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Mace, Costain, BAM, Skanska save £12.7m in lean pilot

26 September 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

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Contractors including Mace, Costain, BAM Nuttall and Skanska have collaborated with other firms to save £12.7m in a lean construction pilot.

The Lean Construction Development Pathways project, conducted by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) saw more than 300 workers from five project partners and subcontractors learn how to implement lean construction techniques across live residential, infrastructure and highways developments throughout England.

The project achieved the savings through a combination of working collaboratively and improving productivity. in more than 40 different improvement projects on sites.

The pilot was led by the not-for-profit educational charity the Lean Construction Institute, beginning in 2017 and completing in mid-2019. The principal project lead was Mace, with partners BAM Nuttall; Costain; Galliford Try; and Skanska, along with subcontractors Balfour Beatty; Morgan Sindall; MWH; Lucas; Essex Services Group; Harrison Jorge; Lintott; MJ Church; K Rouse and IDT.

When it came to working collaboratively, an anticipated nine-month project delay caused by an archaeological survey was reduced by more than three weeks by labourers carrying out low-level tasks usually conducted by archaeologists, freeing up their time to focus on the survey instead.

Another improvement project involved streamlining a lengthy process in regular commercial reporting, with more quantity surveyors collaborating on the workload to reduce delays and the potential for human error.

Reduced defects

Other improvements in productivity saw environmental and materials waste reductions; use of automated payments; fewer defects in the use of paint; better inventory management; closer collaboration between design and site teams; and handover delays cut.

It was conducted through using lean solutions to solve real work-based issues, as well as workshops, coaching sessions, and online learning modules. Thirty-five facilitators have also been trained to take lean techniques into their companies.

Steve Radley, CITB policy director, said: “With margins under pressure and wage costs rising, it’s vital that we exploit and highlight the gains that lean practices can bring to construction through driving up productivity and reducing waste.”

Brian Swain, director and trustee of Lean Construction Institute UK, said: “The UK construction industry is fast approaching a tipping point for lean after 20 years of slow, steady lean engagement throughout the industry. This tipping point will see rapid, visible growth in lean construction as the diversity of practitioners join together as a definable and impressive force of high performance, stability, development and profits.

"It will feel like a revolution, while in fact having been a slow evolution, which is now reaching critical mass. The rapid taking up of lean will be driven by clients as they realise that competitive, adversarial relationships do not work, but lean collaboration works very well indeed. The leadership tipping point will be seen in large government infrastructure projects where long-term, continuous-improvement, lean relationships will emerge as an embedded answer to construction productivity, safety, user and customer satisfaction.”

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