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How to Implement Lean Principles on Your Construction Team

10/15/2020 Blog

Have you ever thought you could better utilize the resources in your construction company? There are many ways to reduce waste, improve the use of materials and optimize the people within your organization. Using lean methodologies is just one way to achieve a higher focus for your construction team, and it benefits everyone.

The lean process strategy comes from Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno. In a nutshell, lean looks for ways to reduce waste and eliminate anything that absorbs employees’ resources or time without adding value.

The Five Thought Processes of Lean

There are five basic principles to lean methodology. Here are five questions to ensure you’re thinking with the right mindset:

1. What is the value for the end customer

2. Have you listed all the steps and eliminated any unnecessary ones?

3. Are the steps tight without lag between them? The idea is to create a smooth workflow.

4. Have you enabled customers to pull value from the process? How can you better empower them?

5. How can you keep improving? Lean isn’t a one-and-done methodology. You should repeat the steps in a loop, always striving toward perfection.

Now that you know how lean works, here are some specific ways it can help your construction teams.

Create a Customer-Centric Mindset

Train your crews to remember the customer comes first. If you want referrals for more work, the client must be thrilled with the result. Look at how your staff works with customers. Is there a foreman in charge who is a good communicator and can navigate any issues as they arise?

You must figure out how to keep the customer happy while also not wasting the crew’s time. Communication beforehand may be one of the most essential factors in removing obstacles and reducing costly mistakes.

Focus on Pre-Planning

The more time you spend planning out your project, the fewer mistakes you’ll make. The entire team should feel they are a part of this planning process. The preparation phase is also the time to bring the client to the site and talk through the plans you have in place. They may have changes in mind. You’ll save time and reduce waste by fixing those issues before you begin building. No one wants to repour a footer.

Spend Time on Team Building

A top-down approach works best to implement lean construction teams. Look for ways to reduce waste and free up time. Talk to your crew. They are the ones who are on each specific job. They’ll have ideas you don’t have because they are in the “trenches” of the project.

Take time to outline where you want to go with the project before one square inch of ground is broken. Look for ways to enhance communication with tools like wireless communication and apps.

Look for potential issues and personality conflicts and solve those issues before they become problems. All different types of people work on any given project. Some will get along and some won’t. The key is to keep them focused on the end goal and teach them better ways to communicate with one another.

Reduce Hard Costs

Break the job down into steps and look at the equipment and materials you’ll need at each stage of the process. For example, buying used equipment can provide comparable performance at a fraction of the cost of investing in all-new equipment. Lean firms can also seek out rentals for assets you need for a single job and aren’t likely to utilize again or that aren’t yet in the company’s budget to outright purchase.

When it comes to materials, get quotes from several suppliers or talk to the one you work with regularly about giving you a discount for repeat business. While there might not be a lot of wiggle room on material expenses, every dollar you save helps you create a leaner project.

Eliminate Waste

Every job site has items that go unused. It’s part of the trade that you order more than you need in case you need it. However, if you notice you’re consistently using 20% less than you order, it might be time to slowly reduce the waste. Try to get down to 15% waste and then 10% after that.

At the same time, look for ways to use leftover materials. Can you sell them on Facebook Marketplace to happy homeowners doing their own projects? Perhaps you can utilize scrap wood for another project somewhere? Seek out ways to reduce waste, both to help the environment and save on expenses.

The Key to Working Lean in Construction

The number one factor in running a lean construction team is making your employees aware of the methodology’s goals. Once they understand why you’re embracing the changes and how it can help your company thrive, they’re much more likely to get on board. Seek out ways to improve and keep trying new tactics to reduce costs and waste over time.

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