Sector - Education & Training

Why Lean is key to the future of construction

Ever-increasing demand for faster, more cost-effective builds has left the construction industry in need of operational models that maximise margins and create competitive advantage.

Originally designed to improve efficiency in car manufacturing, the principles of Lean production are offering a solution for a growing number of construction companies.

A value-driven and people centric approach

So, how exactly can Lean benefit construction? “It’s a philosophy-based set of processes aimed at continuously delivering better quality from the customer perspective,” explains Professor of Lean Project Management at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Christine Pasquire.

“Traditionally, construction can be very fragmented, with a whole series of contracts, sub-contracts, supplier contracts and designer contracts. But, in a Lean system, there’s synchronisation and harmony across all processes.

“The benefits are enormous. Lean can literally achieve better quality results a third quicker and a third cheaper than traditional practices. Construction companies can share and realise benefits across the entire supply chain.”

Lean construction in action

Lean has been behind a number of high-profile construction projects, including Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The airport expansion was one of the earliest applications of the Last Planner® system (LPS), which is a foundational approach for Lean construction.

“LPS is a way of collaborating and controlling production processes for greater predictability and reliability of construction production,” explains Professor Pasquire.

There are sustainability benefits to Lean construction too. “During the building of the Athlete’s Village for the 2012 Olympics in London, the project team implemented a NoWaste Lean Construction training programme. This resulted in 13% less waste production over a six month period and saved an estimated £94,000 in waste disposal costs.”

“Lean enables you to codify, collaborate, improve transparency, bring in the right people at the right time, and change your contracts so that you’re getting better sustainability benefits, as well as cost-driven solutions.”

Implementing Lean within Construction Project Management

Gaining a working knowledge of these practices can enable CPMs to develop Lean construction project delivery systems from a cost-effective and sustainable customer perspective.

Professor Pasquire agrees. “Lean is changing the way construction is carried out. CPMs will need an understanding of Lean that’ll allow them to navigate the challenges of its adoption and capitalise on its benefits.”

Online study can offer a flexible route to these skills, ideal for those looking to apply newly-aquired knowledge immediately to their real working environments. As leader of the Lean Project Production module of the Online MSc in Construction Project Management at NTU, Professor Pasquire uses simulations, videos and real-world case studies to provide an experiential demonstration of the principles in action.

“I integrate my work leading the Lean Project Management research group, so all content is based on the latest developments and findings in the field,” she says. “It’s a cutting-edge exploration into one of the most impactful working philosophies in contemporary construction.”

Visit NTU to find out more about Lean construction and how you can use it to build on your CPM career.