improvement throughout the work process.

Benefits of lean construction

The benefits of lean construction comprise the entire work chain and increase the value perceived by the customer. The main advantages of lean construction include the following:

Meeting deadlines

As we saw before, meeting the stipulated deadlines is one of the most common problems in the construction industry, and changing or solving this issue is precisely one of the objectives of lean construction.

To do so, it simplifies activities, eliminating unnecessary tasks, and planning and anticipating potential problems, improving the chances that deadlines will be met on time.

Increased productivity

Today there is a need to produce more in less time, but without affecting the quality of the final product.

By applying lean construction and through a series of adjustments and changes in the execution of tasks, from the way equipment and materials are allocated on the job site to the adoption of new technologies, the construction site becomes much more productive.

Reduction of costs, waste, and execution times

Money, materials, labour, and time are resources that must be used efficiently.

Lean construction allows for minimizing all losses and waste, finding ways to save money and time. This is possible thanks to detailed planning and the adoption of modern technologies.

Variability reduction

Ensuring standardization on the job site is a fundamental challenge for lean methodology. As we saw before, the use of technology and skilled labour helps to achieve this goal.

Better quality = satisfied customers

The result of all of the above is a significant improvement in the quality of the final product and thus greater customer satisfaction.

How to implement lean construction?

You are probably wondering how you could implement lean construction in your project. Let’s take a look at some of the steps and requirements needed to do so:

  1. Identify areas of improvement and establish key performance indicators: it is possible to identify areas for immediate improvement through the collection of information and the use of key performance indicators.
  2. Good planning: this includes defining work steps with a well-planned structure, predicting problems, and establishing a management guide for crisis situations or scenarios.
  3. Invest in skilled labour: it is very important to have human resources in line with the skills required by the project. Well-trained and committed teams will reduce activity times and improve the quality of the final product.
  4. Rely on technology platforms for processes: technology plays a key role in the lean construction methodology. Modern software allows automating tasks and anticipating risks, helping to improve the entire workflow. Also, the implementation of advanced technologies such as BIM (Building Information Modelling) is essential.

Lean construction: An opportunity you should seize?

Lean construction ensures that all parties in a project are involved and participate in the same. Focusing on a sustainable approach and seeking high efficiency and quality in the results obtained.

The situation of the modular construction market has changed in recent years, and as a leading company in the sector, we must adapt to the new requirements.

Therefore, the implementation of the lean construction methodology is an opportunity for us to offer higher quality standards to our customers.

If your project requires prefabricated modular bathrooms or kitchens, please contact us and our consultants will answer all your questions without obligation.