The Lean Construction in Europe is a series that features Lean practitioners working in Europe. In this series, William Power interviews lean leaders and shares lessons learned. This series highlights how people are currently applying Lean in their projects and how they are progressing on their lean journey. The goal of this series is to connect people with the lean practices that they are currently using. We want to share stories about what they are learning and how they are improving their practice.
1. Hi Bárbara, can you tell us how you got involved in construction and what is your current
Early in my career, I got into the field of construction, leveraging my architectural background to explore various facets of design and the built environment. Holding degrees in both Architecture and Urban Planning (2017) and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering and the Built Environment (2020) from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), I have delved into diverse projects including residential, commercial, rail, and highway infrastructure in both the UK and Brazil. Throughout my journey, I have gained over 6 years of valuable experience in construction, design, and engineering management.
My roles have been multifaceted, including Architect and Urban Planner, Designer, BIM Manager, Research Fellow, and Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Associate. Currently, I hold the position of Lean and Efficiency Manager at Arcadis while pursuing my part-time PhD at the University of Huddersfield, where I am focused on exploring digital Visual Management. I started working with Arcadis in 2019 as a researcher, and since then, I have continued to collaborate closely with the company. Arcadis is an international design and consultancy firm with an extensive global presence, aiming to meet the unique needs of its clients while striving to enhance the quality of life for all.
2. Where did you first learn of Lean Construction and how has it influenced your career?
I have been working with Lean construction since I was very young, with my involvement in research projects dating back to my undergraduate years in 2013. Under the guidance of Carlos Torres Formoso at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), I joined a research project that focused on construction management and digital technologies for waste identification in construction sites. In 2014, I had the opportunity to further enrich my knowledge by being awarded a scholarship for a year-long exchange program at the University of Salford. During this time, I delved deeper into topics related to construction management and BIM, enhancing my understanding of these subjects. This early exposure to research sparked my passion for exploring innovative solutions in the field.
My interests and commitment to research and innovation stayed strong, leading me to pursue a Master's degree (2020) in design and construction management with a specific focus on Lean principles, Visual Management, and digitalisation, under the guidance of Prof. Carlos Torres Formoso and Daniela Dietz Viana. Continuing on this path of academic and professional growth, I am currently undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of Huddersfield in Architecture and the Built Environment, supervised by Lauri Koskela and Patricia Tzortzopoulos. Collaborating with such pioneers and experts in this domain has been a true inspiration for me throughout this exciting journey.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of conducting applied research both in Brazil and the UK, immersing myself in diverse environments from both academia and industry that allowed me to explore various aspects of the built environment and Lean Construction.
3. What Lean methods do you most commonly use with your teams, and can you explain how these improve existing practices?
In order to enhance Arcadis Global and UK Mobility Business in their pursuit of delivering service excellence to customers and stakeholders, we have embarked on a journey towards a Lean and Continuous Improvement culture throughout the organisation. Embracing Lean techniques and methodologies, we are striving to enhance collaboration within our geographically dispersed teams, empowering every member of our network to actively contribute to positive change. By standardising our approach across all projects, we aim to streamline our workflows and achieve greater efficiencies.
At the heart of our Lean transformation lie key techniques, including the Last Planner System, (digital) Visual Management to enhance transparency and communication, Choosing by Advantages to make informed decisions, Value Stream Mapping & Process Modelling for optimizing workflows, Lessons Learned to continuously improve our practices, and finally, A3 or DMAICT, which are our go-to for solving problems and making decisions. These techniques collectively drive us towards our goal of delivering exceptional outcomes for our clients while fostering a culture of continuous improvement within the organization.
4. Is there a recent Lean project you would like to share with us?
In 2020, I became part of a 30-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) that fostered a collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Arcadis. Embracing the role of KTP Associate, my objective was to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from academia to industry. The KTP initiative acts as a link between businesses and universities, driving innovation projects that seek to integrate the best of both worlds.
The core focus of this project was to explore Lean and BIM-based processes, enhancing performance by instigating transformative changes and raising awareness of the benefits of Lean and BIM integration within the company. The project team consisted of experts from academia, Lauri Koskela and Algan Tezel, as well as industry professionals, including Mark Crellin, Andrew Whitelock-Wainwright and Doug Potter; and it was partially funded by Innovate- UK.
The outcomes of this partnership were notable, realising numerous efficiencies that translated into cost and time savings, as well as qualitative enhancements across our projects and teams. Also, indirect impacts were identified, such as improved customer experiences and an increase in the National Highways Lean maturity audit (HELMA) score.
We firmly believe that a sustainable deployment of Lean practices can be achieved through effective collaboration with academia. While industry and academia may have different knowledge bases, drivers, and modes of operation, their synergy in research-driven collaborations can lead to improved project outcomes, generating value for all involved. In line with Arcadis' culture of Lean, Applied Research, and Innovation, we are actively engaged in multiple collaborations with academia, e.g., we are part of the Future Roads Programme, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, National Highways, and other suppliers, further underlining our commitment to driving innovation and excellence in our projects.
5. Can you explain how you understand Lean and BIM to be compatible and is there an example from practice you can share with us?
BIM and Lean, despite originating as separate initiatives, share numerous synergies that have been studied for over a decade. The interactions between these two approaches can be categorised into four major mechanisms: (i) BIM contributes to Lean goals, (ii) BIM enables Lean processes, (iii) auxiliary information systems supported by BIM contribute to Lean, and (iv) Lean processes facilitate the introduction of BIM (Dave et al., 2013).
Currently, discussions regarding the design phase mainly focus on using BIM to address specific design challenges and achieve Lean goals, with less emphasis on how Lean can contribute to BIM processes. While many efforts have explored the contributions of BIM (and GIS) capabilities and features to Lean goals and techniques, there is a need to further explore how Lean principles can enhance BIM and GIS processes. In our KTP project, we delved into Lean's potential contributions to BIM & GIS processes, aiming to identify how Lean practices can reduce waste and enhance the value of digital processes. We found that Lean extends beyond BIM & GIS capabilities, enabling process improvements and supporting digital processes (see figure below). Some of our case studies involved investigating Clash Management and the integration process of BIM and GIS.
More information about this investigation can be found here:
6. Do you encounter any challenges to integration of Lean & BIM and, if so, how do you
address these issues?
Key challenges and opportunities of integrating Lean and BIM collaboratively were explored under the KTP project by Soudabeh Davoudabadi (2022). The key challenges were identified at the team level, hindering the seamless implementation of Lean-BIM practices:
- Lack of motivation and intention towards collaboration due to resistance to change and a limited awareness of the benefits of Lean-BIM integration.
- Different work mentalities between BIM and Lean experts, leading to a lack of recognition, recording, and structured implementation of Lean improvements.
- Absence of a common approach to collaboration, resulting in confusion among experts from both fields regarding task execution in a collaborative context.
To improve Lean and BIM teams' collaboration, the following measures were suggested:
- Increase motivation by raising awareness of the direct benefits of Lean-BIM collaboration on project outcomes.
- Assign Lean experts to digital teams to train them in Lean principles and techniques and guide their implementation into BIM processes.
- Conduct regular training, meetings and workshops to enhance experts' awareness of the positive impacts of Lean-BIM on their individual work and develop proficient Lean-BIM experts.
- Provide appropriate collaboration guidelines to BIM and Lean experts, ensuring a cohesive and effective working approach.
More information can be found here:
7. In your contributions to the International Group for Lean Construction academic conferences you refer to numerous Lean topics. Can you expand on digital Visual Management and how you think this can be utilised in the design process?
The discussions on Visual Management (VM) have largely focused on device-centered aspects, such as developing new devices and understanding the impact of different VM. However, the implementation of VM as a strategic approach has been limited, particularly in the context of a digital and dynamic environment. To address this, we have recently proposed a visual management implementation strategy, aiming to support its implementation through coherent plans and decisions. Valente et al (2019) has also suggested a model for devising VM, highlighting its visual and non-visual aspects. This may support practitioners to implement VM through a more structured approach.
Our exploration of different types of Visual Management practices encompasses areas like
planning and control, coordination, and continuous improvements. Specifically, within the
planning and control domain, we have investigated practices such as performance and status
dashboards, as well as (digital) collaborative boards. The latter, in particular, serves as a flexible
visual and virtual platform, facilitating remote collaboration and enabling the adoption of new
routines and procedures by providing easy access to information when needed.
The emergence of digital visual management has further expanded the application scope of VM. It offers the potential to support problem-solving and decision-making, both in real-time and across different virtual locations, effectively supporting our geographically distributed teams. This integration of digital VM devices have the potential to enhance collaboration, making it easier to address challenges and achieve objectives efficiently.
More information can be found here:
Dave, B., Koskela, L., Kiviniemi, A., Tzortzopoulos, P., & Owen, R. (2013). Implementing lean in
construction: Lean construction and BIM [CIRIA Guide C725].
Davoudabadi, S., Pedo, B., Tezel, A., & Koskela, L. (2022). A cognitive review for improving the collaboration between BIM and lean experts. Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC30), 669–680. doi.org/10.24928/2022/0174
Pedo, B., Tezel, A., Koskela, L., Whitelock-Wainwright, A., Lenagan, D., and Nguyen, Q. A. (2021). “Lean contributions to BIM processes: the case of clash management in highways design.” Proc. 29 th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC29), Alarcon, L.F. and González, V.A. (eds.), Lima, Peru, pp. 116–125, doi.org/10.24928/2021/0164, online at iglc.net.
Pedó, B., Tezel, A., Koskela, L., Tzortzopoulos, P., Formoso, C., Vrabie, E. & Robinson, S. (2023). Visual management implementation strategy: An analysis of digital whiteboards. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC31), 608–619. doi.org/10.24928/2023/0264
Valente, C. P., Brandalise, F. M., & Formoso, C. T. (2019). Model for devising visual management systems on construction sites. Journal of construction engineering and management, 145(2), 04018138.