Guest article from Richard Davies Project Manager Capital Projects Property Services – Severn Trent Water
In the current economic climate with clients having to justify value and contractors fighting an ever decreasing margin, the drive towards a leaner, more efficient way of working is inevitable and to disregard Lean is to remain left behind
The first, somewhat cynical reaction, is to say it’s all very interesting, but it isn’t relevant to construction work. After all it is a production line and they have two very important key components, - they are making virtually the same thing time after time and they have a relatively stable work load so they can organise themselves to maximise efficiencies. The workload in construction is so fluid and so varied it can’t possibly work. Indeed it may be difficult to apply it wholesale as two projects are rarely similar, due to procurement route, client type, client priorities etc, but to disregard all of the philosophies as irrelevant would be to miss a huge opportunity for the industry and to allow clients to squeeze every last percentage of value from a project. What is a construction project if not a series of processors?
All of this leads to arguments as to whose responsibility it is to co-ordinate teams to eliminate re-working which results in disputes and higher costs for all. Contractors may well point at the clients for trying to drive down costs, but they must bear a responsibility for providing a sufficient cost to complete the works properly. Maybe if the industry could instil the level of accountability in the supply chain as Jaguar do it may go some way to resolving the issue. The other major items are the commitment to improve, whatever the percentage in efficiency and a ruthless drive to minimise waste. There is no excuse for saving a single percent, simply because it is only 1%. During the value engineering exercises undertaken on projects, the temptation is to target the areas of prime expenditure as this is where you can usually make the biggest saving for the least effort or the biggest bang for the buck so to speak. However in this exercise sometimes the smaller items get lost as not worth the effort which leads to many missed opportunities to really drive value down every element of the project.
In addition, every process at Jaguar is broken down and analysed to identify the components that add no value and are therefore waste. These are then removed from the process. If this philosophy was adopted on construction sites it would be revolutionary – all those trips to a skip, all that re-working because the electrician hadn’t finished before the ceiling fitters were in, the possibilities are endless.
In the current economic climate with clients having to justify value and contractors fighting an ever decreasing margin, the drive towards a leaner, more efficient way of working is inevitable and to disregard Lean is to remain left behind.
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