Lean Construction Blog

Lean manufacturing revolutionized industries across the world, and what started in an automobile company was adopted across all forms of manufacturing. Today, the concept of ‘lean’ has been adopted by the construction industry with the move towards lean construction. And while lean construction with the 8 wastes concept has the potential to revolutionize construction, there is an element that could add to the efficiency of them all.  Information.

Lean Construction

The Lean Construction Institute defines Lean Construction as follows:

“A collaboration-based system that is founded on commitments and accountability. It requires a significant shift in the trust that each stakeholder places in another. The adversarial relationship that has existed in the industry between contractors and design teams over many centuries is challenged, with all stakeholders having to align with goals and objectives.

“In projects where Lean construction management principles are applied, teams integrate through collaborative tools and search for ways to eliminate waste. Teams seek to continuously improve through reflection. Lean processes are designed to remove variation and create a continuous workflow to drive significant improvement in predictability and strongly encourages respect for all people involved.”

A Closer Look at Lean Construction

Whether it is buildings or infrastructure projects, companies are trying to reduce waste in all aspects.  Contractors are working to reduce waste in all forms—anything other than the minimum amount of materials, parts, space, and workers’ time that are absolutely essential to add value to a project. In this way, lean construction seeks to minimize costs and maximize value on every project.

Efficiency is only one aspect of lean construction. It can improve safety on job sites ensuring that construction crews work in an organized, orderly, and purposeful manner, eliminating the potential for accidents brought about by rushing to meet deadlines or make up for delays.

One thing to be kept in mind is that, unlike manufacturing, construction does not happen in an isolated, controlled environment.  Therefore, it is subject to more variations, making it more challenging to achieve predictable and reliable workflows.

The Wastes of Lean Construction (and the Role of Information)

Many of the wastes when it comes to construction may be pinned down to a lack of coordination or communication. To put it another way, bringing all stakeholders on the same page with respect to the plan and the execution can help reduce the wastes.

Lean construction’s goal of eliminating waste at every given opportunity targets 8 major areas:

1. Transportation

Transportation waste occurs when manpower, materials, and construction equipment reach the job site before they are required.

Since construction is usually contracted to many parties, it is important that (i) the required quantities and their procurement and delivery are impeccably planned; and (ii) these quantities, timings, and changes in the plan, if any, are made available in real-time to every relevant stakeholder in the ecosystem.

2. Inventory

The timely arrival of materials, and their storage, form a significant facet of efficiency in lean construction. Unnecessary materials that are not required on the site at a particular time are surplus, idle inventory. This adds cost, and increases the potential of wear and tear or deterioration even before it is used.

Clear and complete information that spans the entire supply chain – from production to final utilization – offers the solution to inventory as a lean construction waste.

3. Movement

Unnecessary movement of raw materials and equipment and multiple trips taken by manpower across the construction site create the waste of motion. We should make sure the movement of materials/equipment is devoid of Muda (Wastefulness), Mura (Unevenness), Muri (Overburdened).

A 5D Project controls solution that helps multiple stakeholders collaborate on a single common platform, and exchange information in real time will help in planning the movement and mobilization of resources and materials in the most optimized way, right from the design planning stage.

4. Wait Time

This is related to transportation and inventory wastes. Machinery or materials arriving on site later than they should add to inefficiency. A crew waiting around for the necessary materials or equipment is a drain on finances as well as employee morale.

To eliminate wait times in Construction, it is important that the teams synergize project planning with material/resource requirements. A Project control solution that takes lead times into account and helps planning teams determine resource and material requirements dynamically can go a long way in meticulous planning and reduce wait times.

5. Utilization of Resources

Expertise is key to getting a job done right. A crew may comprise people with a range of capabilities and experience, but if the right person for the job is not the one doing it,  could lead to misplaced utilization of experience and knowledge.

Clear information on the jobs to the performed, the materials that will be used, and the schedule will aid contractors to ensure that the perfectly skilled person is available exactly when and where they are needed,

Manpower is an organization’s biggest strength, and organizations should try to maximize the potential of every resource by empowering, engaging, and listening to the employees. Unused creativity, skills, and the potential of resources contribute to a huge waste.

Having an integrated project controls solution where everyone can collaborate, digitize workflows, and processes there by empowering the employees can go a long way in unlocking the potential of every resource in the Project.

6. Excess Processing

Excess processing occurs when additional features or tasks that add no value to the projects are added to the workflow or process. Quite often, this can occur when companies are attempting to reduce other wastes.

One common example of over processing waste occurs in construction sites in quality work inspection processes, so an integrated project controls solution that can simplify and digitize the process can go a long way in eliminating this waste.

7. Over/Under Production

There are situations where being ready ahead of schedule can actually lead to more inefficiency and be considered a waste. If a task is completed ahead of its allotted time, and this leads to an unnecessary time gap before the next process or schedule starts, it is designated a waste in lean construction.

Here again, up-to-date information on schedules, and real-time monitoring of processes to compare targets with on-ground progress, as well as well-thought-out forward-looking plans are crucial to ensuring less waste.

8. Defects

Defects are caused when there is a production of work that requires to be repaired, replaced, redone, or scrapped. One major reason for defects is improper communication, which may be characterised by lack of information at the field, non-availability of latest drawings to the field teams, or improper work supervision.

These challenges can be eliminated by integrated project control solutions that empowers all the field members with latest design communication/drawings on their devices and ensures proper quality compliance through simple digital workflows.

Importance of Information

While Lean principles and concepts talk about various wastes, it is important to note that one powerful factor that is common for all of the above and has the potential to control all the 8 wastes discussed above, is information waste.

As mentioned earlier, construction happens mostly in an uncontrolled environment compared to manufacturing, and it can be sometimes described as managed chaos on a daily basis. With many stakeholders, suppliers, and agencies coming together to execute a project, and each playing their own unique hand in delivering the product, it becomes very important that the collaboration is seamless among these various stakeholders, keeping the project front and center.

And this is where, the role of technology becomes much more profound, it is important to have a common and connected environment where project information is exchanged seamlessly from the last mile users to the decision makers, to eliminate any information waste, this will have a lasting impact on controlling all other forms of waste from being occurring in the project.


The adoption of lean construction envisages the goals of cutting costs, reducing construction schedules, increasing productivity, and managing projects better. While tackling the wastes of lean construction is the primary goal, harnessing information and data is an underlying method to meet these goals. Implementing a holistic project management solution enables a single source of up-to-date information, scheduling, and tracking mechanisms to keep the process lean and efficient.

nPulse is an integrated project controls solution that digitalises processes/workflows and establishes a connected data environment for construction projects. The application provides multi-organization, multi-process collaboration workflows that allow stakeholders to share information through all stages of a project. By connecting all project information – schedules, BOQ, material, labour, quality, safety, 3D BIM models, and more – nPulse bolsters collaboration and communication, thereby eliminating waste.