In this post we have compiled a set of good practices based on our own experiences that in general have worked when we have implemented Lean Construction at the company level. This post summarizes 10 years of experiences and both successes and difficulties have been considered. To explain it in a simple and summarized way, we made a classification of 10 keys to success that we grouped into 4 large categories:
- People management
- Strategic plan
- Focus on the process
- Knowledge management and technology
Key 1: An internal sponsor at the highest management level.
It is essential to count on a sponsor at the highest hierarchical level within the company who supports and actively participates in the implementation, who leads it and allocates the necessary resources.
Key 2: The internal leadership of the company's middle managers.
Intermediate leadership must be identified, who will be largely responsible for maintaining discipline in the application of the Lean management model, will support the implementation at the tactical and operational level, and will help to generate conviction among the different hierarchical levels of the organization.
Key 3: Training at all hierarchical levels. Empower workers.
The necessary competencies and capacities that each role must have must be developed and clearly defined, as well as a training plan for each hierarchical or functional level within the organization.
Key 4: Implement a system and a philosophy of work beyond tools.
It is important to define the history of change with which we are going to motivate the transformation within the company. Why do we need to change? There must be a clear answer to this question that can be conveyed to the entire company. A concise and motivating vision must be defined that we can explain in a few words, about the goals and objectives that we want to achieve with the implementation and the needs that have led us to implement Lean.
In summary, we must generate a strategic plan and a roadmap that allows us to deploy the implementation and mark the way forward for the entire company or organization.
Key 5: Be aware that implementing Lean is a long journey.
We know that the ideal conditions are hardly going to be given, but this should not be an excuse for not starting a Lean initiative.
Key 6: Try and if it doesn't work, rectify and try again.
We have to be aware that many of the Lean methodologies that we will implement will not be successful the first time. If the first attempt fails or does not progress as much as we would have liked, we must learn from the mistakes and start again considering the lessons learned.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESSKey 7: Implement a pilot project with the help of an expert.
A recommended strategy to start a Lean implementation is to define a project or pilot area whose lessons learned will serve to obtain first results on the state of maturity of the implementation. The objective of the pilot project is to obtain learning, not necessarily benefits, although, most of the time the benefits achieved justify the investment.
Key 8: Tools oriented to the flow of value.
Lean thinking relies on multiple tools and methodologies to put its principles and philosophy into practice. Some of those tools that have shown the greatest effectiveness in the implementation of Lean Construction are the following: Value Stream Mapping, 5S Methodology, Takt Time Planning, Last Planner System, A3 Report of Toyota, Standardization, Visual Management, Hoshin Kanri, among others.
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGYKey 9: Retain knowledge and integrate the entire value chain.
Knowledge retention is a general problem for many companies and a variety of industries. The AEC industry (historically less industrialized than the manufacturing sector) have had a hard time retaining knowledge, and the learning curve occurs more slowly. Knowledge management in companies will be a fundamental factor in the coming years. And, unless you want to remain immersed in a permanent price war, continuously navigating in red oceans, you must invest in knowledge and technologies, as well as in solutions with high added value for your clients.
Key 10: Use appropriate technology.
Many people see technology as a saving element to almost all their problems. Those unfamiliar with Lean culture often think that implementing tools like Last Planner System means implementing planning software. In this sense, in our Lean implementation projects we recommend following the principles of the Toyota philosophy. And, regarding to technology, we recommend that the cultural aspects of Lean must be cultivated from the beginning, as we implement the visual management of planning with dashboards and colored cards. In this sense, our recommendation is to introduce the use of specific software and technologies once the work team has confidence in the system and they are fully aware of the benefits of Lean. Anyway, the introduction of new software and technologies should simplify and make more efficient the processes and daily routines and not more complicated.
CONCLUSIONRegarding Lean implementation, we’ve hardly ever found ourselves on a bed of roses. Difficulties can arise at any time and for any circumstance. Sometimes it may be because the management team is convinced but the middle managers are not, or vice versa. Even part of the management team is convinced and part is not. If this is true, a lot of problems will arise in the Lean journey of your company. A final advice is to count with a strong conviction from senior managers of the company and implement a pilot project. A strategically selected project that can generate quick positive results and conviction within the whole company.
Liker, Jeffrey (2004). “The Toyota Way”. McGraw-Hill Education.
Pons, J.F. (2014). “Introducción a Lean Construction”. Fundación Laboral de la Construcción.
Pons J.F., Rubio I. (2019) Lean Construction y la Planificación Colaborativa: Metodología del Last Planner System. Consejo General de la Arquitectura Técnica de España.
Rother, M. (2009). “Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results”. McGraw-Hill Education.