Implementation Road Map of Lean Construction at Project Level

RT-234 Topic Summary
RT 234


RT-234 was launched to understand secrets of success in applying lean at the project level and to translate this understanding into an implementation road map. The intent of this research is to provide guidance for an owner, engineer, or constructor firm, and to assist owner organizations, subcontractors, and suppliers in getting started on applying lean techniques. This research included a review of the literature, statistical analysis of the relationship between production control metrics and productivity, case studies of early adopters, and field trials of selected lean tools by three research team members.

Field trials in lean implementation were conducted on three different projects. Two roadmaps are presented, one within the other. The first, more comprehensive is a concept-level roadmap for an organization striving to become a lean enterprise. The second is a more detailed roadmap for planning and executing demonstration projects, one of the milestones along the on ramp to the lean highway.

Correctly applied, lean principles can result in immediate improvements in project delivery, including cost, schedule, quality, and safety. The lean ideal is "to provide a custom product exactly fit for purpose and delivered instantly with no waste."

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Leadership Commitment

Lean implementation begins with leadership commitment and is sustained with a culture of continuous improvement. Without deep commitment and consistent leadership, project teams tend to slip back into old habits of thought and action once the going gets tough. (RS234-1, p. 15)

Reference: (RS234-1)

2 : Lean Philosophy

Lean is a fundamental business philosophy, one that is most effective when shared throughout the entire value stream. The lean ideal is “to provide a custom product exactly fit for purpose and delivered instantly with no waste.” RT-234 identified 5 lean construction principles for use on projects: (RS234-1, p. 2)

  1. Customer focus
  2. Culture and people
  3. Standardization and stabilization
  4. Waste elimination
  5. Continuous improvement and built in quality
Reference: (RS234-1)

3 : Journey to Lean

Early adopters of lean have experienced some project success from the application of select lean tools, but true progress requires a lean business philosophy. One common theme on the deployment of lean within an organization is “Learn from one’s mistakes.” Learning by doing is an important part of any lean organization. (RS234-1, p. 8)
Reference: (RS234-1)

4 : Two Lean Techniques Applied to Construction

Stability In projects, stability (the opposite of variability and unevenness) can be provided by making load predictable so that capacity can better be matched to it. This stability is achieved by making work flow predictable in projects.

Handoffs It is necessary to specify the handoffs between specialists in project production systems. In a manufacturing facility, this can be done through layout of workstations and routing of materials, but such structures and routes change frequently in construction, so rapid redesign of the production system is a vital capability. Some theorists and practitioners believe that these redesigns are done best through collaborative team planning using a technique called reverse phase scheduling. (RR234-11, p. 13)

Reference: (RR234-11)

5 : On-the-Job Training

Due to the variability and scope of construction, there is no possible way to teach lean in a traditional academic sense. Learning in the field on a construction site was by far the most popular way of training. (RS234-1, p. 9)
Reference: (RS234-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

RR234-11, Lean Implementation Roadmap

Provides general guidelines for starting your lean journey, that includes: (RR234-11, p. 136)

  • Starting your lean journey – Lean is a journey, not a destination. A lean enterprise is in pursuit of the lean ideal.
  • Guidelines for organizational change
  • Implementing lean on projects
  • Lean implementation by project phases
  • Lean implementation issues by project role
The ability of individuals and organizations to follow an implementation roadmap will vary with position and circumstance, but to the extent possible, these guidelines should be followed to implement lean on projects.
Reference: (RR234-11)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved quality (reduced errors & omissions), Improved safety

Research Publications

Roadmap for Lean Implementation at the Project Level - RR234-11

Publication Date: 10/2007 Type: Research Report Pages: 411 Status: Tool

Lean Implementation at the Project Level - RS234-1

Publication Date: 08/2007 Type: Research Summary Pages: 26 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Lean Implementation at the Project Level

Publication Date: 07/2007 Presenter: Number of Slides: 18 Event Code: AC07

Implementation Session - Lean Implementation at the Project Level

Publication Date: 07/2007 Presenter: Number of Slides: 42 Event Code: AC07

Session - Lean Project Delivery & Cultural Remodeling

Publication Date: Presenter: Number of Slides: 49 Event Code: PIW1009