Construction Journal: What does lean construction mean, and how does it differ from regular construction?
Ritu Ahuja: Lean construction is an approach to production management oriented towards relationships. It helps foster a culture of respect and continuous improvement, reducing waste, increasing workflow efficiency, and creating value for the customer.
Lean project delivery differs from traditional approaches because it is built on five big ideas:
optimising the project and not the piece
connecting action with learning
acknowledging that projects are a network of commitments.
As an early adopter of lean principles and practices, Kinetic encourages a culture of continuous improvement. It fosters collaboration, transparency and reliable scheduling, optimising resource use and generating value for the client.
CJ: Would you say it focuses more on soft skills – the relations between people?
RA: Yes: one of the pillars of lean construction is respect for people. This means empowering and engaging those closest to the work to assess the current condition, respond to problems, document lessons and standardise best practices.
How do you foster a culture where people can say no without damaging relationships? This is achieved by training in lean principles, creative thinking and team-building activities. If we spend time identifying and understanding constraints early on in the project, we can resolve those sooner as a team.
CJ: How does a company start to implement lean construction? How can you begin to change the culture?
RA: Lean principles should drive business strategy. Lean integration should also be a part of the company culture. Understanding the current state of a business and why lean principles are being implemented is key to making the change.
Another important factor is support and belief from top management. Although lean construction is implemented from the bottom up, it is sustained from the top down.
CJ: It sounds positive, relating to so many things that different people in construction are trying to connect. What is the focus of your role as lean integration leader? Is that common to the industry? Or is it just what you have found works best for Kinetic?
RA: I mentor and coach project and senior leadership teams on various lean construction tools and techniques. I create procedures, standards and strategy to enable lean construction at various levels of the organisation.
As the industry is becoming more aware of the advantages of lean construction, we do see roles like mine becoming more important in Canada.
CJ: It sounds as though this would offer plenty of job satisfaction.
RA: Yes, definitely. Who doesn't want to see things improve? I am happy to be the go-to person when we need to improve a process.
In my role, I am always meeting new teams and working with colleagues at different levels of the organisation. It is indeed satisfying to work and celebrate together as a team!