In addition to creating a team culture of trust, innovation and alignment, the central purpose of focusing on lean principles in project delivery is to identify and eliminate project waste to create a more efficient and customized solution.
Some Lean Construction Institute studies have shown that up to 70% of activities performed in the design and construction industry do not add value or, in other words, are considered waste. Based on lean principles, tasks that add value should meet the following criteria:
- The end customer cares about the task or outcome
- The task changes the shape or form of a product or service.
- The task can be done right the first time.
By taking an integrated project approach, the team can collaborate early on and assess which aspects of the project may be redundant, unnecessary or simply wasteful.
One way to do this is by identifying overlapping functions and components of a project. For instance, five separate quality managers — one from each organization — may not be needed to deliver a successful project. Teams can focus on what is required to complete a function or task and utilize a “best athlete” approach to decide which partner is best able to meet the project need for the entire team.
Another common source of waste is transportation. In many cases, traditional thinking around schedule acceleration leads to expediting delivery of materials and equipment, well ahead of when they are needed in the construction sequence. Stockpiled materials or inventory are then moved from one spot on the site to another, over and over, just to make room for the necessary work to be done. This can often result in wasted motion and time.
Another common cause of waste is waiting. If one person is forced to wait for another member of the team to complete his or her task, it can slow down the overall job. Using lean thinking and processes, teams focus on creating flow between trades that prevents trade stacking and leads to efficient workforce leveling and ultimately faster, and safer, delivery.
Overprocessing and overproduction can also contribute to the waste in a project. For instance, with traditional project delivery engineers may overcommunicate or overproduce in the absence of being able to talk with the construction team to determine what is needed or useful.
One study found that construction teams only used about 30% of what was produced by the engineering team, highlighting a significant opportunity to more strategically think through the documentation and drawings that are created.
By integrating early in the process with those who do the work, it’s much easier to identify exactly what information is needed to complete a given task in the most efficient and coordinated way possible.
Another potential category of waste exists in defects, or things that are just simply done incorrectly. Early communication is also critical to identifying and avoiding potential defects, whether they’re in design work or construction work. This level of communication also allows team members to catch a mistake or error at the time it occurs, to prevent it from repeating itself and giving the team an opportunity to learn from it or create a better process.
Finally, traditional models can potentially ignore the advantage created by the skills, knowledge and experience each team member may bring to the table. By incorporating more voices into the early planning stages, there are more opportunities to utilize each team member to more clearly identify the most efficient and effective way to complete a task