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Lean Construction takes a holistic view of the project

March 2019

Inefficiency and wastage in the construction sector are estimated to be 50-60 per cent abroad—the number is likely to be higher in India. ‘Lean’ construction focuses on the continuous process of eliminating waste across the entire value stream in the execution of a project.

In June 2016, CW reported how India’s construction industry lacks a systematic construction process waste management system to guide the implementation of Lean construction. Three years on, are Indian companies beginning to adapt to this principle? 

The concept

The Lean Construction Institute describes the concept as “a new and transformational way to design and build capital facilities”.

The goal is to make optimal use of critical resources in processes, including manpower, equipment, material, time and money, to avoid wastage and promote a cost-effective solution for project management, says Amit Uplenchwar, CEO, HCC Engineering and Construction. “Lean practices are not just about minimising wastage at construction site but taking a holistic view of the project. To make the project more viable, Lean practices have to be implemented from the planning stage. These are guided by a culture of continuous improvements in construction quality, operational efficiency and safety standards.” 

As Lean construction aims to reduce waste (man, machine and material) at fast-paced construction sites, it creates value. As SC Dixit, Executive Director, Shapoorji Pallonji Engineering & Construction, says, “To reduce waste, Lean proposes unique tools such as Last Planner System (LPS), Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Crew Balance Chart (CBC), Just-in-Time (JIT), 5S Principle, Kaizen, etc.” Interestingly, Lean advocates a change of work culture, where planners require to shift to ‘pull-based planning’. 

For his part, Kamal Hadker, Chairman and Managing Director, Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services, iterates that if a project needs to be completed within budget and the defined timeframe, Lean construction should be applied right at the beginning. “However, nobody stops you from using Lean principles during the progress of work,” he adds. “It allows the economic use of resources and manpower.” 

Increasing efficiency and productivity

The Lean construction principle calls for discipline. “Everyone involved in the project—client, architect, consultant, auditor, reviewers—should decide on running the project efficiently,” emphasises Hadker. “Hence, the flow of information, resources and everything is most economical.” 

In the detailed engineering phase, value engineering optimises the judicious use of resources. For example, the emphasis on planning and engineering has enabled HCC to devise alternate construction methods and schedules that reduce time, cost and delivery overruns, among others. The Lean construction approach is helping HCC maximise value and minimise wastage in the areas of supply-chain management, logistics, software, and safety. “In supply-chain management,” Uplenchwar says, “it helps in reducing handling costs and on-site storage; enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, such as System Applications & Products (SAP), implemented at all HCC project sites; and material planning by offering flexibility as per the construction sequence and helping to overcome challenges during execution.” This, in turn, minimises idling time of equipment and material inventories, and makes operations more efficient. HCC follows the JIT inventory system that produces or acquires materials and products according to demand. This is a key component of its supply chain.

While Shapoorji Pallonji Engineering & Construction has experimented with most Lean tools at many sites, LPS (for planning) and VSM (for plastering, bricklaying and concreting activities) are used extensively at commercial, residential and industrial sites. “By using LPS, we have observed an increase in productivity for shuttering, reinforcement and concreting from 17-20 per cent to an overall 20 per cent in skilled and non-skilled manpower,” says Dixit. “Coordinated (including subcontractor) implementation of LPS leads to a reduction of 8-12 days in slab cycle in some projects.” LPS implementation provides a clearer visibility of activity finish time (visible workflow) and helps create a predictable plan; on the other hand, VSM helps reduce the time required to finish a task and unnecessary manpower and machines.

BIM and other simulation software are used to create virtual renditions of actual projects. “These tools have helped to give a 3D view of the project, which aids in visualising the end-result, thus minimising a lot of unforeseen errors,” says Dr Ritesh Chandrashekar Tiwari, Director - Highways & Structures, Egis India. “We are able to create user experiences virtually and try to find the best solutions for consumers.” 

- SERAPHINA D’SOUZA