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Lean construction is a hot topic in the real estate and construction industries. It’s been gaining momentum in recent years, but what does it mean?
No, the term doesn’t refer to those pencil-thin skyscrapers rising in many major metropolitan areas across the globe.
Rather, lean construction is an approach to construction management that emphasizes four key philosophies, including the team, collaboration, waste reduction, and continuous improvement. With a primary focus on high performance teams, this construction management strategy has proven to help Branch Builds deliver superior projects on time and on budget.
How does it work?
Branch Builds, a leading construction management firm with an office in Charlotte, provides insight on its proprietary lean construction program.
“Lean is really just another term for team,” says Craig Floyd, president of Branch Builds. “The focus really is on building a high performance team and creating an environment that fosters collaboration from day one of a project.”
That attention to communication is a crucial component of the lean construction program. Branch Builds has seen how collaboration among the entire team early in the design-build process has identified potential challenges and issues with plenty of time to address them before the actual construction begins. Typically, those issues might not emerge until the project is well underway, forcing expensive change orders.
That collaborative environment creates a space where all team members can contribute in the planning stages. Furthermore, teams are encouraged to ask questions first, not jump to a conclusion or tell other team members how something should be accomplished.
Waste reduction is a key result of this team-oriented approach and collaborative environment. Working together in a shared space, rather than in silos, means that team members can more easily identify and eliminate steps in the design-build process that don’t add value to a project.
For example, all members of a design-build team — including the owner, architect, engineer, construction firm, MEP and others — gather together for a pull planning and milestone planning session that covers the entire scope of the project and results in a clear and detailed roadmap with input and buy-in from all team members.
This proactive planning also encourages the team to push itself for continuous improvement. The ultimate result is more predictable and efficient projects.
“Lean construction isn’t just about planning,” says Dan Patete, Charlotte business unit leader for Branch Builds. “The value with our lean construction program comes from the ongoing communication in daily huddles and weekly coordination meetings.”
The commitment to continue the collaboration throughout the full lifecycle of the project allows the team to be responsive and make adjustments based on what’s working best. It’s no surprise, then, that the results are completed projects that meet the needs of a client and are typically finished on time (or early) and on budget (or under budget).