The Public Sector is Seduced by Lean Construction - LIPS 2016

Lean Construction is an approach to improving quality, economy, and compliance with project schedules in the construction sector. Lean In the Public Sector (LIPS) is a conference about Lean in public construction projects. LIPS focuses on practical applications and has traditionally been focused on results and the path to getting them.

This year, the LIPS 2016 conference took place in Helsingor, Denmark from September 12-14. The LIPS conference focused on the conditions that applies to public construction projects and aimed to spread and advance the implementation of Lean principles and thinking in the public construction sector. In total, around 80 participants attended the event and were part of the discussions. The conference was divided in two parts: (1) a national workshop and (2) an international conference.

National workshop

On the first day, a national workshop was held with the focus on the Danish clients. The workshop included a keynote speaker from the director of the Danish Association of Architectural firms, Lene Espersen, who emphasized that we have to be aware of the transaction costs and that cooperation between the stakeholders in construction projects is necessary to enhance the productivity in the Danish construction business. After the keynote, there was a discussion about why there is so much waste in the Danish construction industry. The discussion was introduced through three presentations. Two presenters were from two major clients in Denmark and one was from a major contractor. The keynote speaker concluded that many of the tools from Lean Construction combined with a focus on collaboration could help reduce some of the wastes that we see. After lunch, an introduction to Lean Construction was given followed by hands-on demonstration.

International conference

Figure 1: Participants of the International Conference

The next two days were dedicated to the international conference. The conference was divided into six topics:

  • The Finnish lean journey.
  • Experiences from the building sector.
  • Legal issues, risk and risk management.
  • Health, safety and environment – the contribution of Lean to Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE).
  • Experience from the transportation sector.
  • International reports.

For the first topic, Finland presented their journey into alliancing projects. In 2008, Lean principles were introduced in Finland. Despite several legislative challenges, they initiated the first alliancing project in 2011, borrowing the concept from the Australian alliance. Finland has continued the development with many successes. As of today, they have over 40 project alliances with more to come.

For experiences from the building sector, an experienced panel of public sector agencies responsible for major international construction projects discussed the possibilities of Lean Construction within the building sector. This included specific practices involved and presentations of what was achieved and what they will do differently in the future. The conclusion was that Lean Construction tools can lead to a more productive sector.

The next session focused on the challenges of introducing IPD and/or Lean in the public sector due to legislation restrictions. The conclusion was that there are many challenging barriers in the European legislation. However, it is possible within the law, as Finland is proving over and over again, to overcome them.

The last day started with a discussion of unforeseen benefits coming from the use of Lean Construction. In many cases Lean projects also result in positive outcomes other than delivery on time, budget and quality. The QHSE session focused on showing the main "side effects" or positive externalities of lean regarding health, safety and environment. The presenters showed case specific results from a range of different construction projects. All three Scandinavian presenters showed impressive results on Lean projects that had improved QHSE in their projects.

In experiences from the transport sector, an experienced panel of public sector agencies responsible for major international transport construction projects discussed the possibilities of Lean Construction within the transport sector. As in the building sector, there are several findings to support the fact that Lean can improve the Transport sector as well.

Finally, the participating countries presented the progress of Lean Construction in their countries. An overall conclusion of the presentations is that Lean is being widely used on the project level and it is carried by strong project managers who want to challenge the traditional methods. On a wider perspective, we found that there is a lot of work to be done to implement Lean Construction as the preferred method to develop construction projects.

The conference was filled with lots of lively discussions and one of the participants said: “It is nice to be allowed to be naïve again and think we can change the sector”. You could say that this statement is a bit sad, since it should not require us to be naïve when we want to improve a sector. However, the statement also shows that people who see the results are convinced that Lean Construction is the right way to go. We just need to spread the message even more and reach beyond the enthusiastic project managers who are early adopters. How to do this could be one of the topics of LIPS 2017, which will be hosted in Chile.

All of the presentations from the conference can be found on

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