Building Lean Is Building Smart

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   July 14, 2014
Building Lean Is Building Smart

Lean construction has the goal of better meeting client needs while using less of everything, and is based on production management principles. Swinerton utilizes lean construction and Integrated Project Delivery approaches, combined with technology tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM), to leverage collaborative environments to construct complex projects faster and more efficiently. It is imperative that the advantages and efficiencies created impact all phases of the project, beginning with preconstruction and are consistently applied to our construction field operations on through close-out and facility turnover.

Swinerton’s goal of eliminating waste at all project stages benefits all stakeholders. While our business philosophy and technological advances are such that lean principles are integral to everything we do, some of the specific lean tools and approaches we use include:

Collaboration & Partnering 
We believe that close collaboration is essential to a smooth workflow and ultimately a successful project. When project conditions allow it, we encourage all stakeholders, including the client, designers, and main subcontractors, to co-locate with us to establish trust and communication amongst the team members. Collaboration is facilitated through the generation of a single BIM model, from which the team creates schedules, cost estimates, procurement and ultimately the building’s model.

Design, coordination, and construction using BIM allows many activities of the process to run concurrently, resulting in significant savings. All the BIM techniques we employ promote the lean philosophies we follow. Early model collaboration between the design and Swinerton teams prove extremely beneficial to projects by helping us visualize and understand the volume of spaces, how to avoid interference between systems (clash detection) and project constructability. These efforts ensure that the right products are selected for the right purposes and that constructability will be seamless, with less waste generated, improved workflow, and higher quality delivered.

We incorporate many appropriate lean scheduling principles into our process to develop an accurate project schedule. During early preconstruction our construction team lists all of the activities needed to complete the building. We assign durations, then put the activities on a board and arrange them until we get consensus that we have the correct flow. The project team continues this process during the project, bringing in subcontractor representatives on a regular basis to review what needs to happen in the next three weeks. Activities are pulled together toward the start of the job to eliminate wasted time at the end or between the activities. As appropriate, we schedule material deliveries on an as-needed basis with minimal or no gaps between material arriving on site and installation. This approach provides a clean, well-organized jobsite which, in turn, promotes production and safety.

Total Quality Management (TQM)
With dedicated focus on our quality assurance program, we prevent errors and waste in the first place. However, if issues do arise, we follow our pro-active and well-defined quality control plan to fix the issue

Research suggests that up to 40% crew time productivity can be lost when workers go in search of information to resolve conflicts between the actual field conditions and the drawings. To overcome this, Swinerton applies the benefits of lean construction and appropriate technology to share information.  With the thought process of “begin with the end in mind” we ensure a lean, achievable approach to our clients’ visions for their projects.

“The tools and technology that Swinerton Builders brings to a project are industry leading. The use of the touch screen Portable Electronic Plans Table is extremely user-friendly.  The ability to see the plans electronically with all current changes greatly reduces the amount of paper used.  This type of technology definitely had a positive impact on the project and I can’t imagine a project without it going forward.”

-Mitch Blain, CBRE