What is Lean Construction?
Lean Constructionis a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking, which changes the traditional view of construction delivery processes:


FROM: a series of separate, connected activities.

TO: viewing construction as the flow of ideas, materials and information through time and space.

When applied to any part or all of the delivery process - from planning, through design, through construction and well into operation - Lean utilizes specific techniques and tools to maximize value and minimize waste.

Colin Milberg answers the question: "Is lean an acronym?"



What changes are visible?
In a Lean company or on a Lean project you'll usually see some dramatic difference from most traditional site: fewer people walking around, more people in coordination discussions, fewer materials piled up days or weeks in advance of use, "sticky walls" around which designers or foremen gather in planning their work, reduced RFI's, fewer crews arriving before work is ready for them, and generally a safer project. Once the project is completed, you will see the project being used as intended because end users were involved in planning and design and because lean principles were applied to the flow of work in the completed project (for example, fewer, smaller waiting rooms in healthcare facilities because fewer patients are waiting because pull-based work flow was designed into the delivery system and the building).

  • Lean is a production management-based approach to project delivery - a new way to design and build capital facilities (vertical and horizontal) and entire capital programs.
  • It takes lessons learned from manufacturing and it views construction projects as production schemes where important value is added by controlling the flow of work on the job.
  • Generation of value to customers is its core value.

Hat Trick: LEAN works especially effectively when combined with BIM and IPD.

Dan Fauchier & Colin Milberg discuss "Hat Trick & Lean construction: optimizing the whole not the parts"


The Promise of Lean
Lean projects are routinely completed under budget and in less time; Lean companies report that they are often more productive and therefore more profitable (even in hard bid non-Lean projects). This is due to the ongoing elimination of wasteful activities and the inclusion of all workers and managers in seeking continuous improvement in delivery of the project. Moreover, Lean projects are safer due to more thoughtful work structuring, a smoother flow of workers, and just-in-time delivery of materials.

Mo Haidar "Minimizing seams in the process"

  • True collaboration from design through construction
  • People Collaboration:
    • Establish teams at levels of competence and skill sets
    • Educate teams in lean, pull planning and Last Planner
    • Empower teams and individuals to identify and address problems in real time
  • Technology:
    • Building Information Modeling (BIM)
    • Comprehensive IT solutions, including BIM, project controls (ProLog etc.) and collaboration systems (like Jive SBS)
    • Accessible drawings for design, construction and maintenance (using Revit, Navisworks, VICO and other integrating tools)
    • Planning by "Last Planners" using low-tech "stickie walls" based on CPM Scheduling milestones and documented in Excel Commitment Logs or through SPS software
  • Impeccable coordination:
    • Coordinate the flow of the work throughout the project including coordination of technology with people with processes, all driving value to the customer
    • Viewing a project as an intricate series of commitments from one person to the next, one trade to the next and the owner and designer to the customer
  • Maximize the whole, not the piece
    • Instead of each trade partner (subcontractor) working to maximize its own efficiency and profit, the entire team collaborates on maximizing the entire project (the whole) in a way that actually reduces everyone's costs and offers more profit to share amongst the team
  • Principal of horizontality:
    • Build competence teams horizontally across the project
    • Eliminate "silo" approaches
  • Principal of simultaneity:
    • Do several things at once, rather than in sequence in order to maximize efficiency
    • Be prepared to do your part as soon as you are asked by the trade on the project that immediately precedes you
    • Be prepared to hand off the work in a timely fashion
    • Think of work as a series of commitments; you only produce work when the person in front of you is ready for it
    • Increase productivity
    • Increase the percentage of weekly work that is promised to be accomplished from an industry standard of 50% to a lean average of 80% to 90% or better
  • Moving from concept to construction in significantly less time:
    • Plan and design using the whole team
    • Bring in all parties - including the contractors, trade partners (subcontractors), suppliers, and end users - to design the project so that it can be built as expeditiously as possible
  • Build a safer project:
    • More thoughtful work structuring
    • A smoother flow of workers
    • Just-in-time delivery of materials
    • Fewer workers on site.
  • Eliminate waste, maximize value:
    • Value is defined by the customer - the entire project team strives to understand what the customer values and to deliver that and only that as quickly and efficiently as possible
    • Risk is not apportioned but shared so the Project benefits

Colin Milberg asks "Who determines what is value?" and Dick Bayer discusses "Lean Speak vs. finding value"


Colin Milberg & Mo Hairdar discuss "Workflow in Lean and BIM"


Why do you need Lean Partnering?

  • To achieve "true collaboration from design through construction" traditional competitors must come together as collaborators
    • This includes: designers, general contractors, construction managers, trade partners (subcontractors), suppliers, end users
    • Most don't just show up ready to collaborate
  • Are there any egos in our industry?
    • Lean Partnering coaches collaborative teams to operate with a "Project First" approach by satisfying individual and company needs for safety, trust and respect
    • Even the strongest personalities can be collaborative when the right atmosphere is created from the very beginning
  • Lean collaboration requires a neutral party to "manage the political space" - that critical gap between companies and between strong egos
    • No one of the parties is "neutral" -a trained facilitator can be neutral
    • Over time, the parties can learn to self-facilitate by learning those skills and choosing to behave as a neutral at certain times and to "pass the gavel" when they cannot
      • This is one of the keys to "sustainable partnering"

Lean Tools
Becoming Lean requires a gradual mind shift, but is enabled by proven tools including these:

  1. Pull Planning - Last Planner System
  2. Value Stream Mapping
  3. Target Value Design
  4. Set-based Design
  5. Supply Chain Purchasing
  6. Stand-up 15 minute check-in huddles
  7. Standard Work
  8. Book-Video Study Group
  9. Plus/Deltas
  10. A3Thinking and Analysis
  11. Choosing by Advantages - decision making
  12. Decisions at Last Responsible Moment
  13. PDCA improvement cycles
  14. Retrospectives and What's Working/What's Not Working sessions

Dan Fauchier & Colin Milberg discuss "Target Value Design (TVD)" and Colin Milberg reports on "TVD - St. Olaf case study"

Click HERE for "Lean Primer" detailed definitions of these tools.


Steps to Jumpstart your Lean Journey
You have taken the first step toward becoming Lean - you're learning about Lean Construction. Here are some proven steps to take yourself, your company/agency or your project Lean:


  1. Learn about Lean Construction, gather case histories of similar companies or projects, talk to some Lean users
  2. Your local LCI Community of Practice can help you find these histories and people at http://www.leanconstruction.org/communities.htm


  1. Write out your own "Business Case for Lean"
    1. Why does your firm or agency need to become lean?  To increase value? To reduce waste?  To compete in an evolving marketplace?


  1. Get commitment from Executives and Managers - success requires top to bottom understanding and commitment
    1. Start with a half-day session for executives and managers, “Introduction to Lean Design & Construction”


  1. Join LCI at www.leanconstruction.org


  1. Invite Lean consultants to help you assess and plan the next steps of your journey


  1. Start with Last Planner® System “Pull Planning” of:
    1. Your specific Lean journey
    2. Your current design process and/or
    3. The first (or next) 6 weeks of one of your projects

Stan Simmons recommends "Contingency shared by all"