Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) is a very versatile and dynamic sector. Events, resources, processes associated with it are always unpredictable. This uncertainty invites prospectus of risks associated with it and seldom jeopardizes quality commitments made to clients at the time of entering into a lawful agreement. The sector is labor intensive and suffers highly from occupational risks and safety hazards unlike other sectors.
Unlike manufacturing sector, construction projects and associated products are always unique and diversified. These projects may be construction of an entire new facility or improvement/changes in existing facility. However, there still exists some element of similarity between the two sectors when certain packages have repetitive activities involved, like: (1) Casting of columns, beams & slabs of subsequent floor levels a high rise residential tower; (2) Casting of pre-tensioned girders for a long span bridge, and many such cases. Hence, proficient techniques which are being implemented as part of Production Management System (Maris et al. 2016) in manufacturing hubs can be aptly deployed here as well.
Toyota Production System (TPS) popularized as “Lean” by MIT researchers has taken Toyota far ahead giving it a competitive edge over its rivals. Now the same can be implemented in construction sector in harmonization with Building Information Modeling (BIM). Glitches like- delays, cost over runs, quality dissatisfaction, unskilled manpower, waste generation, etc. have become synonymous with construction processes. To counter and minimize these we can dive a little deeper into phase wise amalgamation of LEAN and BIM construction (see Figure 1):
Figure 1. Flowchart of phase wise amalgamation of lean and BIM Construction.
Planning Stage: A well-defined vision and comprehensive, integrated course of action to achieve the deliverables promised to client is a key to success (Perez et al. 2016) It lays a foundation so strong that can safeguard against most of the impediments haunting the sector.
Planning starts with development of conceptual layouts as per the project briefs provided, involvement of different stakeholders to prevent any conflict in later stages and subsequent development of project. Lean implementation should begin right from this time as BIM related platforms may be easily customized to cater to the demands of production management systems in different repetitive processes involved. According to the RICS, India study in 2014 it was found that the architectural firms, structural engineering consultants, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) consultants, construction management consultants and contractors are the top five organization types that are implementing BIM in their projects in India (Ahuja et al. 2017). This puts us in a state of thought regarding the growing importance of BIM across the world.
Formalizing a logistics plan and construction site layout is extremely important to avoid waiting time, double handling, transportation waste and workflow conflict. The Last Planner System (LPS) of lean can help assigning roles and responsibilities to frontline staffs. LPS will provide facility for planning and control even in the most competitive and complex environment. It will help in developing a master schedule which can be divided into phases. These phases can be further detailed with activities and resource requirements and fed into BIM applications to prepare a Virtual Design & Construction-VDC (Tillmann et al. 2016) tour of the anticipated activities. Thus KAIZAN-continuous improvement becomes heart-beat of processes pumping feedbacks and improvements by visualizing impacts via BIM analysis.
Pull-Planning and Just-in-Time systems (providing right thing at right time at right place as per demand) enactment will further improve and enhance the productivity and pave a way for minimal variance from planned and budgeted schedule of resources.
Construction Stage: Now we enter a phase where we reap the fruits of our intensive planning and designing of strategies in combination with LEAN and BIM. Here we can sideline the stereotype work practices at site and demonstrate a more befitting work culture such that construction sector stands tall with appeal for its quality, environment, health and safety practices. Updating project schedules in synchronization with progress made and thereafter analyzing via BIM system will certainly bring productivity and risk minimization. BIM can result in a leaner construction process with a greater degree of utilization of prefabrication, improved workflow stability, reduced inventories and enhanced teamwork (Alarcon et al. 2013). Lean is not only about producing something with minimum resources but also about respect for employees, reliability and communication. Communication and reliability can be ascertained by using software tools like- Primavera, BIM Applications, Aconex Identity and Access Management tools.
Gemba—going to the physical front-line place of value work where the hands-on value workers are will help perceive a real-life scenario compatible with 3D/ 4D/ 5D visualization of space. Waste which is generally perceived in terms of physical wastage of resources at most of the sites is a blind spot. Waste is both physical and non-physical=> waiting, overproduction, rework, motion, processing, inventory, transportation etc. Thus, a waste walk process can help identify such events and mark them on site as a part of visual management strategy to correct each of them meticulously.
Facility maintenance stage: Accomplishing a project successful is the greatest achievement for stakeholders involved in execution. A set based design approach wherein a set of solutions are discussed upon to decide the best possible one compatible with the environment is the key to future success. Hence documentation of above will facilitate record for subsequent developments in industry. Same tactic can be implemented during planning and execution stage considering the ongoing project experiences and discoveries. A customized software application integrated with current project learning will build database for future projects of similar fashion.
It will be highly beneficial if tenets of both BIM and LEAN are implemented in a structured manner. Most of the Indian AEC organizations implement BIM technology, workflows and protocols and LEAN process and its principles in bits and pieces which fail to serve the potential benefits. Creating awareness and literacy regarding the same is highly advisable.
Note: Reference to LEAN philosophy has been made with help of lean primer and a guide to the last planner for construction foreman and supervisors. Views expressed are solely based on personal experiences in the industry and with regards to below mentioned references. Further discussion with the readers is highly encouraged.
Ahuja, R., Sawhney, A. and Arif, M., 2017. Prioritizing BIM Capabilities of an Organization: An Interpretive Structural Modeling Analysis. Procedia Engineering, 196, pp.2-10.
Alarcon, L., Mandujano, M., and Mourgues, C. (2013). “Analysis of the implementation of VDC from a lean perspective: Literature review.” Proc. 21st Ann. Conf. of the Int’l. Group for Lean Construction, 31-32.
Howell, G., 2000. A guide to the last planner for construction foremen and supervisors. Restricted White Paper, Lean Construction Institute, California.
Kremer, R. and Fabrizio, T., 2005. The Lean Primer-Solutions for the Job Shop, MCS Media. Inc., Chelsea, MI, 48118.
Maris, K. and Parrish, K. (2016). “The Confluence of Lean and Green Construction Practices in the Commercial Buildings Market.” In: Proc. 24th Ann. Conf. of the Int’l. Group for Lean Construction, Boston, MA, USA, sect.10 pp. 43–52.
Neto, J., P. (2016). “Approach for BIM Implementation: A Vision for the Building Industry.” In: Proc. 24th Ann. Conf. of the Int’l. Group for Lean Construction, Boston, MA, USA, sect.1 pp. 143–152.
Tillmann, P., Sargent, Z.. (2016). “Last Planner & Bim Integration: Lessons From a Continuous Improvement Effort.” Proc. 24th Ann. Conf. of the Int’l. Group for Lean Construction, Boston, U.S, sect.6 pp. 113-122.
Motivated by his desires to learn about Building & Construction, Nilay Singhal completed his Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology in 2015. With a zeal to discover hiding relationship between Information Technology and Construction Industry, he worked as a Project Engineer in a leading IT multinational in India for a year. Currently he is pursuing his MBA in Construction Project Management (MBA-CPM) from Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors- School of Built Environment, Amity University, NOIDA, India. Nilay is a member at IBIMA and he likes to write articles on issues which benefit national interests and learn about various cultures by traveling around.