Lean Construction

Lean Construction

Lean Construction

“It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs”
Finbarr Sheehy
Founder, BusinessExcellence.ie

The Lean Principles

•Eliminate waste
•Precisely specify value from the perspective of the ultimate customer
•Clearly identify the process that delivers what the customer values (the value stream) and eliminate all non value adding steps
•Make the remaining value adding steps flow without interruption by managing the interfaces between different steps
•Let the customer pull – don’t make anything until it is needed, then make it quickly
•Pursue perfection by continuous improvement

What is lean construction?

Lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of lean manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs.  Because it is a philosophy, lean construction can be pursued through a number of different approaches. This fact sheet outlines the elements of lean manufacturing and  suggests how these might be adapted to deliver lean construction in practice.

Lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing was initially pioneered and developed by the large Japanese car manufacturers. It has been implemented by a number of Japanese, American and European manufacturers with considerable success, and has been widely applied outside the automotive industry.
Lean is about designing and operating the right process and having the right systems, resources and measures to deliver things right first time. Essential to this is the elimination of waste – activities and processes that absorb resources but create no value.
Waste can include mistakes, working out of sequence, redundant activity and movement, delayed or premature inputs, and products or services that don’t meet customer needs.
The primary focus is on moving closer and closer to providing a product that customers really want, by understanding the process, identifying the waste within it, and eliminating it step by step.

Production and management principles

Lean is focused on value, more than on cost, and seeks to remove all non-value adding components and (especially) processes whilst improving those that add value. It aims to define value in customer terms, identifying key points in the development and production process where that value can be added or enhanced. The goal is a seamless integrated process (value stream) wherein products ‘flow’ from one value adding step to another, all driven by the ‘pull’ of the customer.
The idea of ‘right first time’ is essential to the lean philosophy. ‘Right’ in this context means making it so that it can’t go wrong. This approach involves an extremely rigorous, questioning analysis of every detail of product development and production, seeking continuously to establish the ultimate source of problems. Only by eliminating the cause at source can the possibility of that fault recurring be removed.

Design and product development

Lean manufacturers have developed systems for product development which first identify the right product (in terms of customer needs), and then design it correctly so that it can be manufactured efficiently.
‘Design’, in manufacturing terms, is concerned with the development and integration of systems and components into coherent, efficient and buildable products, not just the styling of the exterior appearance, a task which is often undertaken by external agencies. Tools have been developed to capture and analyse customer perceptions and requirements for product quality and performance. These tools also enable product development and manufacturing performance targets to be established. Design development targets include reductions in design changes and process iterations.

Critical success factors

•Design is informed by extensive data on the performance of products, systems and components
•Carry-over to new models of a high proportion of systems and components from previous models
•Front-loading of resources towards design to prevent problems during manufacture
•Concurrent working between manufacturing

Lean Production

Lean manufacturers arrange production in closely located ‘cells’ so that work flows continuously, with each step adding more value to the product. The standard time for all activities is known and the objective is to totally eliminate all stoppages in the entire production process. However, only optimum stocks of material are kept as buffers between processing stages.  For this system to be effective, every machine and worker must be completely capable of producing repeatable perfect quality output at the exact time required. Workers are responsible for checking quality as the product is assembled, and in some instances given authority to stop production if defects arise. In this way, quality problems are exposed and rectified as soon as they occur.
The workforce is kept informed of progress towards their production and cost targets by use of information displays so that everyone is able to see the status of all operations at all times. Work teams in lean manufacturing are highly trained and multi-skilled, and
many of the traditional supervisory and managerial functions have been devolved to them.

Critical success factors

•In depth understanding of production processes and resources involved in them
•Responsibility and authority placed with the workforce
•Real time feedback on performance
•Training and multiskilling
•Supply chain management & supplier relationships
•Lean manufacturing is based on the elimination of waste, including time lost waiting for missed/delayed supplies, unnecessary storage and the value tied-up in large stocks of parts waiting for assembly. ‘Just in time’ (JIT) delivery is therefore a vital element, and to deliver this lean manufacturers have had to develop their network of suppliers. Significant efforts are applied to encourage them to adopt the same lean manufacturing principles and systems, often company-wide, rather than solely related to that part of the suppliers’ operations that affect the manufacturer.


•Supply chain management and rationalisation of the supply chain to integrate all parties who contribute to the overall customer value into a seamless integrated process.
•Transparency of costs – the elimination of  waste in both processes and activities requires a clear and complete understanding of costs to ensure decisions on customer value can be taken. Confidentiality of cost and cash flows must be addressed.
•The concept of partnering, all involved parties contributing to a common goal with the boundaries between companies becoming less critical.

Production Planning

•Benchmarking to establish ‘best in class’ production methods and outputs
•Establishment of a stable project programme, with clear identification of critical path.
•Risk management – to manage risks throughout the project


•Just-in-time delivery of materials to the point of use eliminates the need for on-site storage and double handling Construction
•Clear communication of project plans
•Training, teamwork, multi-skilling
•Daily progress reporting and improvement meetings
•A well motivated, well trained, flexible and fully engaged workforce.
In summary lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of lean manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs.  Its success in the organisations ability to marry the tools and techniques with a culture that drives a behaviour of improvement, collaboration and the desire to provide the customer with what they value.

Contact Finbarr

For more information contact Finbarr Sheehy

How Lean Sigma can improve your business

Six Sigma SuccessLean Sigma is a set of statistical tools that act as a lens through which hidden problems can be identified and root causes uncovered. It provides the metrics required to reduce variability in process execution so as to enable on-going improvement in competitiveness and manufacturing and business operations.

There are many different ways that Six Sigma not only can benefit your business, but can transform it to becoming more agile and respond faster to change. Here are the top 6 benefits:

  1. Increase Productivity
    Utilising people effectively at all times is a difficult task for any business, but especially for manufacturers who typically have a large workforce to manage that operates across different locations, regions, languages and cultures.

    Six Sigma can empower you to precisely measure time spent on direct and indirect activities and identify the root causes of low productivity. You may think you’re employing too many staff but find it’s actually insufficient training or supply chain issues that are holding up production. Applying a methodological approach across locations helps to provide clarity on what the real issue is, to then address it most effectively.

  2. Reduce Costs
    Defective processes cost money. Understanding operations with a view to improvement is one of the most efficient ways to reduce costs in any business. At the core of the Six Sigma methodology is its process improvement framework which consists of the following five steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Implement and Control (DMAIC).Statistically, this process has been shown to reduce problems to less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. By spending less on reworking defective products, a company could typically reduce its cost of achieving quality by 20% and increase its operating revenue by 50%. Accomplish this improvement across multiple sites and you can literally transform your operations to a new level of cost effectiveness.
  3. Improve Market Share
    Companies that have been implementing Six Sigma correctly for some time have reported profit margin growth of around 20% each year for every Sigma process shift. Sigma process shifts allow the operator to calculate how near (or far) a process is from Six Sigma. As most companies start around 3 sigma, the earlier Sigma shifts have a dramatic effect on the amount returned to the company’s bottom line. Sustained improvements in profit margins over years empower companies to continue to create products and services with added features and functions, allowing them a consistently greater share of the market.
  4. Increase Competitive Edge
    How well a company performs in respect to customer-facing activities has a strong impact on revenue generation and forms a significant part of its cost structure. While every customer encounter is different, Sigma recognises that having too many variables within customer-facing procedures can be as detrimental as it is in back-end processes – perhaps more so. Six Sigma will identify common components that can be standardised in order to dramatically enhance performance and provide the information needed to strengthen and improve consistency across customer relations. Data gathered can also be used to empower marketing strategies and put a company ahead of the competition.
  5. Reduce Waste
    Waste within a business and manufacturing environment can relate to many things apart from time, costs and materials. Six Sigma can help identify the unnecessary movement of information, people and products and reveal untapped employee creativity, ideas and skills.Referred to collectively as Lean manufacturing, excess work processes that add no value in the eyes of the customer can be a serious drain on resources. These activities can be eliminated, as can overproduction, by showing where to cut the manufacturing of products and output of services beyond the requirements of immediate use. In this way, Six Sigma can be an ideal complement to a Lean manufacturing program.
  6. Increase Employee Satisfaction
    Dealing with employee queries relating to the finer points of pay entitlements, terms of contracts and company regulations can eat into production time, frustrating employees and bog down HR and supervisory staff. Six Sigma can take the guesswork out of what qualifies as overtime, premium time and vacation allowance.Errors resulting in under and over-payments, and the time and effort it takes to correct them, can be eliminated. Enabling employees to access their own accurate and updated payroll data during their free time not only saves time but can be a real boost to staff morale too.

In conclusion, Six Sigma can be a powerful and strategic methodology to consistently measure results, which can then become a new baseline for improved performance, ultimately getting you closer and closer to operational excellence. Those organisations that can embrace this philosophy across their enterprise can effectively transform their manufacturing operations into a world class, unstoppable leader.

Contact us today to see how Six Sigma can improve your business

Talk to Finbarr

Original Post by Ammy Harris

The Application of Mind Mapping


The Application of Mind MappingActive Image

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.

The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.


 ApplicationsActive Image

Mind maps have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations, including notetaking, brainstorming (wherein ideas are inserted into the map radially around the center node, without the implicit prioritization that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements, and wherein grouping and organizing is reserved for later stages), summarizing, revising and general clarifying of thoughts. For example, one could listen to a lecture and take down notes using mind maps for the most important points or keywords. One can also use mind maps as a mnemonic technique or to sort out a complicated idea. Mind maps are also promoted as a way to collaborate in colour pen creativity sessions.

Mindmaps can be drawn by hand, either as ‘rough notes’, for example, during a lecture or meeting, or can be more sophisticated in quality. Examples of both are illustrated. There are also a number of software packages available for producing mind maps (see below).

The best-selling fiction paperback (August 2007) in the UK , “The Naming of the Dead” by Ian Rankin, features a detective, Inspector Rebus who uses mind maps to solve crimes.
To see many examples of mind maps, just type mind map into Google and search the ‘Images’ rather that the ‘websites’
I really liked the mindmaps produced by Shev Gul on his site mindbodyresources.com.

Recession Proof using Lean Sigma

Lean ThinkingIreland was once an ideal manufacturing base, close to Europe, with highly skilled people, and an economically viable cost base. Today, as a country, we need to offer alternatives to ensure ‘Ireland Inc.’ is the country of choice for future investment. I believe that ‘Innovation and Creative Thinking’ are key attributes we need to strive towards in our business thinking. Ireland Inc. must have a vision and mission to be the most creative and innovative nation in the world.

Business success is dependant on four elements: –  Products, Processes, Competencies and Culture. A world class athlete fine tunes his/her technique, trains until it is perfected and then displays the behaviours that support success. Also, at any one time, they understand their goals. They understand what is expected of them. They can measure how well they are performing, and they have the resources they need to be successful. Most importantly, they are committed to the task. The loss of any one of the elements will result in failure. When we strive to improve organisations, we must collectively address each of the three critical elements – process, competencies and culture. This holistic view can present challenges for some as competence can be defined quite narrowly. This can result in organisations being led by technically brilliant people but they may lack the ‘softer’ competences and strategic skills.

Understand, Measure and Improve your Key Processes

The products that you make or the services that you provide are done through a set of key processes. From the point of Order Entry right through to customer delivery and usage, defines your manufacturing process. Process Mapping is one of the most fundamental, simplest, and most useful improvement tools to understand how your processes work. When you understand them you can then simplify them. Understand the elements that are critical, do those very well. Understand the elements that are not necessary, don’t do those at all. Utilising the principles of Lean Thinking allows you to focus on the different types of wastes. Lean Thinking defines seven different types of waste – transport, inventory, movement, waiting, overproduction, over processing and defects. The principles of Creative & Breakthrough Thinking identify solutions to eliminate/reduce these wastes. Six Sigma defines methodologies to reduce variability. Define key metrics for your organisation. Long term metrics define your strategy over the coming years. Short term metrics measure you performance over days, weeks and months. Put a governance structure in place to ensure you measure performance at the right time, with the right people. Simple concepts as Kaisen and 5S can also deliver immediate results. I believe that any organisation that understands the fundamental concepts of creative process improvement, Lean Thinking and the fundamentals of Six Sigma, has the capability to solve more than 80% of its issues.

Ensure People have the Competencies to Think, React and Develop

Imagine now, we have optimised the manufacturing processes. It is essential that everyone who is involved, understands how the process works, has learned and demonstrated the skills required to produce consistent results. This could be crudely defined as the competence to ‘Do’. As well as understanding how to operate the process under normal circumstances, it is imperative to understand what to do when a deviation occurs. These behavioural thinking skills are equally critical as they define how soon we get back into control. These skills include data analysis, data presentation, facilitation skills, problem solving skills, creativity skills, communication skills, report writing skills, etc. These could be defined as the competencies to ‘Fix’. Imagine another layer of competences on top of this one. This level of competence defines how we collaborate and align ourselves behind a common goal, how we behave in meetings, how we educate, motivate and recognise ourselves and others. These are the competencies to ‘Improve’. Having a strategy to deliver these competencies will deliver significant value add to any organisation.

Ensure the Culture Supports the Organisation.

Culture (from the Latin cultura, meaning “to cultivate,”) generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. In a business context, culture can be defined as all the behaviours, ways of operating, beliefs, manners, dress, language, rituals and institutions that define that business. If the culture of an organisation is not congruent with its vision then success will be difficult. Culture manifests itself in the way we interact. For example, the way meetings are conducted, the way we respond to customers, the way we treat our staff. Most of us spend many hours in meetings, once defined as – “a place where minutes are taken and hours are lost”. If the culture is to talk all day, take no actions, allocate blame for failure, recognise the ‘arsonist turned fire fighter’ for solving today’s problem, then this culture will not promote the ideas of innovation, collaboration, creativity. We experience this culture every day but if these habits continue to happen then they become the accepted culture and hence remain unchallenged. We have all been in situations where the culture was just right. Everyone knew what they were trying to achieve. They knew their role and the role of others. They performed their jobs flawlessly. They supported and motivated each other. They collectively addressed problems with the mindset of achieving the end result. They encouraged positive behaviours and discouraged negative behaviours. Developing this culture of a team is very important. Many people think when we talk about team as a specific project team, but in reality the natural work team is a bigger contributor to success. Good communications, clear metrics & targets, feedback on performance, discussion on what is working and what we can improve are all essential elements. Team development activities can be a great support to developing the team when they are properly facilitated. Designing exercises to simulate desired characteristics in a safe environment can provide incredible results.

Today, access to information is easy; we need to develop the skills to best use that information. The model outlined provides a framework to assess and develop those skills.

Focus on Product, Process, Competency and Culture. Ensure expectations are known, Performance is measured and acted upon and resources are available.

Continuous Drug Manufacture

Continuous Drug ManufactureComing from the Semiconductor Industry and other related industries, it always seems obvious to me that at some stage the concept of Continuous Drug Manufacture could become a reality at some stage. It would appear that we are much closer than you would imagine. Also it is a fact that the Pharma industry in Ireland must rapidly start to develop the thought processes and skills to position itself for the future.

At AAPS 2010 in New Orleans, James Evans, Associate Director of the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing, presented a blue-sky vision of what integrated continuous manufacturing in pharma can look like, and suggested that the future is not as far off as we might think.

To date, major efficiency gains have already been implemented within the drug manufacturing arena, Evans said, and “additional quantum gains” in batch processing are limited. So we need a paradigm shift, he said, one that:

  • Makes manufacturing more economically viable and sustainable
  • Is “cleaner, leaner, and more energy efficient”
  • Offers the potential to leverage new chemistries. “Continuous manufacturing is not new, and we can leverage continuous work in other industries and areas,” he said.

The Novartis-MIT Blue Sky Vision includes “fully integrated continuous manufacturing, where the end goal is everything flows continuously through with no separation—drug substance and drug product become one!”

Achieving this vision, Evans noted, will require the implementation of Quality by Design principles,  new product development processes, new facility layouts, and, “major changes” in the technical skills of the engineers and other professionals who run these processes.

Evans then discussed, very generally, the work his team is doing to achieve this end-to-end continuous vision. He showed a flow chart illustrating a reconfigured manufacturing process the Center expects to have up and running next year, and to have a more advanced version operating by 2015. “We’ve eliminated approximately 40% of unit operations,” he noted.

In one instance using this process, the Center produced one kilo of API in 37 hours, whereas the counterpart batch process took 259 hours. “Regardless of drug product, manufacturing time of continuous is trivial compared to batch,” Evans said.

Economic studies the Center has done show that converting an existing process from batch to continuous can save approximately 7% to 14% of costs, and with optimization using the blue-sky approach, between 15% and 50%.

Additional blue-sky benefits:

  • A reduction in development time
  • A manufacturing footprint reduction of 40% to 90%
  • Significantly reduced inventory
  • Lower QC costs due, for example, to reduced waste and improved material flow

Evans claimed that Novartis-MIT’s continuous paradigm has the potential to decrease product throughput from 200-300 days (a traditional range) or 100-150 days (a Lean manufacturing range) to “in the order of less than ten days getting the product to the patient!”

Lastly, Evans outlined the next steps that need to be taken to realize some of these benefits across the industry:

  1. “We have to embed continuous process development into manufacturing sites,” he said. The earlier it gets embedded in product development, the more buy-in it will get in commercial manufacturing.
  2. Technology innovation: “We need universities who have the time and capabilities to develop new technologies, the pharma companies to be engaged, the process automation and software companies to be engaged, and the analytical and process equipment companies to be involved.”
  3. Operator Transformation: Most operators today are lower-skilled, unit-operation focused. “For continuous manufacturing, we need to transform the operator. The system is highly automated and requires a high-skilled operator who understands the entire process.”
  4. Lastly, the value proposition needs to be developed and communicated.

It is a very exciting future but have we the skills, facilities, strategies, regulations and support to make this future a reality in Ireland.

Finbarr Sheehy

Develop your Vision

Did you every wonder if man would have reached the moon if we did not see it?

Could an athlete win a race if they could not see or imagine the finish line?

Could a mountain climber reach the top of the summit if he/she never actually saw it?

What do they all have in common?  – A goal, vision, target,an image that inspires and excites them into action.

Children have an amazing ability to dream and make it reality. As we get older, that ability to dream and be creative is diminished.  Education and business tells us, “Don’t be wrong”, “Don’t take a chance”. If you are not willing to take a chance, you will never be creative; you will never come up with any imaginative ideas.

For this reason it is very important that we spend time dreaming, imagining, thinking about what we want in the future. As a business, where do we want to be in 5 years, 10 years time?

Defining a vision for an organization is essential. A vision statement is a vivid idealized description of a desired outcome that inspires, energizes and helps you create a mental picture of your target. Any business with one or more employees should have a vision.  If you have more than one employee then it is essential to communicate, share, and agree that vision. Otherwise you might end up being a great mountain climber but climbing a different mountain to your colleagues.

Focus on what you want to achieve, not what you want to avoid. Try this for a second, think about not being fat. What image is in your head? I bet it is an image of you being fat! Think about being thin, what image is in your head? Is it different? The vision has to be what you want to move towards, not away from.

Vision is not just about seeing. The vision of a chef is possibly an aroma or taste. Ghandi’s vision was a feeling, one of peace and equality. A musician’s vision is that perfect sound. What’s important is your ability to describe what you want. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like? What does it smell, taste like? How do I measure it? How would I know it when I am there? Many businesses say they have a vision because they have the slogan; Best in the eyes of the world, Excellence in Vision; We have you Covered; One with You, Just do it, etc. You need to immerse yourself and the organization into that vision. Get them to stand in their organization 5 years from now and see, feel, hear, sense what success is like. Get them to see what they are doing now, in the future. Get them to understand what is different from today. Get them to experience it. There is a huge difference in looking at a photo of Mount Everest and listening to a mountaineer to has just come back from the summit.

Once you define your dream/vision you must define milestones to get there. A plan is a dream with deadlines. Everything you do must connect to the vision. The strategies you undertake, the activities you do, the people you hire and work with, the way you behave, what you value, what you say, They all need to be congruent with the vision.

Contact us to help develop your vision.

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The Power of Measurement

Everyone has heard the phrase “What gets measured gets done”. In the world of Business Improvement, I would say “what gets measured gets better”. In my experience, most organization achieve at least 10% improvement by just starting to measure their performance. Some organizations avoid measuring their performance because they are afraid of what it will tell them. But you cannot move forward unless you know where you are now.

There are many important benefits of performance measurement:

  • To identify whether we are meeting customer requirements: How do we know that we are providing the services/products that our customers require?
  • To help us understand our processes: To confirm what we know or reveal what we don’t know: Do we know where the problems are?
  • To ensure decisions are based on fact, not on emotion: Are our decisions based upon well-documented facts and figures or on intuition and gut feelings?
  • To show where improvement needs to be made: Where can we do better? How can we improve?
  • To show if improvements actually happened: Do we have a clear picture?
  • To reveal problems that bias, emotion, and longevity cover up: If we have been doing our job for a long time without measurements, we might assume incorrectly that things are going well. (They may or may not be, but, without measurements, there is no way to tell.)
  • To identify whether suppliers are meeting our requirements: Do our suppliers know if our requirements are being met?

Fix the Process, Not the Blame

Be aware of the possibility that measures will occasionally reveal performance that is below desired levels. When this happens, don’t shoot the measurer, and don’t look for replacement measures that could show more favorable results. Instead, take actions to find and fix processes that improve performance. It is improvement—progress toward objectives—that demonstrates results and inspires confidence.

If you want to understand how simple measurement can make a difference to your business contact us and we will show you how.