By Sneha Kumari
As a Lean and Six Sigma Leader and a contributor of OSD, I am starting a multi-part series of articles that will highlight the benefits of Lean methods and how it can help with unblocking operational efficiencies for offsite construction business models.
Let's begin by grasping the fundamentals of Lean. Before delving into what Lean is, it is essential to clarify what Lean is not. Lean is not just about working harder or just cost-cutting measures. Lean is not limited to specific methodologies like 5S or Kaizen, nor is it solely about automation or investing in digital tools or ERPs. And it is definitely not about copying another company's Lean practices.
So, what is LEAN?
Lean is a business philosophy and organizational culture that addresses the complex challenges of business operations and eliminates waste in this process. It emphasizes respect for people and a commitment to continuous improvement. By minimizing wasteful practices, breaking down silos, and optimizing operations, lean aims to deliver exceptional customer value. Adopting a lean culture offers benefits such as increased agility, resilience, and consistently reliable outcomes for organizations, project teams, and individuals.
Lean originated as a response by Toyota to intense market competition, revolutionizing production. It has evolved into a widely sought-after strategy applicable to any enterprise striving to maximize value and reliability, particularly in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry facing labor shortages.
Principles of Lean: Lean principles offer a strategic framework for businesses to optimize their operations and maximize customer value.
Define Value: This highlights the significance of determining customers' true value, even when they may not be aware or able to express their needs. By utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods like interviews and surveys, businesses can discover customer preferences and expectations effectively.
Eliminate Waste: This process entails mapping current operations, identifying activities that contribute to customer value, and differentiating between necessary and unnecessary processes. Non-value-added activities, considered as waste, should be eliminated, or minimized to achieve cost savings and enhance value delivery.
Standardize Work: After addressing waste, this step aims at creating a seamless flow of value-adding activities. This involves breaking down steps, reconfiguring production processes, leveling workload, and promoting cross-functional collaboration. These measures improve efficiency, reduce delays, and enhance overall performance.
Continuous improvement – Fostered by a culture of embracing Lean thinking, this is about prioritizing progress over perfection. This transformative approach turns companies into dynamic learning organizations that consistently enhance processes, empower employees, and meet customer needs effectively.
Benefits of Lean: Implementation of Lean construction principles results in significant cost reductions through minimizing material usage and process waste. While the focus extends beyond maximizing profits, adopting Lean consistently yields positive impacts on the bottom line. Enhanced planning and strategic foresight shorten construction timelines, reducing accidents and promoting a safer working environment. Lean construction also improves schedule reliability and predictability, ensuring timely project delivery. The implementation of lean principles in construction leads to improved outcomes through enhanced communication, streamlined processes, and increased efficiency. This reduces workforce requirements, resulting in reduced stress levels for both workers and management. Meticulous planning in lean construction drives productivity, leading to increased profits, and customer satisfaction. Lean construction also promotes associates’ accountability, elevating job satisfaction, commitment to performance, and overall project success.
Lean leaders utilize a range of processes and tools, such as 5S, Gemba Walks, A3, and the Last Planner system (Pull system), to drive ongoing improvements in their processes. Having grasped the advantages, companies can now delve into these diverse range of LEAN tools and techniques in the upcoming series of articles, which will empower them to unlock the benefits and make meaningful progress in their Lean implementation.
We welcome our newest contributor to Offsite Dirt. Sneha Kumari is a Supply Chain Operations leader with over 12+ yrs of experience driving operational excellence across industries like Industrial Manufacturing, Automotive, Oil and Gas, Prefabrication manufacturing, and Retail. She is a Lean Six Sigma certified professional with a decade of experience leading Quality, Supply chain, and Operational activities. She was also recognized as one of the few Operations Women Leaders by McKinsey and Co. for her experience in the field of operations and is recognized as one of the Top 50 women to follow in ERP by SourceDay. She is a huge advocate of Lean and believes in using Lean tools to drive continuous improvement across multi-million $$ projects she has led throughout her career. Apart from this, she loves nerding on Circular economy, ESG initiatives and advocates for the power of the Supply Chain in making Circularity happen. When not working, she loves dancing with her kids and taking them out in nature!
Sneha Kumari, Lean Six Sigma Consultant