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Lean construction

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A brief introduction to understand Lean's natural development through human evolution, how it was scientifically documented and developed in manufacturing and how it is transforming the construction sector

Published in: Leadership & Management

Lean construction

  1. 1. Lean Thinking in Construction From 10,200BC to 2015AD By Jonathan Baker
  2. 2. History and Principles of Lean • Lean is a common sense structured approach that is aimed at understanding what it is that your customers need and then redesigning the way you operate to ensure that you deliver this in the most cost effective, timely and safe way possible (Eaton, 2013). • Lean is often associated with Toyota by many, and whilst it is fair to suggest that Toyota have done a lot to shape what we consider to be Lean, via the Toyota Production System, the concepts of flow, standardisation and what the end customer considers ‘value’ were established long before 1940 when Toyota adopted them (Eaton, 2013). • In tracing the history of lean, we could perhaps go back as far as 1.6million years to the period when archaeologists first started to find stone hand axes in the fossil records. These tools were produced consistently over hundreds of different places over many thousands of years. This implies that the process of creating them was standardised in some way and the manufacturers of these tools improved the design slowly over many generations through a process of continuous improvement from the simple broken rock to the classic tear shaped design driven by experimentation and sharing of experience. Perhaps the only thing new about Lean, is the term used (Eaton, 2013). • Table 1 below highlights the history of Lean in manufacturing terms:
  3. 3. History of Lean Manufacturing 1473 The Venetian Arsenal develop a ‘continuous flow’ process based on mass-produced and standardised items that ultimately enable them to produce and entire ship in less than one hour. 1776 Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste de Gribeauval becomes Inspector of Artillery in France and starts to introduce reforms to reduce the diversity of artillery in use and replacing it with a more standardised range of weapons that also used a form of interchangeable parts and manufacture. 1799 Eli Whitney, inventor of the Cotton Gin, takes on the contract to produces 10,000 muskets for the US Army at a low cost of $13.40 each. To enable him to do this he had perfected the process of designing interchangeable parts between the muskets, which enabled the process to be divided up and standardised. 1894-1912 Frederick W Taylor publishes a series of articles on improving efficiency, with his key work The Principles of Scientific Management being published in 1911, with details of how to eliminate many of the inefficient practices existing in industry at the time and strongly advocating standardised work and the division of labour to improve efficiency. Collectively this approach is later termed ‘Taylorism’. 1905-1921 Frank and Lillian Gilbreth publish a series of articles and books on improving efficiency through time and motion study, culminating in 1921 with their book Time and Motion Study as Fundamental Factors in Planning and Control. 1910 Henry Ford and Charles E Sorensen create a comprehensive manufacturing strategy and move to the Highland Park Plant, Michigan, which was the world’s first automobile plant that used an assembly line. In 1914 they create the first moving assembly line, thus reducing production times by a further 75 per cent. 1924-1939 Walter Shewhart develops the concept of statistical control of processes and later his work is adapted by W Edwards Deming, with the work of Deming going on to form the basis of Six Sigma. Although a cousin of Lean, many of the concepts used by Six Sigma are also found in a Lean Programme. 1943 Taichi Ohno joins Toyota Motor Corporation and later (1947 onwards) builds on the work of Toyota’s founder to create the Toyota Production System (TPS). This goes on to incorporate cellular working, waste reduction, reduction of work-in-progress (WIP), in-process inspection by workers and many other concepts including the ‘respect for people’ principle. 1988 John Krafcik publishes the article ‘Triumph of the Lean Production System’, the first use of the word Lean in association with the Toyota Production System. 1990-1996 Jim Womack, Daniel Roos and Dan Jones produce The machine that changed the World (Simon & Schuster, 1990). Womack and Jones go on to write Lean Thinking (Simon & Schuster, 1996) bringing the term Lean into the public domain and defining the five principles.
  4. 4. How was Lean adopted into the Construction Industry? • Lean as a term was likely introduced shortly after 1988 when the term ‘Lean’ was coined and used by John Krafcik when describing the TPS system in his article ‘Triumph of the Lean Production System’ • Lean thinking and principles however, as a common sense improvement approach will have been in place since the first construction of Neolithic cave structures. Whilst most caves were naturally formed, areas such as Bridgnorth, Shropshire show evidence of man made caves in the soft red bunter sandstone geology in that area. • Before any formal systems were created, written down or taught, history shows that construction methods and skills were passed down across generations. As with most human activity on the earths timeline, we seek a better, easier and more efficient method in anything that we do.
  5. 5. How was Lean adopted into the Construction Industry? • It is only since construction projects have seemingly become more complex and technical in nature relating to materials, structural engineering and size that modern trains of thought have required the advanced study of management skills, particularly in managing the flow of information. It is widely known that project failures are largely a result of poor communication management (working from old drawings, etc.) • Lean manufacturing studies 7 flows within a project, whereas construction project management mostly focusses on one flow, the previous work/trade.
  6. 6. How was Lean adopted into the Construction Industry? • Unlike manufacturing however, there are 7 flows: 1. People 2. Information 3. Equipment 4. Materials 5. Prior Work 6. Safe Space, & 7. Safe Working Environment All these are required to come together at the workface to enable construction transformations to flow. (Lauri Koskela, University of Salford, UK)
  7. 7. BRE & the Construction Lean Improvement Programme (CLIP) • What is the PDCA Deming Cycle? • Name 2 Project case studies from BRE CLIP • Name 5 Lean Tools that can be used in Construction Management Deming Cycle? P D C A
  8. 8. Answers The Deming cycle, or PDCA cycle: PLAN: Plan ahead for change. Analyze and predict the results. DO: Execute the plan, taking small steps in controlled circumstances. CHECK: Check, study the results. ACT: Take action to standardize or improve the process. Benefits of the PDCA cycle: – Daily routine management-for the individual and/or the team – Problem-solving process – Project management – Continuous development – Vendor development – Human resources development – New product development – Process trials
  9. 9. Answers Oakwood Builders & Joinery Ltd Tools: 5S: 5S is a disciplined, organised approach to the control of a site working environment. It is made up of a few simple steps which, when followed systematically and persistently, will transform a site into a clean, safe productive place in which people can work with pride. 5S is an essential tool for communication and focused action to support continuous improvement.
  10. 10. Answers Oakwood Builders & Joinery Ltd Benefits: ‘Looking at site lay-out, storage, and the use and re-use of materials was very helpful as it saved on time spent looking for things, collecting new or replacement materials, double ordering, waste removal costs, etc.’
  11. 11. Answers Oakwood Builders & Joinery Ltd Simple 5S:
  12. 12. 5S Step 1: Set in order As Christopher Robin said: ‘Organising is what you do before you do something, so when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.’ Among things that obstruct smooth construction operations are difficulty finding things on site, not knowing what is expected at critical handovers, insufficient light and power to enable staff to do a quality job, mess and debris littering the site. 5S can help us set the site up to eliminate these obstructions.
  13. 13. 5S Step 2: Sort To help ensure that materials and equipment are easy to find and not in the way and stocks are easy to monitor
  14. 14. 5S Step 3: Shine This step is designed to ensure that there are fewer hazards; access and emergency evacuation is easier; the site is a more attractive place in which to work. There are improvements to the way the work gets done – increasing both effectiveness and efficiency.
  15. 15. 5S Step 4: Standardise Without standard operating procedures, the same operation could be performed in different ways depending on who does the work, what order it is done in, and the tools and methods used. Such variations can lead to variable safety standards, and variations in quality and cost. This step is designed to develop standard operating procedures to cover future work together.
  16. 16. 5S Step 5: Sustain This step is concerned with project-to-project learning.
  17. 17. Answers University of Wolverhampton M&E Package Tools: First Run Study: The NG Baileys team used work observation techniques, to review how effective our site processes were. We then asked ourselves why any delays and disruptions or snags were occurring. We used team brainstorming sessions to identify, and then countermeasure the ‘root cause’ of the issues.
  18. 18. Answers First Run Study: Impact
  19. 19. Answers First Run Study: Impact
  20. 20. Answers First Run Study: Impact
  21. 21. 5 Lean Tools for Construction • Whilst there are many Lean tools in use (30+) here are 5 commonly used tools: 1. 5S (aka 5C) 2. First Run Study / Work & Motion Study 3. Visual Management 4. Value Stream Mapping 5. Standardisation The use of these 5 tools alone will have a dramatic impact on any construction programme; but for sustainable long-term lean transformation of an organisation the entire culture needs to be transformed with the Lean Philosophy
  22. 22. Cultural Change • Jeffrey Liker, PhD, cautions that over 90% of those who attempt Lean fail (personal communication, 2009). But why? Because success in Lean derives from the culture of Toyota, which is founded in the management principles of W. Edwards Deming and the personal philosophy of the company’s founders, the Toyoda family. One comes up short without mirroring that cultural base, consisting of a philosophy, a supportive management system, and intelligent approaches to engaging employees to continuously define and eliminate wastes inherent in non–value processes. One is then left with making sporadic process improvements usually at management’s direction. This contrasts with Toyota’s culture, which is dedicated to developing human talent throughout the organization to participate in continuously improving the enterprise. Ergo, success is defined not just by performance or financial metrics but by an engaged workforce producing thousands of process improvements and continually striving for higher targets of quality.
  23. 23. Cultural Change • So what is culture? How do you change the culture? But moreover, how do you sustain it? Culture in its most simplified definition is how people are incentivized to behave and the way people think, talk, work, and act every day. Corporate culture is based on a philosophy and supported by a management system and structures that allow the desired behaviours to take place consistently. • Deming’s 14 management principles form the basis for leaders to create a continuous improvement culture as exemplified by Toyota in its Lean production system. Toyota’s tenets, as defined by Deming, provide the philosophical and management basis for pursuing, supporting, and nurturing quality by designing systems that foster doing things right the first time. According to Deming’s quality chain reaction, when quality is the driving force of the culture, it will increase efficiency and productivity, decrease costs, and in turn, allow the company to lower prices, attract a higher market share, increase profits, and improve customer satisfaction. At the core of that philosophy is recognizing the customer as a priority and developing people as the most important resource to achieve that quality by enabling continuous improvement (kaizen) throughout the enterprise. This philosophy must be supported by an appropriate management system that empowers the workforce to pursue higher targets of quality while identifying defects (errors) blamelessly and then effectively using technical tools of process improvement to redesign more efficient, waste-free work.
  24. 24. • In a Lean culture, quality is based on the pillars of respect for and development of people who are responsible for the continuous improvement. Cultural Change
  25. 25. Thank-you

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