What is Lean Construction and Why Should You Care?

By Jessica Kane

In effort to reduce costs, increase value and reduce environmental waste, managers must be attentive to the overall construction process.

Lean construction is the term used to define the use of less time, low material waste and little effort in the production of something of value. The term was first pioneered by the Toyota Company in Japan. Their brand was considered to be the most efficient worldwide, and it was believed that their lean production techniques could also be applied to other business activities. Ideally, this is a philosophy that can be viewed as a technique that maximizes value and minimizes waste.

Lean construction is a progressive process applied through procurement, design, construction and manufacture. It is an integrated technique which dictates that clients, suppliers and contractors must work together and focus on delivering value. As opposed to manufacturing, construction is production-based. And the most successful way of forming a production system that economizes maximally on input, is by integrating all involved functions of the project.

Why it Matters

Lean construction presents various benefits and can lead to:

  • Constructive utilization of materials
  • Great workflow
  • Significant reduction of time used in each project
  • Increased output resulting from time used to complete each project

A company can only efficiently deliver when there is a clear line of value created for each customer. That means managers are expected to be attentive in the processes of the company, the delivery of each service, and the people involved. Lean simply means changing the traditional techniques of doing things. So, why does lean construction matter? It matters because it reduces costs, increases value, and is green, thereby reducing environmental waste.

It also helps to generate greater outcomes since better collaboration between production and management is emphasized. Organizations which have so far embraced these techniques have reaped benefits and significant results. Projects are realized and repeatable, given that materials are sourced from recycled components. In practice, lean construction means subjecting an organization and its daily practices to close scrutiny. That makes it easy to identify the value of the existing processes and the waste that prevents value from being delivered effectively. Adopting this practice results in a highly profitable and flexible company.

How it Impacts the World

Customers stick with a company that completes projects in good time. For such practices to be followed, cultural changes have to take place. Many people believe that time, cost and quality cannot all feature in the construction industry. However, that is not the case. Lean construction only requires a shift in corporate training and an execution marked by commitment and discipline. Such practices play a great role in protecting the environment.

Aside from erecting new buildings, lean construction is also highly effective in other types of construction such as infrastructure and the wind power industry. In the wind industry, for example, wind power has not been as efficient as it should be since the wind farms are expensive to build. Through lean construction, the costs could be significantly reduced. Lean practices can create more readily available sources of energy. The same lean techniques that reduce costs and waste can also be used to construct better and less expensive structures around the world.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading supplier of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.