Lean Construction: The Future of the Construction Industry

By Felipe Engineer-Manriquez and Nick Loughrin

Since the 1960s, productivity in the construction industry has been stagnant, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is largely due to ongoing labor shortages and other inefficiencies. Yet, other industries like agriculture, manufacturing and retail have seen productivity increase exponentially.

How will construction industry leaders finally buck this 60-year trend?

The answer is Lean Construction — a project delivery process that maximizes stakeholder value and reduces waste by emphasizing collaboration between project teams. Simply put, Lean Construction increases productivity, innovation and brings more benefit to clients in the form of efficiency, which means regularly meeting and exceeding timelines and milestones. At the recent Lean Construction Institute (LCI) annual conference in Detroit, industry leaders, including Boldt, gathered to tackle how to apply Lean principles and practices into our work, particularly in the context of rapidly changing industry dynamics and technological advancements.

As one of the earliest supporters of LCI, which celebrated 25 years in October, Boldt has helped to lead the conversation about Lean Construction, inspiring the creation of an exclusive project delivery system.

Nick and Felipe are industry leaders in Lean construction. Learn more about how Boldt is helping to revolutionize the industry with Lean methodology in the construction process.

In the spirit of sharing best practices, LCI hosted nearly 100 sessions and workshops focused on exposing attendees to diverse ideas and practices, such as using social media to accelerate Lean adoption, the practicality of Takt planning in field execution, and insights on applications like Last Planner System, Scrum, A3 Problem-Solving and more.

Among conference topics was the urgent need for continuous learning, a key principle of Lean Construction. Because of the rapidly evolving nature of the industry, ongoing adaptation and collaborative learning are critical.

Equally important were discussions around sustaining a Lean culture across project teams. This requires intentionality, understanding diverse backgrounds of team members and continuously reinforcing culture throughout a project.

A key principle of Lean Construction, “Respect for People,” is especially top-of-mind for leaders as our industry faces a mental health crisis. In construction, the suicide rate is 53.3 per 100,000 workers per year, which indicates that construction workers are four times more likely to die by suicide compared to other professions. Boldt and others are working to address these statistics by prioritizing community building, a critical focal point for LCI.

Lean Construction is all about relationship-based contracting, and its principles foster open communication to improve estimating accuracy, more efficient systems and opportunities to save on project costs.

As more contractors and subcontractors adopt Lean, new projects are sure to benefit. These principles are vital to the future of the industry, and by implementing Lean techniques, workers are more engaged, leaders can create an environment where teams feel respected and establishing a natural flow is easier than ever. As Lean grows in popularity, the industry can begin to bridge gaps in productivity and meet project demands without sacrificing quality.

About The Boldt Company
The Boldt Company (Boldt) is a leading professional construction services firm with customers across the United States and is a subsidiary of The Boldt Group. Founded in 1889, Boldt is a fourth-generation family and employee-owned firm headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin. Boldt is recognized as a pioneer in Lean construction and in the industrialized construction space. Boldt operates 18 offices across the U.S. that serve customers in healthcare, power, industrial, education, automotive and commercial markets.