All too often goals are thrown around without any implementation. In a featured article of Dr. Algan Tezel, Lean Construction Blog spells out how the concept of Lean Construction has avoided adding up to a passing convention. More importantly, Tezel discusses the major snags companies see hindering this target. With origins predating around the early 1990s, the Lean Production philosophy can be viewed with three main concentrations:
1. The more forthright focus of “waste elimination” – both from a field and office productivity level. This involves having set processes that allow the most efficient use of resources.
2. Next, Tezel stresses eliminating negative forces deterring productive business relationships. Basically, each link in the supply chain should be able to perform without the interference of a sour relationship impeding a seamless delivery.
3. The third focus is a bit more intricate. Lean construction is characterized by a rework of the traditional players’ roles. “Its essential parts are: information technology, pre-fabrication, Last Planner System (LPS), bottom-up activities and emphasis on individuals, a rethink of design and construction, decreased competitive forces, long-term contracts, training at all staff levels, and a systems perspective of both processes and the product.”
According to his logic, lean construction can be roughly summed up as trimming the fat from your processes to reduce errors—both in the office and on the field. In other words, simple and less is more effective and time-efficient.
Looking at the process as a whole, there are some key areas that stand out as the main drawbacks standing in the way of a perfect lean execution. There may be more arguments beyond these problems, but these are some core barriers according to Dr. Tezel, and his argument raises some interesting thoughts. The following are three of the six examples expressed in the article.
First, Management Issues can present a significant deterrent to lean construction. Some of the issues that fall under this category are:
– Delayed decision making creating setback in project milestones
– Insufficient goals expressed from the client and poor communication
– Absence of top management backing and long-term planning
– Cost stresses limiting innovation
Next, the common struggle of Financial Issues is a big setback to lean construction becoming a reality. When a strategy is newer to a company, it requires investment. As Tezel explains, “Adequate funding is needed to motivate the workforce, change processes, provide relevant equipment/material, train people and employ lean specialists/consultants.” Some of the common financial barriers beyond inadequate initial funding include:
– Lack of incentives and team interest
– Excessive risk aversion
Finally, Lack of Training is a surprisingly prevalent pitfall to lean practices. The article emphasizes the lengthy measures to raise knowledge around this school of thought in some countries, however very little training is conducted on a global scale. This can be attributed to the concept’s roots in manufacturing and how the idea hasn’t quite been adapted for modern construction. Rather than a “holistic system,” lean construction is more commonly viewed as a bunch of separate techniques that aren’t integrated through guidance.
Somewhat fortunately, these failures allow us to see what can be learned from in order to get to the point of success stories. With the proper training, planning, support, and funding, lean construction can become authentic.