Building a work culture to support lean construction

Evelyn Long outlines how to maximise value and minimise loss using the lean principles established by Toyota at the start of the 20th century.

Managing waste has become increasingly crucial for construction firms. Not only must companies manage physical waste – fuel, machinery, materials – but they must also make headway on time and productivity challenges in their workforce. But how can professionals rally their employees around waste-free initiatives?

Here’s a look at how site managers can create a work culture surrounding lean construction.

What does lean construction mean?

This technique stems from lean manufacturing, based on the ‘Toyota Way’ that surfaced in the 1900s. Essentially, site managers use lean construction to maximise value and minimise loss. It combines both operational research and practical development.

Only 10% of construction activities add value to projects. But with lean construction, site managers can increase productivity and reduce waste tenfold. It’s about more than just physical waste, too. These figures point to misused time, energy, and money.

Those who implement lean construction make that decision for a reason. It’s about waste reduction, as well as more mindful practices

There needs to be participation from builders, architects, and everyone in between to guarantee success. However, site managers should know lean construction involves fundamental principles. If they want to employ lean construction properly, they need to follow them.

Lean construction philosophies

Check out lean construction philosophies to learn a more comprehensive and integrated approach to construction.

  • Determine client perspective. Traditionally, site managers build whatever clients request. This process still occurs during lean construction. There’s a more in-depth aspect, though, as site managers need to pay attention to customer values. This information builds mutual trust and respect. It’s best to determine such preferences early in the process to shape each stage.
  • Identify the value stream. Next, site managers can use customer perspectives to deliver value. These preferences help determine the processes needed for the project. Through the value stream, site managers can map out labour, materials, and equipment to deliver the client’s best results.
  • Reduce all waste. There are various types of waste produced during construction, both literal and figurative. Lean constructions aims to eliminate eight kinds, including defects, overproduction, waiting, not utilising talent, transport, inventory, motion, and over-processing.
  • Establish workflow process. All efforts should go toward prioritising an organised and uninterrupted workflow. It’s tough to navigate unforeseen obstacles, but site managers must complete each step in a sequential manner to achieve minimum waste. Communication is essential.
  • Use pull planning to schedule. Through pull planning, site managers use a downstream demand approach to perfect workflows during lean construction. This trick requires construction teams to work backward, beginning with the completion date. This way, projects are more cohesive.
  • Strive for continued improvement. There’s always room for improvement in lean construction. It’s necessary to look for ways to mitigate waste further, even when companies have already implemented previous philosophies. Keep an open mind during each step to boost success.

How to teach lean construction to employees

It’s evident that lean construction requires everyone involved in the process to participate. There’s no easy way to introduce unfamiliar concepts to employees, so site managers should consider several strategies as they pivot to lean construction. This step won’t happen overnight.

Provide opportunities for education

There’s a chance that not every team member knows about lean construction. Therefore, site managers need to offer straightforward ways for workers to educate themselves. Resources like presentations, videos, and speakers will help, as will more formal training programmes set by management over time. Make education a priority so that lean construction becomes second-nature.

Set communication standards

It’s essential for site managers and construction crews to improve communication skills. Otherwise, lean construction will be impossible. From the top down, transparency and openness to feedback will be key – ensuring that workers feel safe and supported if they go to management with concerns will keep a lean process running smoothly across the entire organisation.

Find ways to boost employees’ current abilities so that everyone becomes a top communicator on the job site. One-on-one coaching can help workers understand their role on the team and target communication areas they might be lacking. Conducting regular anonymous surveys can help management solicit constructive feedback to make the lean construction process more efficient.


Discuss the bigger picture

Those who implement lean construction make that decision for a reason. It’s about waste reduction, as well as more mindful practices. Show employees why lean construction will be the best solution. This way, they can know the reasons behind the transition – they’ll feel more motivated as a result.

Offer tools to help

Present employees with enough tools to make lean construction possible. If they feel unsure about specific processes, they should have ways to figure out what they need to do.

Since lean construction depends so heavily on organisation and workflow, invest in tools that make this work easier for teams. Technologies like project management software and fleet tracking solutions can help reduce waste while taking stress off individual workers.

Be as understanding as possible

Try to remember that new strategies take time to perfect. This point will be something site managers themselves need to remember as they adapt to new policies. This transition requires understanding, so site managers should maintain an open mind as they work with employees.

Altogether, site managers have many ways to make lean construction possible.


Transition to lean construction

This technique offers a way to minimise wasted resources, time, energy, and money as site managers surpass customer expectations. It’s vital for companies to build a culture around lean construction for maximum benefits. This information will help site managers determine how to get employees behind lean construction permanently.


About the author

Evelyn Long is a writer and editor of Renovated, a web resource for industry professionals.



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