We get asked this question more often than one would imagine. To really answer this concern, we need to dive deep into what Lean claims, and what it actually means to be adopting Lean Construction or attaining Lean maturity.
What is Lean?
Simply put, Lean is a way to define processes that can ensure smooth execution of activities on-site with minimum wastage of resources, while ensuring the needs of the supply-chain are delivered at every stage. This requires a thorough review and ironing-out of existing practices and workflows.
Concepts of Production Theory
To further understand how fundamentals of Lean correlate to planning and execution practices, it is necessary to get an overview of the key concepts of production theory.
Traditionally, the transformation view of production has been dominant; converting inputs to outputs. However, in the flow view, the focus is on eliminating waste from processes; effectively ensuring that work and information flows uninterrupted.
A third view on production is value generation, with the basic goal to reach the best possible value from the point of the “customer” – for the supply chain, every single handover acts as a customer.
Key ingredients of a good Lean System
The current industry requirement is not simply a production theory that fully integrates the transformation, flow, and value concepts, but also the right supporting tools that can enable its adoption and implementation.
A good Lean production management system incorporating these three concepts can enable the industry to transition towards Lean practices. Such a system would constitute the following aspects.
1. Address the core production processes
The system should target the core of construction management – the planning and execution of project activities on-site. Peripheral improvements are beneficial, but secondary. The primary intent remains to ensure flow and value in production.
For example, Lean production management involves a close make-ready process to ensure the assignments are checked for prerequisites such as material, space, and manpower, before the work is actually started on-site. This considerably minimises unexpected halts or issues during execution of the work, ensuring production flow and smooth handovers.
2. Integrate product and process on a single platform
With an overall view of generating value across the project delivery model for all stakeholders involved, the Lean model specifies the development of product as well as process design in sync. This is in contrast to the traditional approach of first the product is designed and then the contractors are generally called on-board to come up with an execution strategy.
3. Support visual management principles
Lean philosophy describes visualisation as a great tool for offering a common language across teams. Visual management makes it simpler for people to discuss, integrate, and collaborate, thereby minimising waste in terms of information flow amongst project teams. Platforms supporting this make it easier for teams to collaborate towards efficient project delivery.
4. Address production flows with information flow
While traditionally decisions are simply “thrown over the wall” to the next person-in-line, the Lean model emphasises on the involvement of downstream for decision making. Rather than reactive approaches to push work in case of performance variances, a Lean production management model defines control by assessing the situation, establishing the root cause, and coming up with solutions, instilling an attitude of continuous improvement.
5. Not lose sight of the larger picture
While the focus is on addressing flow and bottom-up short-term planning, the team should not lose the sight of the big picture, i.e. key milestones, and deliverables. With the entire team aligned towards generating value for the end customer, the collaboration becomes much stronger in case of a Lean model. This aligned interest allows for reliability amongst the entire chain of project delivery.
The “Lean” in VisiLean
While there are many differences between the Lean approach and current practice, an important implementation milestone occurs when the project organization shifts from only measuring the performance of each activity (the task view) to actively improving the predictable release of work from one specialist to the next (the flow view).
With VisiLean, we enable you to digitally provide this for your teams. There is no need to start with the theory; with VisiLean, your journey towards Lean maturity begins the moment your team starts to collaborate on the platform and activate it by providing real-time data from site.