female construction worker in hard hat and reflective vest holding rolled up plans and looking at tablet computer
Process Improvement

5 Lean Construction Project Examples to Understand

Written By: Joe Demski
June 1, 2022
7 min read

Construction firms are rethinking how they plan, manage, and execute projects with Lean methodology. Lean drives productivity and quality improvements in numerous sectors, including manufacturing and technology. The Lean method has caught the attention of construction project managers interested in reducing costs, improving project timelines, and managing materials more effectively.

The Lean approach aims to address the root causes of variability that lead to bottlenecks and inefficiencies in construction. A recent study also reported a wide range of benefits of using Lean construction practices, including increased productivity, better quality results, improved safety practices, and greater customer satisfaction.

Let’s look at a handful of lean construction project examples to form a better understanding of how the five fundamental principles apply to construction processes.

1. Creating Higher Quality Output and Operations by Defining Value

In lean construction, defining value starts and stops with the customer. According to lean methodology, value is always defined by the wants and needs of your customer.

How much are clients willing to pay for deliverables, and why? Construction firms should collaborate directly with consumers to find out what value means to their ideal customers.

For example, companies can use interviews, surveys, polls, and reviews to find out what their customers think about the quality of your company’s work and processes. This is a way to achieve higher quality output, better operations workflows, eliminate waste, and maximize value.

2. Greater Cost Control Through Value Stream Mapping

Mapping the value stream is a crucial principle of lean construction that leads to greater cost control. Value stream mapping eliminates waste from construction processes based on the client’s perception of value. That way, companies can deliver on the customer’s expectations and manage costs.

The construction industry relies on meeting customer expectations to measure the success of any given project. And at the end of the day, clients are focused on positive outcomes. Construction firms must determine their client’s expectations and then map the value stream. This way, construction teams can find a way to give the customer exactly what they want while maintaining cost control.

For example, construction firms can use the last planner system (LPS) and just in time (JIT) delivery methods to get the most from the value stream mapping process. In addition to happy customers, companies that use value stream mapping may find significant cost savings, less rework, and enhanced project efficiency.

3. Reducing Risks by Creating Flow

Another example of how teams can apply lean principles in construction is through streamlining workflows to reduce risks. Risk management plays a major role in any construction project. And there are plenty of opportunities to build risk management into construction processes.

One of the principles of lean construction practices is about creating flow. Construction workflows run smoothly without delays or disruptions when schedules, processes, deliveries, and jobs are seamlessly orchestrated.

Since even the most complex construction projects contain a degree of repetitive processes, creating flow in construction projects can also be applied to improving quality and timelines by codifying, improving, and standardizing tasks. Creating more productive workflows makes it easier to identify and eliminate waste, an essential aspect of lean construction.

4. Improved Planning and Scheduling by Establishing Pull

A pull planning system is another crucial aspect of lean construction management. Planning and scheduling are the foundations of a successful construction project. Establishing a pull planning system ensures that materials and necessary information is available to whoever needs it, whenever they need it. This proactive approach eliminates time-wasters such as bottlenecks, transportation delays, and potential disruptions.

For example, the last planner system is a lean construction approach that uses pull-based scheduling to create a series of plans designed to deliver specific project milestones. Planning sessions involve team leaders working backward from project milestones to specify what is required to complete the project.

Establishing pull is not a one-time event in lean construction. Each week, contractors and team leaders have planning sessions that look at the upcoming weeks and months. Project owners should also review any project failures to find the root cause of issues and find solutions to get construction teams back on track.

5. Better Employee and Customer Satisfaction Through Continuous Improvement

The concept of continuous improvement is the capstone of lean construction methodology. Continuous improvement through the lean approach means that companies depend on customer and worker perspectives to drive innovation and continue to provide valuable results.

Communication across construction teams is improved through visual management and fosters an inclusive environment for all workers. Easy to understand visual overviews allow for greater collaboration since teams can understand how each contractor or construction team contributes toward project milestones.

Continuous improvement in lean construction also includes staff development. Front line construction skills evolve as tools and technology flourish in the construction sector. Projects need capable staff that knows how to execute construction jobs effectively using waste reduction and root cause problem-solving techniques.

Lean Construction Technology

Having a strong performance management system is a key component of lean construction. Large-scale construction projects are complex orchestrated events. Communication between on-site workers, middle management, and high-level decision-makers is difficult to manage, making it hard to get a clear picture of progress. Without adequate transparency, crucial problems can be discovered too late, leading to costly rework, bottlenecks, and disruptions.

Lean construction technology is often overlooked in the industry, but a robust performance or project management system can transform project outcomes. Improved visibility into project progress, timelines, and root cause analysis helps keep teams on track, on time, and budget.

Here are examples of lean construction tech that could be useful for your construction project:

  • Web-based project management software

  • VDC (Virtual Design and Construction)

  • BIM (Building Information Modeling)

  • Worker enhancement, tools, and machines

  • Automated scheduler

  • Customizable accounting software

  • Sensors and wearable devices

  • 3D printers

FAQs

What is a lean construction example?

It can be difficult to identify and address areas that need improvement without an adequate method in place to guide construction project managers to the right insights. Lean construction project examples show other construction industry professionals how the lean methodology can eliminate waste and apply to various construction processes like mitigating high prices or supply chain delays.

What is a lean construction project?

A lean construction project utilizes lean management principles to eliminate waste and encourage more productive activities. For a construction project to be considered lean, it must adhere to the 3 pillars and five principles of the lean methodology. However, it’s important to note that lean construction is about transforming construction projects through continuous improvement and eliminating waste over time.

What do you do in lean construction?

Lean construction is attractive to organizations that want to increase efficiency and eliminate waste. Once construction firm leaders have committed to implementing lean construction principles, they will quickly realize the deep impact of waste on operations. To do lean in construction, project managers should define and align project scope, schedule, and budget.

Other ways to do lean in construction include:

  • Selecting suppliers who are willing to adopt lean project delivery

  • Exploring new development methods

  • Practicing production control

  • Building quality and safety into project workflows

  • Implementing just in time delivery processes

  • Using computer modeling and other digital tools to help inform product and process design

  • Applying value stream mapping to increase project transparency

What are the three pillars of lean construction?

The three pillars of lean construction are simple activities that can have staggering results for organizations:

  • Delivering value

  • Eliminating waste

  • Continuously improving your processes

Lean construction works because it takes away anything that doesn’t add value to final outcomes, leaving construction firms with a straightforward project roadmap that can be optimized as needed.

Written By: Joe Demski

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