Improving value through lean construction
Imagine transforming unreliable and unaccountable supply and production chain participants into value adding team members. Picture your happy client appreciating how you have improved productivity and value for money by working with your suppliers to identify cost and time efficiencies.
This may sound like every project manager’s dream come true, but the reality is closer than you may think. In fact it is already here. This year, the Alliancing Association of Australasia has been supporting the rollout of ‘lean construction’ in our region.
Lean develops reliable, efficient, smooth processes and creates value for the customer. Lean construction is an adaptation of lean practices developed in the US automotive manufacturing industry, combining them with lean project management and drawing heavily on deep collaboration.
The practice is finding fertile ground in our region thanks to our rich alliancing capability. In fact, we are world leaders in collaborative contracting and the concept of supplier integration to deliver better value infrastructure delivery is not new to us.
Successful sub-alliances with suppliers have been a feature of recent alliance projects such as the Eastern Busway sub-alliance with electrical and other suppliers, TrackStar sub-alliance with a landfill remediation specialist and Inner Northern Busway sub-alliance with piling contractors. Critical tasks were delivered cost- and time-effectively through incentivised integration with suppliers.
Alliance frameworks offer true commercial and governance integration, now through lean construction we can focus on a third aspect of internal process integration. This involves extending systems such as scheduling to integrate with delivery people on the ground.
For example, critical path activities are traditionally controlled by managing tasks, time required and dependencies. The tendency is for reactive response when delay occurs—what happened, how long is the delay, how are we going to respond. The lean approach empowers participants to become part of the planning process and through this, anticipate what is going to happen and how to respond as a team.
Lean leadership provides coaching and mentoring rather than top down detail management. Trust replaces stress, personal commitment and accountability is enhanced and team morale improves.
A number of our members have been quick to see how productivity gained from collaboration can be taken to the next level and they are facilitating establishment of an Australian Chapter of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI).
Tools available through the Lean Construction Institute include ‘Last Planner’, which ensures everyone in the supply chain up to the last person, is involved in planning. Scheduling reliability is improved by making certain what should be done in the lookahead program can and will be done, through available inputs, resources and through commitment.
This tool has been used successfully in alliancing already and was part of the success of 2010’s award winner of the AAA Alliance Project Team of the Year, New Zealand’s Manukau Harbour Crossing Alliance.
Upcoming AAA forums (see www.alliancingassociation.org > Programs and Events) will give an overview to lean construction and engineering, its evolution, scope of implementation and what was achieved by using lean practices within an alliance.