Eliminate waste, increase productivity - A quick guide to Lean practices for construction professionals

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What the h*ll is Lean Construction?

Written by LetsBuild

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Well, I might only be a bl**dy builder, me, like, but I am a bit inquisitive so I did a bit of reading. “Lean Construction” turns out to be exactly what I guessed it might be!

Turns out that it’s posh, academic way of saying “Be sensible; reduce waste; accelerate the build process; reduce costs and increase profits”!!! In other words it just means apply a bit of common sense to the whole construction process from conception to handover!

Sounds simple enough but, within the complexity that is construction, it is something that often gets side-lined. That is sometimes made worse because people like architects and engineers are focussed on other things like design. Let’s take domestic ceiling heights as an example. Back in the 1980’s they used to be 8ft on the ground floor and 7’6” upstairs. Plaster boards are 2400mm x 1200mm. That meant there was approx. 150mm to be cut off each board upstairs; waste of material and labour!

These days the domestic ceilings are being put up at, usually, 9 feet high. That means an extra noggin to take the extra 300mm of plaster board and all the cutting and additional fixing involved! Not common sense and not Lean Construction! Just the dictates of fashion an someone’s design concept! I’m not going to bother to work out the extra costs involved in time, labour and material! Just feel sorry for those having to pay the extra for these houses!

Now that is a very simple example of what happens when the focus on the concept of lean construction management  is lost – and we have only mentioned house building! For commercial construction projects it is much more difficult to keep focussed on it!

All that potential waste is just something that can happen at the design stage; more can happen on site! For example, it is a monday morning and someone has had a very sociable weekend! Their head is still a little fuzzy when they are trying to order the pretty facing bricks for the posh office entry to a tin shed. They hit the wrong button on their calculator without noticing. The bricks are delivered and laid but – oh, woe! – there are five pallets of them left over! They are still stood there come handover time so there is only one place for them to go; the tip! Again, not Lean ! Well actually, it might be! If one of the guys wants a garage or something at home he might arrange to get them there. From his point of view that would be very lean construction project management!

So, to summarise, Lean Construction boils down to getting a good dose of common sense into any construction project by cutting down on wastes of materials and labour costs!