The Lean Manufacturing Of Construction Construction Essay

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Lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of lean manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs.

Construction and manufacturing differ significantly in the physical features of the end product. In manufacturing, finished goods generally can be moved as a whole to retailers or end customers. Construction, on the other hand, deals with larger units that cannot be transported. Lean construction is a translation and adaptation of lean manufacturing principles and practices to the end-to-end design and construction process. Unlike manufacturing, construction is a project based-production process. Lean construction is concerned with the holistic pursuit of concurrent and continuous improvements in all dimensions of the built and natural environment: design, construction, and activation, maintenance, salvaging, and recycling. This approach tries to manage and improve construction processes with minimum cost and maximum value by considering customer needs.

Lean construction is 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) Yahya M.A. (2009) define "Lean construction is about managing and improving the construction process to profitability deliver what the customer needs by eliminating waste in the construction flow due to construction contract, specification and agreement between client and other parties by using the right principle, resources and measure to deliver things right first time."The application of lean production theory in construction is a complex process. This is because the adaptation of concepts and principles from manufacturing to construction is not straightforward. The meaning of concepts, principles and approaches used to explain and improve manufacturing processes must be well understood in order to transfer them to the construction environment. Furthermore, old thinking patterns must be abandoned in order to apply such concepts in the construction environment. Those patterns include the belief that construction industry is too particular to have any similarity with manufacturing as well as the focus on solutions exclusively drawn from new technologies and financial support when time and economic constraints are involved.

Undoubtedly, the implementation of Lean Construction theory and practice implies changes in organizations. It would require not only individual learning of new concepts and competencies, but also a change on the way things are done within organizations.

Lean construction is the practical application of lean manufacturing principles, or lean thinking, to the building environment.

Lean is about designing and operating the right process and having the right systems, resources and measures to deliver things right first time. Essential to this is the elimination of waste - activities and Processes that absorb resources but create no value. Waste can include mistakes, working out of sequence, redundant activity and movement, delayed or premature inputs, and products or services that don't meet customer needs.

Womack and Jones (1996) identified five key principles that need to be observed when lean construction systems are designed. They are:

Value: - Construction needs to adopt product focus that enables a long-term dialogue to be started concerning the nature of value and how the product delivers it. The client requires a building to suit his purpose and provides value for money.

Value stream: - The value stream identifies all those steps required to make a product. Identifying value stream, the way value is realised, establishes when and how decisions are to be made. The key technique behind value stream is process mapping for a very specific reason: that of understanding how value is built into the building product from client's point of view.

Value stream maps can be understood as processes flow charts that identify what action releases work to the next operation. Mapping brings choices to the surface and raises the possibility of maximising performance during construction.

At a strategic level, it offers a perspective on defining what is to be done. By taking this top down approach, the idea of identifying value streams such as the structure and the building envelope and considering how these systems are to be designed, supplied and constructed, offers a different way of organising for construction.

At a more tactical level, the value stream map can identify where waste lies in a particular process and this process analysis shows how value stream can be achieved more effectively. A set of all the specific actions required bringing a specific product through:

• Problem solving task running from concept through detailed design and engineering to production launch

• Information management task running from order taking through detailed scheduling to delivery

• Physical transformation task proceeding from raw materials to finished products in the hands of the customer

Flow: - Flows are characterised by time, cost and value. Resources (labour, material and construction equipment) and information flows are the basic units of analysis in lean construction. There are controllable and uncontrollable flows. Controllable flows such as materials or instructions from the warehouse or management respectively. Uncontrollable flows such as suppliers' provisions of resources and design information.

Strategically, flow is concerned with achieving a holistic route through the means by which a product is developed. It attacks the fragmentation that is inherent in the industry today by revealing it to be highly wasteful. Many have recognised this wastefulness and the leading solution is seen to be partnering (Latham, 1994).

Bennett (1998), points out that early stages of partnering are necessary prerequisites for improving construction. However, partnering remains only a partial solution. Lean works to eliminate places where value-adding work on material or information is interrupted. In construction, this may mean repackaging work so that parts of the project can proceed without completion of others and/or assure that resources are delivered in the order required and transported directly to the installation location to prevent double handling (Howell and Ballard, 1998).

Construction problems are caused by negligence of flows. The construction process is seen as a set of activities; each is controlled and improved as such. Conventional managerial methods like Critical Path Method (CPM) deteriorate flows by violating principle of flow process, design and improvement. They concentrate on conversion activities. The resultant problem in construction tends to compound and self perpetuate. Under lean thinking, improvement is possible by reducing uncertainties in workflow. Redesigning the planning system at the assignment level is the key to assuring reliable workflow and this step has to be implAt a strategic level, pull identifies the real need to deliver the product to the customer as soon as he needs it. The traditional construction process pushes the client into an often-protracted development process where risk and uncertainties are prevalent.

Pull:-The principle of pull suggests a decision where the ability to define quickly what the client needs from a building in relation to his business and subsequently customising and deliver them more predictably when the client requires them.

Three types of inventories need to be minimised:

• Material and design

• Labour and its tools

• Intermediate work product that has not been exploited

Perfection / Continuous Improvement

This is a key strategic level because what it defines is the need for this way of working and organising construction products to become a way of life with an inherent culture. To achieve perfection means constantly considering what is being done; how it is being done and harnessing the expertise and knowledge of all those involved in the processes to improve and change it.

With continuous improvement (Japanese: Kaizen) done and with waste eliminated along the flow process, perfection is the ultimate sweet reward that companies can achieve. In essence, lean construction is a project delivery system founded on the reliability and speedy delivery of value.

Tools and techniques such as kaizen, simultaneous engineering and strategic alliances with the suppliers are in essence the result of applying these five main principles to what is already being done at a tactical level. The essential elements of lean construction can be examined separately but the benefits can only be achieved by the holistic approach of all the elements.(len construction 19 /11 16:02)


This research is intended to meet the following objectives:

The first step is to identify basic meaning of lean construction.

To identify the voids in prevailing construction methodologies.

Study the various tools such as planning and commitment of planning, partnership and communication, Activity based cost controls (ABC), value engineering etc.

Application of lean management on live construction projects.

To study the lean construction practices with respect to the production practices.

To determine the difficulties faced in implementing lean principles in construction industry.

To study which other theories can be implemented to make construction a lean construction.









Fig 1.1 Methodology


Chapter 1 gives us the introduction about the general approach and flow of the thesis. It gives us the definition of Lean and further elaborates its principles in the construction scenario. It also imparts light on methodology adopted for the thesis work

This chapter (chapter 3) gives the idea of different case studies that were selected to learn the impact of lean in construction industry. The cases give idea about how lean can be applied with ease and thus help to reduce waste and maximize profit in terms of time and cost. The cases so selected are to assess the impact of implementing lean construction, competing construction management paradigms and applicability of logistics management in lean construction.

Chapter 4 gives us information about the various tools and techniques quintessential for implementation of Lean philosophy in Construction industry. It explains various concepts viz. Just In Time (JIT), Collaboration, Activity Based Costing (ABC), Last Planner…

The next chapter consists of case studies wherein we applied lean principles to optimize the operation. In the initial phase of this chapter company profile and basic information and the key elements of the project is presented. Furthermore, fundamentals of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and its application into the case for improvisation of the process are explained. In the later stage general background is presented which will help in further analysis.

This chapter (chapter 6) analyses 2 case studies wherein the first case study is application of VSM principles to optimize concreting operation which was introduced in the previous chapter. The second case study deals with the application of fundamentals of HRM wherein we have studied the present OBS at Project level and suggested measures to overcome problems and have given a restructured OBS for the company.

The next chapter covers new tools that could be used in construction industry for better functionality and better workings. Tools like partnership which talks about maintaining good relation with client, contractor, sub-contractors, labours and other facilitators in manner that helps in smooth functioning throughout the project. Lean six sigma is also covered here that emphasizes on error minimization and promotes repetitive work that will effectively help in speedy work. Human resource management is also a tool that should be followed in construction industry and thus help all manpower to understand work nature and work satisfactorily.

Finally the thesis has been concluded with recommendations after intense study and analysis of the tools and techniques and the problems associated with implementation of Lean Management in Construction Industry.


This topic was taken keeping in mind the changing trends in construction industry. Lean as understood helps in minimizing waste of all kinds like time, material, cost & etc. thus making construction a profitable and streamlined business. Hence , considering lean to be future of construction the topic was selected though a few limitations were faced like : -

The data obtained needed to be scrutinized as direct application of inferences was not possible in the Indian scenario.

Quantitative data was difficult to be obtained because of non usage of the practices in the Indian construction scenario.

Unawareness about lean management or lean construction in the industry was difficult to be dealt with.

Scope of work

To learn the lean management concepts.

To learn and analyse the conventional method of construction work on site.

To compare and recommend lean concepts as compared to conventional methodology.