Why Does LEAN Matter in Construction?

LEANHave you heard about LEAN manufacturing or LEAN construction? Do you know what this means and why it matters? Here, we take a look at what LEAN is and why we make incorporating LEAN into every area at McKenney’s a top priority.

LEAN most simply defined is the practice of removing waste from a system to provide the value a customer desires with minimal resources. That system can be a job site, a manufacturing facility, or an office. There are opportunities around us every day to provide our customers with higher quality at a lower cost in a timely manner. LEAN helps identify and act on those opportunities.

LEAN is now a widely accepted term that represents the philosophy of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The manufacturing industry has observed decreased lead times, improved cash flows, and increased customer satisfaction when implementing LEAN. Several recent studies have indicated that construction productivity has been declining and continues to decline. This may sound very pessimistic, but this trend proves there are opportunities around us daily that LEAN tools can help us improve. We encourage our employees to look for DOWNTIME every day and, when they find it, to submit ideas to eliminate it.


We use a simple acronym—DOWNTIME—to help us identify waste in our processes.

  • Defects / Rework – Any time we have to perform a task more than once or if we cannot complete a task that is started. Rework costs at least twice as much as the same work done correctly the first time.
  • Over Producing – Work is completed too early. Early work creates material that may be damaged or obsolete before it is installed.
  • Waiting – Whenever information, materials, equipment, tools, or a work area are not available to complete a task. Waiting is one of the most obvious and easy-to-identify forms of waste. How often do you wait?
  • Not Using Employee Ideas – Ideas are the most valuable resource we have to eliminate DOWNTIME. Look for a future post about employee ideas and how McKenney’s leverages this feedback on our path to become LEANer.
  • Transportation – Moving materials or equipment, to or around, a work area without installing them. Transportation is often necessary but costs time and money that does not add value.
  • Inventory – Excess materials either on hand too early or “just in case”. Excess inventory takes up valuable space and ties up cash that could be available to the business.
  • Motion – Movement of people while completing a task. Motion is similar to transportation but is related to how much movement is required to complete a task. How far do you have to walk to get water? Look for a future post about how McKenney’s uses the 30/30 rule to minimize motion.
  • Extra Processing – Work that is unnecessary or does not add value to the customer. Unnecessary document reviews, multiple signatures of a form, or completing both digital and hard copies of a report are examples of work that does not add value to a customer.

Each of us experiences DOWNTIME every day. We need to get better at identifying it and focus on eliminating waste from our systems. LEAN provides the tools to do this whether you are on a construction site, in a manufacturing facility, or in your office.

Have a question for our experts? Leave your comment below!

About Dan Cotton

Website: https://www.mckenneys.com

Email Address: dan.cotton@mckenneys.com

Dan Cotton is the manager of Virtual Construction at McKenney's and is responsible for our BIM and CAD modeling teams. He has been a member of the LEAN Construction Institute (LCI) since 2011 and is currently a core team member of the LCI’s Georgia Community of Practice. Dan holds a Six Sigma Green Belt certification from Georgia Tech and led the LEAN efforts at McKenney's from 2010 through 2013. Prior to his involvement in Virtual Construction and LEAN, Dan was a project manager in the McKenney's New Construction division for six years.

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