In recent years, the term “lean construction” has become something of a buzzword in the building sector. Although the term can be confusing and overused, the practice has genuine potential to increase profits for contractors. This article will explain lean construction and show how it can solve common problems on your next job site.
But first, let’s define the term. Lean construction refers to increasing the value provided to the customer while decreasing waste by the construction team. The “lean” principles were developed by Toyota in the mid-20th Century, but they aren’t limited to the auto industry; over the past 50 years, they have caught on across a diverse array of industries around the world.
When it comes to construction, fundamental principles like staying on schedule and worker safety have always been vital for success. However, using lean construction to eliminate common organizational problems and maximize efficiency is a powerful–and profitable–way to work.
Why Lean Construction?
Lean construction focuses on solving the everyday inefficiencies that can be found across the construction industry. From the self-employed contractor working out of their van to multinational design-build firms, there are common errors that lean construction can conquer. Some GMs and CMs shrug these inefficiencies off as unavoidable, but any construction business owner should know about them and the solutions that lean construction offers. Here are a few:
Eliminate Inefficient Transport
Inefficient transport practices are an often-overlooked source of slowdowns at job sites. During a construction project, transporting materials, workers, and equipment at the right time is critical. If the timing is off there can be overcrowding, interference with work, slowdowns, and at worst, a total stop to progress on the project. The best way to avoid transport inefficiencies is by choosing the right building materials distributor. Metro Interior Distributors can help you schedule deliveries of the right materials, get them to the site at the right time, and make sure they end up at the right place on the site. They can also bundle deliveries to meet the needs of each construction site.
Reduce Mistakes and Oversights
When working on a project on a tight deadline, small mistakes can have big consequences. Doing things right on the first try means not having to redo them, saving funds, supplies, and time. The easiest way to prevent mistakes on the job is by hiring crew leaders who are skilled leaders and sharp-eyed supervisors. A good crew leader will be familiar with the right way to do things and, therefore, should be able to help their installation crews avoid errors.
Avoid Wasting Human Resources
The best leaders and most motivated crew are useless when they are stuck waiting. One of the most common causes of idle workers is delayed delivery of supplies. If construction materials arrive late, the whole project is jeopardized. Paid workers can quickly become paid standers for hours, days, or even longer when these delays happen. To keep workers working, go with a distributor that delivers when they are supposed to deliver. When looking for a building materials distributor, check their refund policy and make sure a delay won’t mean a severe financial hit.
Plan to Avoid Supply Shortages
Inventory problems can mean construction teams running out of supplies early or getting stuck with equipment failing before expected. One of the core principles of lean construction is minimizing waste, and supply shortages waste not only resources, but time and money. Having a Plan B is the best way for site managers to avoid these situations, but Plan A should be picking a reliable construction supply distributor that can help keep track of inventory. Good distributors can also help with the backup plan by having alternate materials available and offering equipment rentals or replacements if anything breaks down.
Increase Movement Efficiency
Movement efficiency is a lesser-known construction efficiency factor, especially among contractors that work on smaller projects. Organizing things like the distance between materials and workers is a small waste of time that adds up to a lot more labor costs in the long run. A building materials distributor can solve this inefficiency by bundling supplies and delivering them at the optimal location for the project. An experienced distributor will know how to use optimum material scattering techniques, pre-cut materials, lightened loads, better packaging, pre-cutting, and superior delivery placement to ensure that construction goes smoothly.
Streamline Your Work
At the end of the day, lean construction is about streamlining your team’s workflow to make it consistent and predictable, but implementing it is harder than it sounds. Each stage of the construction process must be meticulously planned and completed in the exact prescribed order. To cut time spent waiting for supplies, it is important to map out workflows and schedule deliveries carefully alongside the larger build plan.
One way to help teams complete a task on time and prevent them from moving onto a new task early is separating jobs into different production zones. That way, whenever one zone gets delayed or finished ahead of plan, the site manager adjusts the workflow plan to avoid delays and idle workers.
Incorporate Pull Planning
Also known as “pull scheduling,” pull planning is a key part of lean construction that allows companies to plan more reliable workflows where progress moves sequentially. In pull planning, completing one stage unlocks the next stage. This begins with planning a defined goal (e.g., completion deadline or progress milestone) and planning backward from there while determining how–and how soon–work should be done. Naturally, subcontractors or site managers are the ones to oversee pull planning. This is where the “Three Cs” are most important: collaboration, communication, and coordination. Coordinators on the job site are responsible for managing the changing requirements on the ground and adjusting plans accordingly. To do this, they need to collaborate with workers so they’re updated on the situation, and they need communicate changes to the planners who can then adapt the overarching schedule.
Metro Helps Maximize the Principles of Lean Construction
Our goal at Metro is helping your business work leaner. Our sales team is committed to helping you streamline your team’s workflow. Whether that means custom kitting, optimizing materials to your work site, staging deliveries with pull planning, or simply getting supplies delivered on time, we are dedicated to making your project a success. Contact us today to learn more about how our sales team can help your team be a lean, mean, construction machine.