Lean Kaizen in Construction

Lean or Kaizen in Construction is a production management-based approach to project delivery to maximize value and minimise waste. There are four key elements to Price Competitiveness:

  • Material and Supplies

  • Equipment

  • Labor Productivity

  • Overhead and Profit

How Can Kaizen Lean Improve Your Firm’s Performance and Competitiveness?

Lean Construction or Kaizen in construction is all about identifying waste in construction design and building processes, which has been revealed as a big percentage of total project costs. Various studies in the US and Europe have revealed that quality costs due to non conformance can be up to 12% of total project costs, Poor materials management can be unto 10-12% of total project costs. excess consumption of material (on sites) is on average up to 10% of total costs. Working time on non value adding activities on sites can be up to 60% of total time. (Source: Construction Industry Institute, USA)

Primary goal of Lean or Kaizen is to avoid waste (MUDA) in processes, there are total 8 types of wastes identified in production processes. Waste is any thing that uses resources but not produce value to the customer. Kaizen is focused on elimination of waste to improve productivity and reduce costs by total involvement of all employees There is a lot of waste in construction thus a big opportunity to improve. Folllowing wastes have been identified in construction

  • Rework

  • Requests for Information

  • Change orders

  • Inadequate Resources

  • Inefficient work flow

  • Work arounds

  • Multiple handling of material

  • Excess material

  • Waiting on supplies

  • Waiting on another trade

  • Safety losses

  • Improper sequencing of work

In Construction, we typically talk about big three – Quality, cost and schedule. The old thinking in construction was customer could choose only two out of three. Choose quality and schedule but pay a higher price. Choose low cost, get either a late job or poor quality. Today’s world has changed and no one ever wants poor quality. schedules and costs have become equally important.

Kaizen or Lean tools have been applied in construction industry for many years now to improve quality, reduce costs and improve planning.Various Kaizen  tools used in construction are:

  • The Last Planner System

  • Target Costing

  • A3 Problem Solving and Reporting

  • Set-Based Design

  • Value Stream Mapping

  • 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain)

The Last Planner System:

There is a lot of wasted time and productivity in a typical construction project.  In short, digging deeper into construction, for example, it is found that master schedules are useless for planning work, contracting practices create islands of optimisation, and there are large opportunities for productivity improvement.  The feature-based planning and short, closed loop cycles of agile software development have been the source of significant improvements in the construction industry.

Who are the Last Planners?

The foremen and superintendents

The Key elements of Last Planner System are:

  • Master Scheduling – setting milestones

  • Phase (Pull) Planning – specifying handoffs

  • Make Work Ready Planning – 6 week look-ahead

  • Weekly Work Planning

  • Learning – Measure Percent Promises Complete, conduct root cause analysis and act on reasons for failure to keep promises

Last Planner System can be used during the design phase and during construction, the Design Delivery System is recommended.  In the construction phase LPS is a valuable logistics planning tool.

The Last Planner System (LPS) is a system for creating predictable and reliable workflow in project-based production environments like construction and maintenance.  It helps manage the range of relationships, conversations and commitments that delivers a completed project.  LPS prepares team leaders and trade foremen to work together on the project and helps them manage their commitments and hence the flow of work.

A system of inter-related elements – (full benefits come when all are implemented together, over time) – LPS is based on simple paper forms.  It is simple to administer using Post-it™ notes, paper, pencil, eraser and photocopier.  A spreadsheet like MS Excel can help.  For larger projects some of the elements can be managed with specialist software.

The Last Planner System (LPS) is a lean production–based project planning and management system. Application of the LPS to projects has shown that simultaneous improvement in all four dimensions—cost, schedule, quality, and safety—is possible:

  • Reduced project cost—workers spend less time waiting for work or working around problems;

  • Reduced project duration—available work does not sit idle waiting for workers;

  • Improved quality—work is done in its natural sequence and is released from one participant to the next only when it meets established criteria; and

  • Improved safety—the work environment is more stable so fewer ad-hoc efforts are required.

The time/cost/quality tradeoff is the consequence of a basic law of production physics. This rule relates productivity and duration. As a system with two components approaches full productivity (utilization) of one, the delivery time of the other increases

As per the Last Planner System (LPS), construction superintendents, foremen, and project managers should plan work in three windows:

  • A phase window of three months or so,

  • A six week look-ahead window which rolls weekly,

  • And a detailed plan for the next week

The phase is planned backward in a ‘pull’ method; that is, the plan starts from the completed set of work and moves backward to lay out what needs to be done to get there.

Each week the ‘Last Planner’ team commits to the plan for the following week.  The most important thing that is to commit only to what should be done and can be done.  Once the commitment is made, each crew is expected to meet its commitment, and success is the measured in terms of meeting the weekly promises.

The Last Planner System (LPS) greatly reduces variability in construction planning, because it is a closed loop control system.  Work is not planned by the master schedule, but by real people (‘Last Planners’) who make detailed short term plans based on

  • What material is actually available,

  • What the near term weather forecasts say,

  • Whether the previous crew can be trusted to be done,

  • What crew members are available for the job, etc.

The reliability of these plans has resulted in enormous productivity gains and a significant reduction in construction site problems

Other common Kaizen tools used in Construction are Target Costing and Value stream mapping. Target costing is approach is about setting budgets, improving space efficiency and having Target cost per square feet. Value stream mapping is a tool to map the entire process and identify wastes and opportunities for improvement.

RIB Consulting can help you implement Kaizen Lean tools in your construction business. Please contact us for Kaizen Lean Consulting to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.