Lean Construction Systems: The Effective Paradigm for Construction
Real Estate

Lean Construction Systems: The Effective Paradigm for Construction

Lean construction systems can be successfully installed, either comprehensively or in parts, in project sites or across entire organisations says, PROFESSOR N. RAGHAVAN. Though Indian Lean Construction Management (LCM) practices have been somewhat lagging behind the rest of the world, they have been catching up well, under the beneficial patronage of ILCE- the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence.

Lean Construction Management (LCM) has been around over the last four decades or so all over the world and is now a thriving and a much cherished practice. Though Indian LCM practices have been somewhat lagging behind the rest of the world, they have been catching up well, under the beneficial patronage of ILCE- the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence. This has been well documented in Construction World’s previous Lean Special Issue, in October, 2022. In this article the existing problems in our construction industry and how Lean can help solve them have been explored.

Present ailments in Indian construction
It is quite well known that the efficiency and certainty levels in the industry are quite low. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation (MosPI) has documented on several occasions the horrendous time and cost overruns plaguing major infrastructure projects. This clearly indicates the failure of conventional project management systems, reiterating that the predictability or certainty levels in the industry are quite low. The productivity of construction labour is much lower than that of manufacturing labour and its rate of increase over time with improved practices is also much slower. Essentially the problems cover reactive rather than proactive approaches, working with huge, unwieldy networks which cannot be updated on real time basis, problems of coordination across multi-theatres and operations, over-reliance on buffers, working in watertight vertical silos, atmospheres of distrust, and so on. The stress levels are enormous and solutions are sought by needlessly pumping in more resources, unwieldy parallel workings and stressful long hours of work. With many new technologies coming in, confusion prevails on how best to use them. Many leading construction organisations of yesteryear have ceased working, not being able to survive with their traditional practices.

Need of the hour for construction
With the recent turnaround of the Indian economy infrastructure needs of the country is on an upswing. Drives such as Atma Nirbhar, etc, has created an urgent demand for large scale construction. Mirroring global trends, the project sizes are becoming larger, time durations stipulated are tighter, the technologies demanded are sophisticated and labour resources are becoming scarcer. These changes demand the induction of a new paradigm of construction management which is more production oriented, has in-built efficiency systems, is proactive, has better predictability and certainty levels, is able to facilitate and deploy modern systems effectively, one which continuously improves value to the clients and is also conducive to stress-free working by all people involved. Lean construction practices are put into play for addressing such needs.


What Lean is all about?
LCM is an offshoot from the very popular and effective Lean manufacturing system, originally perfected by Toyota Motors as Toyota Production System. Lean manufacturing has been practised by many Indian industries for several years and nurtured by CII- Confederation of Indian Industry- over the years. Lean focuses more on process management than on production management and works across people, process and technology. Lean construction is more of a culture based on concepts such as focusing on value for the client, elimination of wastes, continuous improvement, collaborative working, holistic approach, ensuring overall flow of work and respect for people. Lean also deploys many tools developed in the process to ensure the objective of continuous value creation.

How Lean can help?
Lean project delivery is based on the concept of treating the project as a production system, with impeccable coordination, continuous improvement and collaborative working to improve certainty levels. The emphasis is on global optimisation instead of local activity based management. “Pull” systems instead of “Push” systems are used to minimise wasteful work-in-progress and to ensure continuous flow of work. The last planner system or the Collaborative Planning System (CPS) as practised in India, is based on the overall client requirements of milestone planning and phase planning, carried out through pull-based Look ahead planning, weekly planning and daily planning progressively. This is done by empowering the frontline supervisors and all concerned staff in collaborative Big Room exercises. This practice significantly improves the certainty, reliability, predictability levels, with increased control on time and cost, and hence it improves profitability levels. Continuous improvement is ensured by identification likewise resolving constraints is a priority as also monitoring of weekly achievements against plans through the Plan Percent Complete (PPC) index, identification of root causes for failures to reach perfect PPC scores and resolving them continuously, etc. Continuous value stream mapping and improvement exercises ensure identification and removal of wastes, streamlining of work processes to ensure continuous value creation. Practices such as 6S help in ensuring a well-ordered site, improve accessibility and safety, and reduce wastes etc. Lean practices commonly identify eight different forms of waste and they all have to be rigorously checked for and eliminated continuously. An initial Lean work structuring ensures that the project is properly planned in the overall sense, covering methods, sequencing, supply chains, planned productivity levels, etc. There are many other Lean tools to improve efficiency which are put to use for varied objectives to make construction truly efficient.

All these go towards improving certainty levels and reducing stresses and tensions among the people involved. So its no wonder that Lean is hailed as a practice to improve the happiness quotient in projects!

Lean: The broad-spectrum antibiotic!!
Apart from construction, Lean is also applicable in the other areas of activities relating to projects. Lean design ensures appropriate and efficient design, well suiting the project, the site and the parties involved, to be developed in a collaborative manner using Big Room approach. This approach can also cover architecture. Lean supply chain procedures ensure proper and smooth alignment of the supply chain with construction, ensuring a just-in-time approach, minimal wastages, smooth sequencing, timely completion, etc. Off-site assemblies or manufacturing such as precasting, can also enhance supply chain efficiencies. Lean contracting procedures such as target value design, integrated project delivery, and alliance contracting increase overall efficiency by creating a synergy between all the agencies concerned. Lean can also add more value using various automation and digitalisation systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), virtual reality and augmented reality, etc. Use of specially designed construction ERP software improves the effectiveness of Lean.


Why Lean can fail and suggested safeguards
Lean construction systems can be successfully installed, either comprehensively or in parts, in project sites or across entire organisations, as has been done successfully elsewhere in the world and also in India in a limited way so far. Since the beginning of Lean construction practices many Lean tools have been developed and practised successfully. However, to ensure sustained Lean practices in the long run, the development of a Lean culture - either in the project or across the organisation- is a must. Such a culture will ensure collaborative working, trust and transparency, continuous improvement, constant elimination of waste, etc. For Lean practices to be successful the total commitment of the top management, or the project manager at the site, is absolutely vital. Being more of a culture than a collection of tools to be practiced since people have so far been used too many conventional project management systems for very long periods; the transition to a new system is always difficult and has to be charted out carefully by a determined management. There may be some slip-ups in the beginning but if the course is persisted with, many good benefits will start materialising progressively. The transition has to be borne and crossed without any misgivings.Also, it would be better to start with small baby steps in the beginning by practising certain Lean tools such as 6S, Big Room Meetings, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Kanban, Kaizen, etc and progressively introduce the various main practices and develop a Lean Culture. At all times, there should be a steady progression towards Lean culture. If such measures are followed with full belief, Lean is sure to yield substantial benefits in the long run.

Lean - The way forward
Lean has been promoted throughout the industry by ICLE through a variety of technical events, including webinars, Lean community meetings as also national and international conferences. The well-known NPTEL (National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning) portal has also been loaded with a training curriculum by IIT Madras and ILCE, with additional modules to come.


Professor N. Raghavan, FNAE, FICE(UK), FIE(I)
Professor OF Practice– IIT Madras, Member of the Board- Institute for Lean Construction Excellence

Lean construction systems can be successfully installed, either comprehensively or in parts, in project sites or across entire organisations says, PROFESSOR N. RAGHAVAN. Though Indian Lean Construction Management (LCM) practices have been somewhat lagging behind the rest of the world, they have been catching up well, under the beneficial patronage of ILCE- the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence. Lean Construction Management (LCM) has been around over the last four decades or so all over the world and is now a thriving and a much cherished practice. Though Indian LCM practices have been somewhat lagging behind the rest of the world, they have been catching up well, under the beneficial patronage of ILCE- the Institute for Lean Construction Excellence. This has been well documented in Construction World’s previous Lean Special Issue, in October, 2022. In this article the existing problems in our construction industry and how Lean can help solve them have been explored. Present ailments in Indian construction It is quite well known that the efficiency and certainty levels in the industry are quite low. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation (MosPI) has documented on several occasions the horrendous time and cost overruns plaguing major infrastructure projects. This clearly indicates the failure of conventional project management systems, reiterating that the predictability or certainty levels in the industry are quite low. The productivity of construction labour is much lower than that of manufacturing labour and its rate of increase over time with improved practices is also much slower. Essentially the problems cover reactive rather than proactive approaches, working with huge, unwieldy networks which cannot be updated on real time basis, problems of coordination across multi-theatres and operations, over-reliance on buffers, working in watertight vertical silos, atmospheres of distrust, and so on. The stress levels are enormous and solutions are sought by needlessly pumping in more resources, unwieldy parallel workings and stressful long hours of work. With many new technologies coming in, confusion prevails on how best to use them. Many leading construction organisations of yesteryear have ceased working, not being able to survive with their traditional practices. Need of the hour for construction With the recent turnaround of the Indian economy infrastructure needs of the country is on an upswing. Drives such as Atma Nirbhar, etc, has created an urgent demand for large scale construction. Mirroring global trends, the project sizes are becoming larger, time durations stipulated are tighter, the technologies demanded are sophisticated and labour resources are becoming scarcer. These changes demand the induction of a new paradigm of construction management which is more production oriented, has in-built efficiency systems, is proactive, has better predictability and certainty levels, is able to facilitate and deploy modern systems effectively, one which continuously improves value to the clients and is also conducive to stress-free working by all people involved. Lean construction practices are put into play for addressing such needs. What Lean is all about? LCM is an offshoot from the very popular and effective Lean manufacturing system, originally perfected by Toyota Motors as Toyota Production System. Lean manufacturing has been practised by many Indian industries for several years and nurtured by CII- Confederation of Indian Industry- over the years. Lean focuses more on process management than on production management and works across people, process and technology. Lean construction is more of a culture based on concepts such as focusing on value for the client, elimination of wastes, continuous improvement, collaborative working, holistic approach, ensuring overall flow of work and respect for people. Lean also deploys many tools developed in the process to ensure the objective of continuous value creation. How Lean can help? Lean project delivery is based on the concept of treating the project as a production system, with impeccable coordination, continuous improvement and collaborative working to improve certainty levels. The emphasis is on global optimisation instead of local activity based management. “Pull” systems instead of “Push” systems are used to minimise wasteful work-in-progress and to ensure continuous flow of work. The last planner system or the Collaborative Planning System (CPS) as practised in India, is based on the overall client requirements of milestone planning and phase planning, carried out through pull-based Look ahead planning, weekly planning and daily planning progressively. This is done by empowering the frontline supervisors and all concerned staff in collaborative Big Room exercises. This practice significantly improves the certainty, reliability, predictability levels, with increased control on time and cost, and hence it improves profitability levels. Continuous improvement is ensured by identification likewise resolving constraints is a priority as also monitoring of weekly achievements against plans through the Plan Percent Complete (PPC) index, identification of root causes for failures to reach perfect PPC scores and resolving them continuously, etc. Continuous value stream mapping and improvement exercises ensure identification and removal of wastes, streamlining of work processes to ensure continuous value creation. Practices such as 6S help in ensuring a well-ordered site, improve accessibility and safety, and reduce wastes etc. Lean practices commonly identify eight different forms of waste and they all have to be rigorously checked for and eliminated continuously. An initial Lean work structuring ensures that the project is properly planned in the overall sense, covering methods, sequencing, supply chains, planned productivity levels, etc. There are many other Lean tools to improve efficiency which are put to use for varied objectives to make construction truly efficient. All these go towards improving certainty levels and reducing stresses and tensions among the people involved. So its no wonder that Lean is hailed as a practice to improve the happiness quotient in projects! Lean: The broad-spectrum antibiotic!! Apart from construction, Lean is also applicable in the other areas of activities relating to projects. Lean design ensures appropriate and efficient design, well suiting the project, the site and the parties involved, to be developed in a collaborative manner using Big Room approach. This approach can also cover architecture. Lean supply chain procedures ensure proper and smooth alignment of the supply chain with construction, ensuring a just-in-time approach, minimal wastages, smooth sequencing, timely completion, etc. Off-site assemblies or manufacturing such as precasting, can also enhance supply chain efficiencies. Lean contracting procedures such as target value design, integrated project delivery, and alliance contracting increase overall efficiency by creating a synergy between all the agencies concerned. Lean can also add more value using various automation and digitalisation systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), virtual reality and augmented reality, etc. Use of specially designed construction ERP software improves the effectiveness of Lean. Why Lean can fail and suggested safeguards Lean construction systems can be successfully installed, either comprehensively or in parts, in project sites or across entire organisations, as has been done successfully elsewhere in the world and also in India in a limited way so far. Since the beginning of Lean construction practices many Lean tools have been developed and practised successfully. However, to ensure sustained Lean practices in the long run, the development of a Lean culture - either in the project or across the organisation- is a must. Such a culture will ensure collaborative working, trust and transparency, continuous improvement, constant elimination of waste, etc. For Lean practices to be successful the total commitment of the top management, or the project manager at the site, is absolutely vital. Being more of a culture than a collection of tools to be practiced since people have so far been used too many conventional project management systems for very long periods; the transition to a new system is always difficult and has to be charted out carefully by a determined management. There may be some slip-ups in the beginning but if the course is persisted with, many good benefits will start materialising progressively. The transition has to be borne and crossed without any misgivings.Also, it would be better to start with small baby steps in the beginning by practising certain Lean tools such as 6S, Big Room Meetings, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Kanban, Kaizen, etc and progressively introduce the various main practices and develop a Lean Culture. At all times, there should be a steady progression towards Lean culture. If such measures are followed with full belief, Lean is sure to yield substantial benefits in the long run. Lean - The way forward Lean has been promoted throughout the industry by ICLE through a variety of technical events, including webinars, Lean community meetings as also national and international conferences. The well-known NPTEL (National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning) portal has also been loaded with a training curriculum by IIT Madras and ILCE, with additional modules to come. Professor N. Raghavan, FNAE, FICE(UK), FIE(I) Professor OF Practice– IIT Madras, Member of the Board- Institute for Lean Construction Excellence

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