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 2: Lean Principles, Tools, and Advanced Approaches
June 19th, 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 2 of a 2-part series on the adoption of Lean construction practices. (Click here to read part 1.)
Lean Construction Guiding Principles
As Lean has its roots in manufacturing, some have turned to approaches that are rooted in those industries.
While most experts said they are familiar with the set of Toyota Way principles, they tend to “pick and choose” aspects of it that apply to their businesses.
For example, some mentioned that respecting individuals and striving for continuous improvements—which are central in Toyota Way—are important precepts in their organizations.
Other principles of Toyota Way, like solving root problems, can be seen in the systems they use, such as Last Planner.
Similarly, Six Sigma strives to identify and solve root problems. Although Six Sigma is a system that offers tools and strategies for process improvement, there is limited adoption of it by companies.
Again, some say they may follow certain aspects that relate to their businesses, but not others. “Six Sigma tends to be a bit more manufacturing, and I don’t think we find it as applicable in our business,” says one contractor.
A trade contractor also notes that while industrial construction has embraced Six Sigma, “the commercial industry isn’t sophisticated enough to really embrace it,” and he notes that instead they rely on systems like Last Planner.
Lean Construction Systems and Tools
Also rooted in manufacturing, Just-In-Time delivery has been adopted by all of the expert GCs and trade contractors, with some saying that they have been using it for more than a decade.
Trade contractors point out that a collaborative approach with the application of Lean principles by all stakeholders is essential to the success of Just-In-Time.
Developed as a production planning system for the design and construction industry and licensed by the Lean Construction Institute, Last Planner is a critical tool in Lean construction, according to experts.
All have either adopted it widely across their respective companies or have used it on some projects.
Users identified a few challenges with using The Last Planner system:
Trade contractors are particularly impacted by firms not implementing all aspects of the Last Planner System.
One respondent cautions that many firms “stop short” in their use of Last Planner. They create a schedule but then do not make firm commitments or do not get it into their project management software.
Both of these omissions prevent their efforts from fulfilling the Last Planner requirements, and changes are not cascaded to other players in ways that allow them to factor them into their planning for the project.
Advanced Lean Approaches: GCs
Examples of more advanced tools and techniques discussed that can be applied to Lean construction include:
When it comes to implementing practices in the field at the worker level, GCs say that while they may put weekly or daily work plans together for crews, particularly as part of The Last Planner System, there is limited direct engagement with workers about their tasks.
Advanced Lean Approaches: Specialty Trade Contractors
Many of the factors identified by the GCs as more advanced tools and techniques are included by the trade contractors as their key efficiency practices, including multi-trade prefabrication.
Most critical to the trade contractors, though, is working with the field.
In addition to “stretch and flex” daily meetings and formal value stream mapping of field work, several report looking at the work done in the field, down to component-level data.
One reports doing work packaging, in which the packages are created for just a week’s worth of work for one or two people.
This level of detail allows the crew to predict their percentage of completion of tasks with great accuracy, which allows for better use of a CPM schedule.
One firm tests each new hire to determine their skill sets, capabilities and limitations.
This provides them with a baseline for making immediate worker assignments and reveals opportunities for training.
The trade contractors also report creating value through collaborative approaches with other trades on their projects, which one defines as “optimizing the whole and increasing relatedness.”
As one contractor explains, “For our pipe fitter to be more efficient, we have to be in-sync with how the sheet rocker is doing their work because they can ruin our efficiencies in a heartbeat.”
For at least one trade contractor, though, the issue isn’t the adoption of a specific practice but the opportunity to take a more holistic approach.
Rather than just pursuing incremental improvements of the existing process, he is attempting to redesign processes fundamentally by looking for a “radically different way to work.”
To tackle this approach, he reports that they have run pilot experiments in their engineering group, in which they capitalize on the younger employees, who are not only less “embedded in the current processes,”but who can also think differently in terms of the ways technologies, like apps, might transform the current process.
Tags: McGraw Hill Construction