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Revolutionizing construction management

Lean construction and the last planner system

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Excavating foundations. Pouring concrete. Hoisting steel using tower cranes. In many respects, the process of actually constructing new buildings hasn’t changed very much in decades. What has changed over time is the infusion of state-of-the-art processes, technologies, and methods of planning that have allowed contractors to manage projects more efficiently and effectively.

Rarely in the history of the construction industry has there been a process introduced with the potential to revolutionize the way construction projects are managed and change the face of building construction. Lean is one of those processes.

The word “lean” implies something is left out. In this case, it refers to leaving out the waste of over-production. The lean process focuses on the efficient use of human and material resources, while traditional construction processes focus on each subcontractor, reducing the cost and increasing the speed of its individual work activities. In a lean construction environment, the goal is to eliminate the bottlenecks that can occur in traditional projects by focusing on the overall goal of the project, not individual tasks.

Lean consists of many methods and principles, but the Last Planner principle is the most commonly used on several signature Suffolk-Roel projects in California and throughout the nation.

Suffolk-Roel superintendents and field staff have been experiencing for themselves the true value the process offers. The Last Planner system is best defined as trades performing work at the last appropriate moment on a project so that the site is prepared for the next subcontractor to immediately start work as part of an efficient “parade of trades.”

Trades plan and work around shorter modules and schedules, allowing them to think about projects on a day-to-day basis and consider how their work impacts the other trades on the project. The entire process is driven by trust, accountability, a network of commitments, and reliable hand-offs between all the trades.

Suffolk-Roel has successfully implemented lean principles on several West Coast projects, including the San Diego County Operations Center redevelopment, Los Angeles Unified School District Walnut Park Middle School and Richard N. Slawson Southeast Occupational Center. Suffolk-Roel plans to continue to implement Lean principles on future West Coast projects.

For more information, visit suffolkconstruction.com.

-Submitted by Suffolk-Roel.

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