Isn’t it interesting when we talk about getting more out of something we say we need to ‘extract’ value? It’s a bit of an oxymoron when what we’re trying to do is infuse value into our work, our processes and our products and ultimately deliver it to our customers.
The practice of value engineering has traditionally equated value with cutting costs, making it cheaper, reducing the investment needed to complete a project. The concept of lean construction on the other hand pits value as the opposite of waste, not expense. It speaks to a proactive process of redefining what waste is – throughout the construction process – in planning, design, and build.
Reframing additive value from extraction to infusion calls for examination of not only the build process, but materials science, construction process, task consolidation and construction waste minimization.
Unilateralism – Collaboration’s Enemy
Squeezing waste out of the process begins with the owner. Bringing all the stakeholders of the project together from inception isn’t just a hallmark of the Design-Build process it is the beginning of value creation. By involving the entire project team, including contractors, the procurement process is not only streamlined, it is an insight propagator. The knowledge base of discipline experts saves potentially countless hours from landing in the waste heap. And with the owner having only one soul to praise (time to be positive and eliminate all that business about throat choking), time is retained, rather than discarded.
Reducing Motion Waste
Shingeo Shingo worked for Toyota as an industrial engineer, and was a renowned expert in the manufacturing process and the highly regarded Toyota production system. “The most dangerous kind of waste,” Shingeo said, “is the waste we do not recognize.” One of the seven wastes in manufacturing that the lean movement addresses is motion waste – taking extra steps to complete work. It is abundant on job sites. Materials accessing, multiple trips to complete tasks, segmentation of tasks across multiple trades all soak unrecyclable time.
“There’s no reason we can’t apply the principles of advanced product design to building,” said Peter Murray, President, Skender Manufacturing. They’ve developed a proprietary ‘value-optimized’ program which guides their approach to building called SkenderLean.¹ In 2018, Skender opened their own prefabrication and modular construction manufacturing facility.
Constructing components in a factory focuses skilled labor with process efficiency in a controlled environment. Tools and equipment are optimally organized and in-line with the workflow process. Activities can be coordinated and with precision – repeated – increasing factory through-put vs. on-site construction. All of this translates to what owners care about most – schedule and budget.
“Projects with a higher lean intensity are 3 times more likely to finish ahead of schedule and 2 times more likely to finish under budget.” – Bevan Mace, VP of National Operations and Lean, Balfour Beatty US
Materials Strategy Goes Lean
Removing steps in processes is not reserved for operations alone, it is embraced by materials scientists as well. Integrated sheathing eliminates the application of a weather-resistive and air-resistive barrier, requiring less steps to complete the work. Several manufacturers have products on the market but only DensElement® Barrier System has fully integrated the WRB-AB within. AquaKOR™ Technology fills microscopic voids in the glass mat and gypsum core to form a monolithic, hydrophobic surface that blocks bulk water while retaining vapor permeability – eliminating a separate WRB-AB.
“Since we’ve eliminated the WRB-AB application step we’ve reduced the crew hours needed to complete installation,” said John Chamberlin, Senior Product Manager, Georgia-Pacific. ”With DensElement® Barrier System scaffolding time is also reduced contributing to safety improvements.”
DensElement® Barrier System even adds efficiency to prefabrication of wall assemblies.
“The speed that we can put DensElement Barrier System through our facility is amazing to me,” reflected Matt Wallace, WPI’s panelization facility manager. “We’re able to put the sheathing on the panel, seal the seams and hit the screws with PROSOCO R-Guard® FastFlash®, and have it dry and ready for whatever process we have next. Rather than having to inspect every square inch of surface like you do with a fluid-applied barrier, we only have to make sure that the PROSOCO was applied at the right mil thickness. The overall time savings for us is just tremendous.”
DensElement® Barrier System, with its limited warranty for up to 12 months of exposure to normal weather conditions, enables installation even in wet weather. This allows for faster dry-in and helps eliminate trade stacking and its inevitable schedule delays.
Reducing Construction Waste
According to Transparency Market Research, the amount of construction waste generated globally each year is expected to double by 2025.² Operational processes, like prefabrication reduce construction waste. But so do materials science advances, as is the case with DensElement® Barrier System.
“By eliminating a step in the installation process, DensElement® Barrier System eliminates WRB-AB materials waste from the job site and from the off-site factory,” says Chamberlin. “It’s a product that supports lean construction intrinsically.”
Less Used, Less Left Behind
Construction process advancements and next generation materials science are redefining reduction on the job site giving us a new definition of environmental consciousness in construction. Lean is the muse of the innovative, and a critical asset for everyone involved in building what’s next.