LEAN CONSTRUCTION – LEAN IN
WHAT IS PROCESS MAPPING AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOUR COMPANY BECOME MORE PRODUCTIVE?
Alongside digital technology and BIM in particular, Lean construction techniques are becoming a necessary element of a project rather than an optional extra. Large firms like Sisk have been very vocal about their Lean journey; in 2016 the company established a “Lean team” which has implemented process mapping across its construction management system. Digital field tools have replaced paper while better tracking tools to give faster insights into output and predictive indicators of areas of underperformance have been introduced.
Sisk is just one of many construction firms In Ireland that has recognised the advantages of implementing Lean techniques across its business. Process mapping, in particular, has been taken up by the company as a way to increase productivity. Process mapping is the technique of using flowcharts to illustrate the flow of a process, proceeding from the most macro perspective to the level of detail required to identify opportunities for improvement. It’s a technique that focuses on the work rather than on job titles or hierarchy. Trevor McSharry, Head of the Civil Engineering and Construction Department at IT Sligo, is also a director at Lean Construction Ireland. He recently gave a talk on process mapping at the Construction Productivity Seminar in IT Sligo.
“I see process mapping as a great introductory step on the Lean construction journey. It involves mapping your process, from a potential customer to handover. Staff with the required knowledge must go through each step, develop process flow diagrams to show the decision-making process, the roles and responsibilities and the key steps towards handover or project completions.” At each step, users need to ask themselves if the process can be simplified and made better.
“There’s a lean audit tool available on the Lean Construction website. It’s a really valuable, useful tool that walks you through about 130 questions to identify what office or site waste you might have at each of the different phases of your project lifecycle. It also identifies the different types of waste you can have throughout a project.
“You can then identify the key issues in your company and come up with plans to address these issues, which ultimately allows you to improve your process flow diagram by reducing or eliminating waste.” The overarching aim is to put in place best practices and to ensure the journey towards handover is a problem-free one. “Having a ‘good lessons learned’ meeting at the closure phase is also crucial in making sure there’s a continuous improvement process in place.”
Process mapping is a great way for a construction firm to start its Lean construction journey. “It’s a really good technique because it gets your basics right when it comes to standardising your activities. It’s also a good visual tool and allows you to have a greater understanding of overall company activities. It helps show clear ownership of tasks and it aligns well with ISO 9001. It enables a company to get value out of this standard which a lot of the time, companies just don’t get behind.”
LEAN CONSTRUCTION – HOW IT CAN MAKE YOUR COMPANY MORE PRODUCTIVE AND PROFITABLE
WHAT IS IT?
The goal of Lean Construction is to provide added value to the customer. The customer is usually the next person or group in the work activity and the Lean mindset is about optimising the process so that the end customer receives best value. The end customer is usually the client paying for the service or process to be completed. This is achieved by optimising value added steps and relentlessly identifying and eliminating waste in each and every activity carried out throughout the lifecycle of a project or scope of work. Lean thinking applies to design, construction, manufacturing, distribution and customer service processes.
Lean is the creation of a structure and a culture which changes the approach to work, based on a set of Lean principles. Application of these Lean principles results in the delivery of a better service, in a more cost-effective way to the end customer.
WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF LEAN?
1. Directly observe work as activities and connections.
Activities – every activity should be structured and standardised.
Connections – clear transfer of materials and information to each customer in the chain.
2. Systematic waste elimination.
3. Collaboration – identify and agree the work and activities to be carried out. This will maximise support for the activities and eliminate misunderstandings.
4. Systematic problem solving – this includes trying new ways in a systematic approach.
5. Continuously learning, apply learnings and having a learning organisation.
Waste is defined as anything beyond the absolute minimum amount of materials, manpower and machinery needed to add value to a product or service. Waste is categorised into seven types of waste.
Transport – is there unnecessary (non-value added) movement of parts, materials or information between processes?
Inventory – do you have any raw materials, work in progress or finished goods that are not having value added to them?
Motion – how much do you move materials, people, equipment and goods within a process step?
Waiting – are people or parts, systems or facilities idle ie waiting for a work cycle to be completed?
Over-production – are you producing sooner, faster or in greater quantities than the customer is demanding?
Over-processing – how much extra work is performed beyond the standard required by the customer?
Defects – does the process result in anything that the customer would deem acceptable?
EXAMPLES OF WASTE
• Poor design
• Poor constructability
• Poor layout
• Excessive staff
• Poor procurement
• Lack of flow of work
• Lack of coordination
• Poor planning
• Inefficient processes
• Inefficiency in machinery working
• Wastages of materials
• Overrun in time
• Overrun in cost
• Adversarial relationships
WHY GO LEAN?
Since the early 1950’s, the global construction industry has seen a steady decline in productivity when compared to other sectors. We need to change this in order to increase our competitiveness on the national and international stage and our profit margins.
Construction companies in Ireland are suffering a prolonged period of very low revenues and profit margins. As a consequence, many construction businesses have not survived what has been the worst recession in living memory. Individual construction industry workers such as electricians, pipefitters, carpenters, builders etc have seen this in the dramatic decline in the number of jobs in the construction industry.
If we want people to seek our services, they must be of high quality and also at a competitive price. Since there is now no room to further reduce profit margins, we must improve productivity if we are to improve profit. This will also keep costs lower for our customers and allow them to maintain a foothold in their marketplace.
Not only do companies want to compete for future Irish business, but we must also create an environment where foreign investors seek us out for quality work at a competitive price. The development of a Lean construction culture will thus become a significant contributor to job creation in Ireland. The key to us dramatically improving our competitiveness and productivity is Lean construction. As a result of winning more work from abroad, Ireland will be seen as a centre of excellence for Lean construction which in turn will result in everyone in the construction sector benefitting from same.
Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine