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Lean BIM Construction: Benefits of BIM and Lean Management

Lean BIM Construction is the application of techniques that increase the productivity of construction processes, improve the total profitability of the project and eliminate waste, and "everything that does not add value to the final product."

Lean Construction is a relatively new philosophy. Its objective is to improve predictability in construction projects. Lean identifies and eliminates waste, improving productivity, reducing costs, execution times and resulting in safer and more efficient projects. Applying Lean Construction and Building Information Modeling (BIM) together improves efficiency far more than when they are applied individually.

Origins of Lean Production

If we go back to the origins of the Lean concept, we will move to the Toyota production chains where, in view of the need to increase their productivity, a philosophy was developed that would allow them not only to have more efficient processes, but also safer ones. The main objective of this new mentality was to increase the quality and productivity with limited experience and resources, taking into account the elimination of waste during the production process.

Lean Production to Lean Construction

In the construction sector, Lean is generally applied as an advanced methodology of Project Management and works control,or Value Engineering. Although a waste reduction philosophy is always associated with cost reduction, this is not always the case. Lean Construction is a new approach to the management of construction projects. In the words of one of its founders, Gregory A. Howell: "Our projects take a lot of time, cost too much and kill many. The projects do not achieve the expected performance by the clients or the expected benefit by the designers, contractors and suppliers. These failures are often attributed to poor decisions made by project participants or unexpected circumstances. The experience applying Lean principles to project management reveals deeper problems in the structure and practice of Project Management. Lean Construction deals with these issues." With Lean Construction we will change our way of thinking, planning and, consequently, executing.

Benefits of Lean on site

Although it is true that during the first phases of implementation of a new work methodology, there are some reticence or skepticism on the part of the human team and, above all, of management, the adoption of Lean Construction has clear advantages: 1. Reduction of execution costs. 2. Decrease in the rate of accidents at work. 3. Predictability in project execution times. 4. Projects delivered before the agreed time. 5. Fewer defects and less re-work. 6. Continuous improvement 7. Increase in profits for all parties involved. 8. Integration with the supply chain. 9. Real collaboration between the agents involved.

Implementing Lean: Tools

There are several tools for an effective implementation of the Lean philosophy. The most popular is the Last Planner System (LPS), whose basic principle is to increase the success of construction activities by reducing the risks or uncertainties that occur during the planning phase or general phase. In this stage the terms and resources of each task or activity are established in an "idyllic" manner; that is, as we would like it to be, breaking down the list of needs to meet the established objectives. However, as a consequence of the project's own development, many of these goals are not achieved and a much more realistic planning must be carried out: we move on to what we call "what will be done" or even "what can be done", when the project has resulted in a phase that is far from what was initially contemplated. That is when the use of the Last Planner becomes vital, since it will help to stop the consequences that the possible unforeseen events will have in the construction phase, reducing their costs. In addition to the Last Planner System, there are other tools such as Set-Based Design, Kaizen (Continuous improvement), A3 Reporting, Value Stream Mapping, Target Value Design, Visual Workspace, Kanban, Pull Schedule, 5S, Last Responsible Moment (LRM).

Lean BIM Construction

Among the many reasons for adopting Lean BIM are:
  • BIM and Lean construction contributes to greater efficiency. Everything done in preparation for the project is going to be useful.
  • Both BIM and lean construction make it easier to understand what the client values and bring that through the design and construction process.
  • BIM and Last Planner (for example) reduce stress and avoid mistakes and failures.
  • Lean BIM adds value, reduces costs and streamlines the supply value stream for materials.
  • It improves the flow of information and communication throughout.
However,  in order to apply BIM and Lean a few factors must be taken into account:
  1. Both BIM and Lean construction require leadership in each phase.
  2. Core processes must consider Lean Thinking and BIM requirements.
  3. BIM is about collaboration. Even on BIM projects, Last Planner is essential to ensure participation in short-term planning and improvement. A strong collaborative culture between contractors and the supply chain should be implemented.
It is essential that the professionals who are directing a project learn the new methodologies that will be demanded in future projects. 

Zigurat Global Institute of Technology