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Akio Moriwaki
Akio Moriwaki
As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.

How To Improve Construction Project Efficiency Part 1: Insights by Lean Practitioners

June 5th, 2014 by Akio Moriwaki

McGraw Hill Construction, the Lean Construction Institute and Dassault Systèmes teamed up to produce an in-depth report on Lean Construction. Below is an excerpt from that report, part 1 of a 2-part series on the adoption of Lean practices:

In the effort to bring Lean to the industry, contractors are employing a broad mix of principles, processes and tools for Lean construction. While there are some more commonly adopted means and methods, many companies are seeking their own unique solutions.


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Lean principles are also being applied by companies at various levels—from the field to the back office.

Given the broad and diverse approaches, companies are learning that there is no “silver bullet” for being Lean. <<Click to Tweet

Efficiency Efforts: GCs

During the past five years, general contractors (GCs) who have adopted Lean principles and practices have focused their efficiency efforts mostly in the field.

However, some advanced users are applying those principles to their business processes as well. In the coming years, these GCs expect to expand those efforts at the corporate level. Examples of efficiency efforts mentioned by GCs include:

Better planning: All GCs said that improved planning efforts were central to their Lean strategies. All had used The Last Planner System® for production planning in the field.

Advanced modeling: BIM has become an increasingly common tool among GCs, and some emphasize that advanced uses of BIM facilitate Lean efforts when planning and detailing work. In particular, GCs noted that detailed modeling is central to coordinating and detailing offsite prefabrication.

Prefabrication/modularization: Most GCs said they were pushing for more offsite prefabrication on their jobs, either from their own craft workers or subcontractors.

Centralized data: At both the project and company level, GCs are looking to centralize their data so that it can be easily shared. Most struggle with integration issues, and some employ custom solutions to enable sharing.

Better pre-construction: Most GCs focus on improving their pre-construction processes. Two GCs said they had reduced the time from start of preparation to site mobilization by more 75%.

Collaborative delivery: Beyond being Lean in their own practices, GCs push for collaboration among multiple partners on the project team to improve the level of efficiency for the entire project. Some GCs note the need for more owners to embrace these delivery methods.

Efficiency Efforts: Specialty Trade Contractors

Specialty trade contractors are engaged in many of the same approaches to improve efficiency as the GCs, including better planning, advanced modeling and collaborative delivery. The trade contractors also place even greater emphasis on prefabrication as a critical portion of their efficiency efforts than the GCs do, with nearly all the respondents emphasizing this as a key strategy.


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A critical difference between the general and trade contractors is that trade contractors place more emphasis on the work of the employees. Daily work or project assessments are also mentioned by trade contractors as key strategies, and these efforts are typically linked with an emphasis on improving safety as well as efficiency. << Click to Tweet

Areas of Opportunity for Greater Efficiency: GCs

While GCs are making improvements in their field efforts, most say they see a lack of company-level efficiencies in their approaches. Areas that GCs say could be improved include:

  • Internal process improvement 
  • Better top-down support to facilitate widespread adoption 
  • Better integration with partners 
  • Better automation of business processes and reporting 
  • Company reorganization to align with Lean strategies

Areas of Opportunity for Greater Efficiency: Specialty Trade Contractors

Trade contractors also express concern about consistent, company-wide application of the practices to increase efficiency.

At least one trade firm attributes this concern to the fact that they still consider themselves relatively early in the process of adopting these more efficient practices.

Another factor highlighted as hugely impactful by one respondent is the lack of full commitment to scheduling and to the use of appropriate scheduling tools by other project team members.

Other areas mentioned by trade contractors for improvement include:

  • Making office work processes more efficient, similar to their efforts in the field
  • The process of work acquisition

Means of Improving Efficiency: GCs

To improve existing processes and capitalize on future opportunities, contractor strategies include:

  • Creating more “Lean champions” in the company to help spread adoption
  • Increased training at the level of company and project
  • Better collaboration with suppliers and subcontractors

Means of Improving Efficiency: Specialty Trade Contractors

Trade contractors seek more “collaborative and coordinated involvement among all the stakeholders,” without which projects do not see the full benefits of more efficient approaches.

One notes that having a contract that supports Lean behavior can be a critical means of improving the types of practices engaged in on their projects.

They also agree that company management plays a crucial role in the adoption and implementation of efficient practices in their firm.

For them, the biggest opportunity is leadership support for building an efficient culture, which can eventually lead to “bottom-up” engagement as well.

In general, though, trade contractors focus more on factors outside their firm than within it as the necessary means for improving efficiency.

This includes the need for more examples of the successful adoption of efficient practices, especially on the office side of the business, and the need for owners to mandate adoption of Lean practices.

The schedules of trade firms depend on those of other trades, which may account for their heightened attention to the impact of other firms on their efficiency.

Lean Construction SmartMarket Report

Continue to How To Improve Construction Project Efficiency Part 2: “Lean Principles, Tools, and Advanced Approaches”

Download the full SmartMarket Report, with our compliments.


Dassault Systéms’ Lean Construction 3DEXPERIENCE® Solution

Lean Construction Institute

McGraw Hill Construction

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Categories: AEC, Dassault Systèmes, Industrialized Construction, Lean Construction

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