Human-centered lean construction
Construction sites are intense and at the same time satisfying workplaces. Everyone contributes to building something big, literally. Current challenges such as a shortage of skilled workers, multi-layered contractual relationships with execution partners and, above all, high performance pressure are putting construction operations to the test in terms of their personnel structure.
All the sadder, then, that lean construction is sometimes seen as an “efficiency club” – trying to funnel “better knowledge” into people so that they can be substituted or cut in the long term. The idea behind Lean puts people and their skills at the center of everything they do. Who needs what resources, preparatory work and material in order to create value in construction in a calmly timed manner (mura – avoid imbalance), under error-producing overload (muri) and without waste (muda). Construction managers often answer the question about their most important task by saying that they have to make sure that all teams are coordinated and pulling in the same direction, with the necessary materials and equipment to do their specialized work. In other words, a site manager is the coach of a soccer team – controlling, motivating, sometimes reprimanding. His actions are determined by his ability to communicate. Foremen are no different, as the word foreman comes from the French “parler” meaning to speak – someone with expertise and a plan who can communicate it well to those involved. Lean eliminates more useless work than it absolutely increases the performance density of tasks – in other words: get more done and still go home earlier in the evening.
Common goals weld together
In our experience, the key in lean management is to focus first on the common goal (a construction project on time, cost and quality). In Lean language, that would be overall process optimization. From this, one then derives smaller work packages for the teams of professionals. If everyone knows their tasks and has the common goal in mind, Lean Construction needs precisely capable and self-reliant teams that do their part to ensure that the overall work functions. There is a lot of appreciation in this activity: personal responsibility, common goal and personal contribution, professionals.
Good lean tools focus on the user
Any tools, of which we also provide the central elements via CONTAKT (construction plans and models, material requirements, clocking & team coordination, task status and feedback) are tools that need to make communication here even clearer, faster and more available. This is also appreciation:Why does the construction industry always talk about planning (BIM models) when it comes to digitization, but why does it create most of the added value on the construction site, in construction operations, according to lean criteria?
The people working in construction deserve the best tools, because their work is complex, stressful and usually not valued enough. We experience, for example, that discussing performance values together creates a whole new dimension: how can we work together to repeat the best results. That’s team spirit, lean and digital all rolled into one!
Integrating Lean into everyday construction work with ease
Lean Construction should not be understood as an academic science in construction operations. It is behavioral patterns and, above all, communication that have always been present in construction without calling it that. With the trend towards Lean Construction, these patterns are now explicit and reinforced – the important thing is that we reinforce them “in play” and above all as support (not better knowledge!) with the construction teams. Software has a great feature here: when it’s fun and helpful it’s the nicest “corset” to enable Lean principles like takting, confirmed job packages, or quick status updates for everyone, while always keeping the focus on what’s important: The people in the construction field, who use their hands to build buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels or other things more stress-free, with fewer losses and more continuity thanks to these principles.
Lucas Johannes Winter, Managing Director CONTAKT GmbH
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