Lean Principle In Malaysia Construction Industry Construction Essay

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A study into the effects and barriers of implementing the lean principle in Malaysia construction industry

1.2 Problem Statement

The Malaysia construction industry is congested with many types of project management system to control and manage construction projects but none of them really look in-depth to maximise the efficiency of the work flow and minimizing waste. The implementation of the lean production principle into the local construction scene can improve the problem.

1.3 Research Aim & Objectives

1.3.1 Research Aim

Clearly understands the lean principle in construction and its practicality in the local construction scene.

1.3.2 Research Objectives

There are 3 main objectives to be fulfilled in this dissertation including:

To identify exactly how the principle of lean construction can improve the Malaysian construction industry.

To identify the barriers of implementing the lean principle in the Malaysian construction industry.

To find out the popularity of lean construction in the Malaysian construction industry.

1.4 Background

The whole concept of lean construction involved from lean production, which was developed by Toyota Engineering Division led by a Japanese Engineer, Ohno. The implementation of flow based production system ensures a non-stop flow of the production that is said to maximise resources available by producing the parts in huge quantity and assemble it. In the eyes of Ohno and his crew, this is not efficient, but waste. The errors and defects made because of the pressure to keep the flow running, the over production to keep the machine fully utilised are waste from his perspective.

Although the construction industry is project based and have significant different to production and manufacturing, the concept of lean production can be applied into the construction industry. The term "lean construction" coined by the International Group for Lean Construction it basically a "way to design production systems to minimize waste of materials, time, and effort in order to generate the maximum possible amount of value (Koskela et al. 2002)".

Value, from the lean construction perspective does not means the efficiency and cost minimisation of the project, but to satisfy the customer's requirements. It involves a number of complex ideas comprising continuous improvements, flattened organisation structures, teamwork, elimination of waste, efficient use of resources and cooperative supply chain management (Green, 2000).

In the Malaysia construction Industry, people are concerned in bringing in new technologies to speed up the construction process, which supposingly increases the efficiency of the project. However, little afford has been made to utilise what we already have, and by implementing the concept of lean principle in the construction industry, we can expect alot of improvement in cost, time, labour and in other aspects.

This dissertation will look into the implementation of lean construction in Malaysia construction industry, its practicality and how it actually improves the process of delivering a project.

1.5 Scope of Study

The Scope of study will limit only to the local firms whether contractor or consultant to find out if they have implement the lean construction principles and if yes, how and if no, why.

1.6 Research Methodology

The research dissertation will be undertaken using the following methods:

1.6.1 Literature Review

Gather relevant information by studying through articles, books, handouts and journals that can be obtained from the internet or library. The college library contains a large variety of collection in their shelves and the possibility is high to find books relevant to the project title.

Aimed to fully understand the concept of lean construction before commencing the research, information gathered has to be studied thoroughly to acquire sufficient knowledge and understandings of lean construction. Information to obtained by studying and understanding the resources are as follows:

The lean concept and its practicability in the construction industry;

The application of lean construction in various countries;

The advantages of lean construction comparing to the traditional practices;

Popularity of lean construction in and outside of Malaysia;

Other relevant information.

This process will be carried out throughout the whole duration of preparing the dissertation, to refer closely and make sure that the facts are in the right track.

1.6.2 Semi-structured Interview

Semi-structured Interview is the main method to collect qualitative data. A set of question will be prepared and the interview will be conducted with experienced professionals in the local construction industry. They are allowed to talk about their own opinions outside of the questions prepared and their expectations towards lean construction in the local construction industry.

A pre-interview questionnaire can be distributed to chosen firms by mail or email to find out if they have involved in implementing the lean principle in their projects. In-depth interviews can be arranged for a number of firms. Approximately 10-20 firms will be chosen for in-depth interviews to accumulate sufficient data to be analysed.

The sample size for structured interview will be relatively small (10-20 in this case) compared to other methods such as questionnaire (50-100) and the variables will be limited, therefore the results will be analysed manually without having to utilise software or formulas.


2.1 Introduction

There are many well known chronic problems in the construction industry including low productivity, poor safety, inferior working condition, and insufficient quality. While all sorts of solution are being introduced to relieve such problems, dramatic improvements has yet to be seen.

When Malaysia construction industry are practicing to carry out works and projects by minimising material waste while executing works aiming to complete the project as soon as possible to achieve cost minimisation. The Malaysians thinks that by doing so they have maximised the efficiency of the whole work force and resources. In fact, there are a lot more that could have been done to improve the work flow and minimising waste.

In short, the goals of applying the lean thinking is to "get the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimising waste and being flexible and able to change". Not only that the implementation of lean principle in production contributes in reducing waste, it improves the work flow and quality.

Waste; in normal practice is only referred to construction material waste. But from the perspective of "lean construction", it is a lot more. Eliminating Muda (Japanese term that means an activity that does not add value) is the main concept in lean production.

Principles of lean production and lean construction will be further discussed in the next chapters.

2.2 History of Lean Production

The manufacturing industry has been taken as reference for construction for decades, including lean construction, which was derived from lean production. Initially named the Toyota Production system (TPS), lean production was developed by the founder of Toyoda, Sakichi Toyota, continued by his son, Kiichiro Toyoda and the Engineer Taiichi Ohno (Wikipedia, 2008).

To improve the productivity, Ohno followed the footstep of Henry Ford by developing the flow based production management. While Ford worked on mass production of standard products for different customers to keep up with the manufacturing flows, Ohno wanted to build custom products according to the customer's specification.

Inspired by the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM), he set up three main objectives in Toyota's production: custom product, instant delivery, and zero inventory.

Ohno define waste by the performance criteria for the production system where failure to comply with the client's requirement and specifications is considered as waste because the production period will be prolonged and the inventory is standing idle. Howell (1999) illustrates this with an example of a morning cup of coffee serve. Instant delivery of a cup of coffee is possible but an intermediate inventory (coffee in pot) is required or the customer has to accept a cup of instant coffee which hardly meets requirements of someone craving for a better cup or coffee (does not meet the specifications and requirements of the customer).

Ohno and his Engineers went for plant visits in the United States to seek improvements moving towards zero waste, perfection, shifts the improvement focus from the activity to the delivery system. Therefore they are very familiar with the mass production system which is so common in the US. While the US managers think that mass production maximises efficiency, Ohno and his crew think otherwise. He saw waste at every turn in the production. The pressure to keep all the machinese running at maximum production caused backfire that lead to extensive intermediate inventories that Ohno define as "the waste of over production". And because of such pressures, the possibility of defects being built into the cars increased.

To rectify this problem, Ohno even ordered to stop the production line upon receiving defective parts or products from the upstream. It was understood that not only that such action by him will not improve the efficiency of the production; it will in fact slow down the whole production flow. Ohno recognized that reducing the cost or increasing production speed could add waste if variability was injected into the flow of work, therefore rework due to defects and errors could not be tolerated.

As lean production continues to evolve, develop and improve, the basic outline maintained. To design a production system that will deliver a custom product instantly on order but maintains no intermediate inventories. (Howell, 1999)

2.3 Lean Production in General

Before going into lean construction, the general idea of lean production which lean construction was derived from must be clear. According to Egan (1998), "Lean Production is the generic version of the Toyota Production System, recognised as the most efficient system in the world today. Lean Thinking described the core principles underlying this system that can also be applied to every other business activity - from designing new products and working with suppliers to processing orders from customers"

On the other hand, Howell (1999) defines lean production as "a new way to design and make things differentiated from mass and craft forms of production by the objectives and techniques applied on the shop floor, in design and along supply chains."

The TPS has evolved through these years and improved, only in 1990, the TPS was identified as "lean" by James P. Womack, the founder and currently the chairman of Lean Enterprise Institute.