Business, Construction, Design, Lean Construction, Lean Design and Development, Risk Management, Six Sigma, Technology, Trends

Applying Lean Manufacturing Principles to Development, Design and Construction- Part 2 of 2

March 26, 2015

Phil Macey-National Director Collaborative Project Delivery, JE Dunn

James (Jim) McGibney-Development Services Consulting and Support
Commercial and Industrial Facilities


We would like to extend our thanks to Rebecca Bettler, National Director of Lean Construction, J.E. Dunn, for her help in writing this Post, part 2, and for the many extended conversations discussing the growing impact of Lean Construction practices on our industry. Rebecca is the Chair of the Education Committee of the Lean Construction Institute and recognized as an industry expert.


In the first post on this topic, we provided an introduction to Lean Manufacturing, its origins in the 1960’s at Toyota Motor Company, and some of the basic principles. At the end of that post, we presented a definition of Lean Delivery in the design and construction of buildings as follows:

“ The continuous process of eliminating (all) waste, defining and meeting (all) customer requirements; understanding and focusing on the (entire) value stream; and pursuing perfection in the execution of the project—from initial definition of the scope through move-in, occupancy and day-to-day operation .”

Toyota’s early definition was a bit more basic in that it defined Lean Manufacturing as having a focus on: 1-Reducing Lead times, 2-Eliminating non-value adding activities, and 3-Reducing variability.

The purpose of Part 2 is to take a much deeper look at the design and construction industries and propose steps that every project team can take that will introduce the Lean process of thinking into every part of the project delivery process. That is a tall order given the complexity of the topic, even taller when you consider the significant number of competing technologies being introduced into design and construction.

Integrated Project Delivery or IPD

The American Institute of Architects, or AIA, has documented a process for integrating all of the project functions and how that can work. The publication is called simply, “Integrated Project Delivery; A Guide”, and it holds in the introduction that it will provide significant benefits;

It may set all who believe there is a better way to deliver projects on a path to transform the status quo of fragmented processes yielding outcomes below expectations to a collaborative, value-based process delivering high-outcome results to the entire building team.
The Guide is well written and the AIA tackles the topic from many perspectives. They work to define using IPD within a wide variation in contractual arrangements, from the traditional design-bid-build to pure design-build.
But the AIA document is not comprehensive enough to change our businesses.

Managing Integrated Project Delivery

Perhaps the best and most thoughtful document written on this topic was written by a powerful team working under the CMAA College of Fellows and organized by Chuck Thomsen, FAIA, Chancellor Emeritus of the CMAA College of Fellows. It is titled simply Managing Integrated Project Delivery, and can be found at;

I had the enormous gift of working with Chancellor Thomsen early in my career and consider him an exceptional collaborator and thought leader in our industry.

The other authors of this report include Joel Darrington, ESQ.; Dennis Dunne, FCMAA; and Will Lichtig, ESQ. I had the opportunity to work also with Will Lichtig, and he is now the Chairman of the Board of the Lean Construction Institute.

In this document, the authors connect the basics of Lean Manufacturing and IPD. They also invest a significant portion of the report defining the legal relationships that are evolving as the various project delivery strategies are evolving.
In the opening paragraph, the Authors answer the question of “Why Integrated Project Delivery?” As they note,

“Stated briefly, construction projects frequently suffer from adversarial relationships, low rates of production, high rates of inefficiency and rework, frequent disputes, and lack of innovation, resulting in too many projects that cost too much and/or take too long to build. Also, projects continue to injure or kill too many workers and owners are often disappointed with the quality of the end product. IPD, in all of its varieties. is structured to address these basic problems.” — sound familiar?

The authors postulate that there are three basic domains that define a project:

1- The organization or team- Owner, designer and contractor. This section deals in great detail with the team members, how they can be governed and what constitutes a “High Performance Team”. Notably absent from the discussion are the benefits that flow from early Trade Partner selection and engagement. The major sub-trades will have the majority of the labor force on site during construction, and will also be the principle schedule drivers. Early engagement can provide a host of benefits.

2- The Operating System- which the authors declare non-working currently. They note all of the workarounds that are currently in use: Value engineering, partnering, TQM/QFD, Constructibility Reviews, IT/CAD/PMIS, Productivity Improvement, BIM and Computer Simulation— and note these have not fundamentally changed project outcomes. The authors propose that the Lean strategies that were discussed in the first post are now coming into use on projects starting with Lean Design then Lean Construction— combined they represent the Lean Development and, finally, the introduction of Lean Manufacturing strategies into the Development of Capital assets. Again, notably absent is the inclusion of major trade partners as part of the “operating system”.

3- Commercial Terms– the authors deal with the current legal documents and their shortcomings. They argue strongly for a “collective risk management” model and discuss that model in great detail as well as how it works.In truth this is one of the more problematic discussions of the paper. Developing a collective risk management strategy implies a high level of long term trust, and argues strongly against any type of bidding process. Most encouraging is that the discussion is tangibly and finally underway.

For the balance of this Post, we will be discussing the impact of Lean strategies in Development (Management, Design and Construction) and the impact of the current and projected wave of technological changes and improvements in design and construction.

My/Our current sense is that the authors of “Managing Integrated Project Delivery” have gotten it pretty close to right, even though the Document was published in late 2009- 5 years ago. Given the rate of change in technology— literally across all parts of the design and construction industry– we are now at the tipping point for adopting Lean Strategies into our businesses and integrating those strategies into every part of the project delivery. That starts with the assessment of the Owner’s needs and objectives keeping a keen focus on defining value in terms of the customer. That attention extends to well after the building is operating, occupied and providing the owner the defined and expected value. The convergence of proven industrial management tools (Lean Strategies) and increasing use of Industrial tools and strategies in the actual design and construction process is a unique opportunity to (finally) change the industry in a very profound way.

Outcomes We Should Expect

While the discussion of change in the delivery of these large capital assets is both interesting and “entertaining”, without measurable and tangible improvements in the projects we design and build we will continue to practice as we are today. Which is to say the construction industry (both design and construction as viewed by economists) will remain one of the least productive sectors of the economy. All the time being one of the most impactful to the overall employment and wealth of the nation.

We suggest there is an opportunity to create:

1- A shortened delivery schedule- perhaps 30% or more. Once we are well into that timeline improvement process, I would expect the improvements to get continuously better.

2- Reduced project costs, both because of the shortened schedule and because of improved material management and integration of fabrication into design. Similar to (1) above, improvements in costs have been forecast to be in the 30% range— and once that cost improvement becomes engrained in the project delivery it too will get continuously better.

3- Reduced manpower flowing from the shortened time, use of prefabrication (see the earlier Posts), increased use of automation and robotics, longer daily work periods— perhaps 24—perhaps 7.

4- Increased quality of the finished product. Note— one of our colleagues is implementing the use of robotics for wall board installation and finishing.

5- Reduced warranty callbacks.

6- Reduced energy usage— with continuing reductions on projects as we move forward.

7- Smarter projects in all ways— operations, maintenance, adaptability to changing tenants— perhaps even within the same day.

8- Reduced impact on all resources-including water.

9- Expectations that a building should positively impact your health and wellness-that is a natural outgrowth of the LEED system and is now being implemented. The Well Building standard has just been put into the market, making the health and wellness of building occupants a real and measurable series of metrics. (

All of the above are feasible, today, and the firms that begin offering these improvements on a consistent basis may have a credible claim to “owning” their market.

Much like the semiconductor market described in Part one of these Posts on Lean Applications, the first-to-market players will be the winners— both for their Clients and for their Companies.


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