Understanding lean construction and why it matters to business leaders

At this juncture in the 21st century, lean construction represents a relatively new and even revolutionary concept. At its essence, lean construction represents the combination of practical development and operational research in design and construction.

Lean construction is based upon an adaptation of lean manufacturing practices and associated principles to the construction process. The adaption to construction is undertaken on an end-to-end basis. This includes the entire process, broadly defined. The encompassed process includes everything from project conception and design to all aspects of the construction phase to the manner in which the building is utilized in the environment once completed.

Lean construction does vary from manufacturing in that the construction process by definition is project based. Thus, the lean construction process requires a project-by-project analysis and application. With that said, there are effective practices that can be carried forward from one project and applied, sometimes with adaptation, to a subsequent one. Learning, applying, and implementing permits a holistic pursuit of ongoing improvements in the constructed and natural environments.

The term lean construction was utilized for the first time in 1993. Lean construction as a practice and principle is designed for the entirety of the construction industry, broadly speaking. This includes architects, designers, engineers, contractors of all types, suppliers, end users, and owners. Considering the breadth of the application of lean construction practices and principles, and the potential for positive impact on many leaders, business leaders of all types need to verse themselves in these concepts. Business of all types, and the community at large, all benefit from lean construction. Thus, there are a number of primary reasons why business leaders from across the spectrum must come to understand how and why lean construction matters.

Construction and associated costs

A primary reason why business leaders need to understand the practices and principles of lean construction is because of its demonstrable impact on the costs associated with building projects. This includes the costs associated with commercial, residential, and industrial projects.

Because of the manner in which lean construction works, it is a system more capable of cost containment than is the case with traditional construction processes. Expense management is by definition a primary consideration of business leaders across all industries.

The environment

As mentioned above, lean construction practices and principles include analysis and consideration of the impact of a building project on the environment. This includes a consideration of environmental impact during the construction phase itself, as well as later during the use and operation of a particular commercial, residential, or industrial building.

With ever increasing concern on the part of the general public regarding the environmental impact of business operations, including construction, business leaders need to respond accordingly. This includes paying attention to building systems, like lean construction, that lessen the impact of construction and building use on the environment.

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The community

Similarly, the community at large is part of what can fairly be called the lean construction equation. The community, and the impact of a construction project, certainly is part of the comprehensive lean construction process from start to beyond completion of a construction endeavor.

Business leaders need to have at least some community focus because lean construction is concerned not only with the actual construction project itself, but with the functionality and impact of the building in the larger community following its initial construction, as well. This component of lean construction necessitates the attention of business leaders for a number of reasons, including being community stakeholders.

Internal business operations

Another reason why business leaders need to recognize the importance of lean construction arises from the interplay between lean construction and the manner in which a business and its employees will utilize the finished building.

Because of these considerations in the overall practice of lean construction, business leaders need to maintain involvement in various construction projects to ensure project specific, as well as more global, efficient, and functional building design.

Business leaders are lean construction stakeholders

When it comes to examining lean construction and why these practices and principles matter to business leaders, remember that business leaders oftentimes will be specific stakeholders in a specific lean construction project.

Because business leaders are stakeholders in lean construction projects involving their companies, the practices and principles of this building strategy necessitates involvement of business leaders from the very beginning of a construction project, which is likely to be concept development forward to and through a structure’s ribbon cutting.

Jessica Kane writes for Advance Online, a provider of web-based OSHA, DOT, and HAZWOPER training. 

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