A simple question, but not quite that simple an answer! What it comes down to is who you are, what you do and where you fit in in the whole life-cycle of the construction project.
Let’s start with the client side Project Champion. He has to start by beating sense into the heads of all is stakeholders so that they only get what they actually need. Once he has won with them, he then has to move on to all the project consultants such as the architects, interior designers and engineers. They have to come up with a design which actually meets the client’s needs and that it doesn’t evolve into something the main purpose of which is to reflect their design concepts. Looking pretty is one thing; it mustn’t be allowed to turn into something grandiose but which isn’t functional. The visual impact, both inside and out, must be just sufficient to meet the client’s needs.
The next group will have to consider the implications of lean construction, assuming it is not a design and build project, are those contractors who wish to tender for the project. They all have to consider, in great detail, the build process they will employ, what materials and labour they will need and the necessary over-ordering of materials to allow for waste. They also have to look at the lean manufacturing capability of the material suppliers they may use. In all probability they will have been given a start and finish date on site. Paradoxically it might not be that the contractor with the lowest price that will automatically be awarded the contract. The client’s project team will take into account other factors such as financial viability of tendering companies, their experience in this field, their reported competence and also the manner in which they intend to progress the works. Another factor which may play a big part is the project manager which a contractor may put on the job. That man may have worked on previous contracts for this client.
At the same time as hopeful main contractors are jumping through hoops the sub-contractors who want to become involved in the project have to jump through exactly the same hoops only not quite as many of them.
The contract has been awarded and a start on site is soon to be made. This is the start of everyone who has a serious financial commitment in the project having to begin working frantically to make sure that the lean process works for them. The first thing that needs to happen is the project managers, site managers and perhaps even ganger men from all the subcontractors to begin discussions about the timescales required. With all this expert input a Detailed Programme to Completion can be compiled.
While that is going on the Quantity Surveyors will be working out how much material is required. Once they have that DPC they will be able to place orders allowing the necessary procurement period to optimise cash flow and keep the project lean and mean. All done? Then let’s start on site!
Once we have a start on site all the intellectual stuff about lean has already been done. Now remember the lean construction is mainly about speed of build and reduction of material waste along with not having men stood idle. The important thing to bear in mind now is that all the clever people who have been involved so far have probably never built anything in their lives. The ones who build are the skilled trades on site.
What happens now, assuming an intelligent and experienced project manager, is that the skilled trades will begin to get involved by being asked how to speed things up and how to reduce material waste relating to their own trade use. Now, of all the people involved in a project it is the skilled trades who are actually most motivated to ensure lean construction management from the point of view of time-saving. Bear in mind that they are probably all on price work. If they can get off-site two weeks earlier that means two weeks extra work in the year and the family holiday paid for! If the plumbers and electricians are asked to work in the same place at the same time they’ll simply say that they cannot. If it was their own idea to save themselves time they most certainly will!!!
So there you have it; the application of lean construction means different things to different groups of people. To sum it up, however, what it boils down to is that at every stage of the project from conception to handover, everyone has to work together as a team, although that team does evolve and change.
When the whole team thinks in terms of function, speed of build and reduction of material and labour waste, then you have lean construction working for you.