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Lean Construction

Published 13th February 2006 by Constructing Excellence

Lean construction is the term used to define the application of lean thinking principles to the construction environment.

Lean manufacturing, so called because it resulted in fast assembly times, low material waste and volume outputs to suit the changing market requirements, was first recognised on the automobile manufacturing line at Toyota in Japan. The extension of these ideas to the business environment was termed lean thinking. Its central theme is value. An organisation must understand the real value it delivers to its customers and do so in the most effective way making best use of world resources and its people.

In practice this means subjecting an organisation, its processes and people, to a close scrutiny aimed at identifying that value and studying existing work processes to remove the waste that prevents that value being effectively delivered.

Adopting lean thinking results in a highly flexible, profitable company but the process to achieve it requires radical change and takes a number of years.

There are five principles to guide the change work:

  • Identifying value from the point of view of the customer.
  • Understanding the value streams by which value is delivered.
  • Achieving flow within work processes as waste is removed.
  • Achieving pull so that nothing is made/delivered until it is needed.
  • Perfection recognising that improvement needs to be constantly sought.

These principles can be applied at a number of levels:

  • By an individual design company who recognises its clients to be both the owner of the buildings and those downstream in the design and construction process.
  • By an individual component supplier who delivers value through their component products eg bricks, concrete etc.
  • By a PFI organisation who provide value to different clients through the provision and operation of a building product eg a hospital or a prison.
  • By a group of companies who provide value to various clients through the provision of a building product eg city office space.

The benefits of adopting lean thinking are:

  • Making good profit margins whilst contributing to improving the social infrastructure by protecting the environment and respecting the people who work for you.
  • Creating a construction industry for the future that attracts young people who view it as a vibrant, satisfying, healthy environment in which to employ their talents.

Lean Construction Factsheet




Filed in: Lean Business Processes