Improve Safety, Quality, and Productivity in Construction with Lean
Chasing productivity in construction can feel like a losing battle.
Subcontractors often can’t keep their commitments, equipment is never where you need it, and material deliveries show up unannounced, late, or not at all.
All these inconsistencies add stress, and confusion and put the job behind schedule.
As a result of falling behind, management shifts work crews, and work is often rushed, done piecemeal, and out of sequence to get the project back on track.
And while there’s nothing wrong with pushing forward to get things done, busy workers aren’t always productive.
And in many cases, the effort spent trying to make up for lost time doesn’t contribute to progress in the long run.
Instead, these efforts result in just the opposite.
Rushed and out-of-sequence work causes errors, and further delays and the work quality always suffers.
As a result, constructed elements have to be reworked, and rework causes significant accidents, injuries, and more schedule delays.
Improved safety, quality, and productivity in construction begin with lean principles.
Maintaining a safe and orderly job site is a basic premise of lean thinking that eliminates out-of-sequence work and the problems it causes.
This practice prevents slips, trips, falls, damaged materials, wasted motion, and rework.
Lean construction begins by organizing the worksite according to the 5S principles.
5S practice has been highly effective in manufacturing environments for decades, and research confirms that employing 5S techniques in the construction environment is equally beneficial.
However, that’s not to say that adopting lean principles is easy.
Staging work areas on the construction site with only the tools, equipment, and materials required for each work package can sometimes be challenging.
Each trade and specialty contractor has different requirements and often, these trades are either working in the same areas or are sharing common routes of access and egress.
What’s orderly and clean for one contractor may be cluttered and congested for another.
Fortunately, The Last Planner System® (LPS®) from the Lean Construction Institute provides tested and reliable guidance for implementing lean principles on the construction site.
Collaborative work planning improves productivity in construction.
The Last Planner System® (LPS®) encompasses the entire project, from the Master Schedule down to project commissioning and final handoff.
A defining feature of The Last Planner System® is its increasing level of detail.
Starting with the Master Schedule, project teams decompose the project into milestones, then break milestones into phases.
Teams make weekly plans for each phase and hold daily accountability huddles to ensure work is proceeding as planned.
Representatives from every trade and contractor on the construction site are involved in these daily huddles to ensure collaboration and compliance.
And if there’s a problem, the contractors work together to sort it out. No judgment.
The safety of the team members, the quality of the work, and the project’s success are the driving forces behind The Last Planner System®.
Respect for People
The Last Planner System® recognizes that people are the most valuable resource on the construction site.
Nothing gets built without people, and the highest levels of productivity in construction are always the result of people working together in collaboration.
By definition, the Last Planner for each trade is the person closest to the work.
Last Planners are typically supervisors, forepersons, or responsible persons who can be relied on to keep their commitments to the schedule on behalf of their organization.
Removal of Waste
Lean practice defines waste as anything that does not add value to the project, the owner, or the end user.
Unnecessary transportation, excess inventory, unproductive motion, wait time, creating more than what’s necessary, defects in workmanship, and underutilized talent are all examples of waste.
Achieving productivity in construction relies on making the most of the available resources and eliminating non-value-adding efforts.
A focus on Process & Flow
A process contains every step required to accomplish a defined task. And flow is achieved when the work-in-process continues uninterrupted by waste, errors, or defects.
Flow results when assigned work enters the process at the same rate as an equal measure of work is completed.
Just-in-time deliveries and pull-planning are examples of flow–where materials, tools, and equipment enter the process only when needed. That way, crews finish what they start before moving on to the next task, ensuring no out-of-sequence work and an orderly project progression.
Value is defined as the worth of a product or service as perceived by the customer. Another way to think of value is as the opposite of waste.
Value-adding activities are anything that contributes to the safe, efficient completion of error-free work on behalf of the owner.
Shaving time off a process is an improvement, but so is finding ways to work more safely.
Every little improvement matters, and the craft workers closest to work in progress are the most reliable source for identifying these improvements.
It’s management’s responsibility to lay out clear and carefully scoped goals and then encourage their craft workers to provide feedback on their progress.
And it’s the craft workers’ responsibility to actively participate in the continuous improvement process by communicating their needs to management.
Optimize the Whole
Setting unrealistic goals, rushing to get ahead, and doing work out of sequence are all counterproductive activities.
Project-wide collaboration focused on safe and efficient operations with an eye toward continuous improvement helps everyone succeed.
The Last Planner System® optimizes the whole through collaborative look-ahead planning, consistent feedback from those closest to the work, weekly commitments, and daily huddles to keep the project on track.
Get started with lean for greater productivity in construction.
Lean construction techniques require no special tools or skills other than a willingness to collaborate for the betterment of each other and the project.
The Lean Construction Institute provides free resources to get started.
Technology supports safety, quality, and lean productivity in construction.
For construction firms that want to take lean construction techniques to the next level, software built for construction can help.
Involve the workforce.
Involved craft workers are a critical source of feedback for continuous improvement efforts, and digital technology makes this easy.
Supervisors can communicate through mobile apps to give and receive feedback, stay up to speed on progress, and keep their teams on track.
Schedule daily safety huddles and toolbox talks, and stay in touch, all from the palm of your hand.
Ongoing feedback enables management to adjust, adapt to the workforce’s needs, and stay on schedule while maintaining a safe work environment.
Gathering this critical data with construction project management software is fast, easy, cost-effective, and convenient.
Mobile apps and intuitive dashboards keep project owners, design teams, contractors, and subcontractors connected and up to date, so nothing falls through the cracks.
Improve productivity in construction with software built for safety, quality, and performance.
Get a free, custom demonstration of the Linarc construction management system today.
Linarc is a cloud-based project management system built solely for collaborative, data-driven construction management.
- Seamless collaboration
- Easy file sharing
- Common communication platform
- Real-time updates on project progress
- …and so much more
Connect with a Linarc representative and see what the power of software technology can do to improve the productivity of your operation.