Joe Donarumo guides us through the Eight Wastes of Lean in the construction environment. Learn what the 8 wastes of Lean are and what you can do to mitigate them.
Eight Wastes of Lean on the Construction Jobsite
A few months after starting my career with Linbeck Group, I had the opportunity to attend my first LCI Congress in Dallas, TX, where I was fortunate to hear a keynote speech by Paul Akers. Paul introduced us to his book 2 Second Lean—but more importantly, Paul introduced me to the Eight Wastes. I left that keynote speech and conference and went back to my jobsite the next day with a new lens. It has forever altered the way I see work in the field.
If you are not familiar with the Eight Wastes, let’s start with the basics.
Waste is defined as any task that doesn’t add value. Unfortunately, in the AEC industry, many of the activities performed are non-value added, or waste.
The first step to overcoming issues that plague your jobsite is being able to recognize and identify the Eight Wastes of Lean. Then you can begin the work of eliminating them. There are several acronyms to remember what these wastes are. One of the more common ones is DOWNTIME. This is the one we used in our book, The Lean Builder, and so we’ll use that one for our example below.
The Eight Wastes of Lean on a jobsite:
- Defects – Materials that have been damaged or made incorrectly. Incorrect work that needs to be repaired, replaced, or redone will qualify as a defect.
- Overproduction – Building something too soon, having too much of something already built, or building something quicker than what is needed.
- Waiting – Sometimes known as delay, waiting refers to the periods of inactivity. Work that is not able to be installed due to impacts from other waste can be considered waiting. When trades are left waiting for the delivery of material, equipment, preceding activities, or information (such as a submittal or RFI) this waste will occur.
- Non-Utilized Talent – Inadequate use of people’s skills, resourcefulness, or knowledge on your jobsite. A project’s people are its greatest advantage. It is important that people are focused on activities that create value.
- Transportation – Unnecessary movement of materials or equipment, like movement from one area, floor, or material laydown space to another and then again to the work area where it will be put in place. Transportation waste cannot be eliminated, but it is important to recognize that in can add time and cost to your project and could lead to damage in transit (see #1 – Defects).
- Inventory – Overproduction that results in excess is waste. Inventory can be material stored on your floors, in your laydown yard, or offsite. Some inventory on-hand may be required to keep the project progressing, but too much inventory can quickly add up and tie up cash and resources. Remember, all Inventory will require storage space, and likely involve extra handling (see #5 – Transportation).
- Motion – Involves movement by craftsman. Even what seems like a small non-value-added motion can cost your project. To move and add value is called work. To move and not add value is called motion. Craftsman spending time looking for a tool or a set of current plans or walking extra yards due to a poorly placed port-a-john is also considered motion.
- Excess – Also known as over processing, this refers to the redundant steps taken in a process such as altering or double-handling supplies or materials. Over-processing is often incorporated into a process as an outcome of defects, overproduction, and excess inventory. In construction administrative paperwork this can looks like double data entry, multiple signatures on forms, redundant daily logs, or forwarding emails with drawings and RFIs.
Eight Wastes Example on the Jobsite
Now that we are all on the same page as to what the Eight Wastes are, let me give you an example of what this looks like on a jobsite:
The drywall trade partner decides to load out the entire 2nd floor with all his studs convincing the superintendent his crew will be more efficient (#2 – Overproduction, #6 – Inventory). As the drywall trade partner gets started with priority walls and framing on level 2, he is in conflict with the mechanical trade partner who is trying to run ductwork and is constantly moving bundles of studs out of the way (#5 – Transportation). As the drywall trade partner is moving his materials, the mechanical trade partner cannot install his work (#3 – Waiting, #7 – Motion). While moving the framing bundles out of the way, the bundle strikes a concrete column and was damaged and has to be replaced (#1 – Defects, #8 – Excess). Finally, the drywall trade partner’s crews were busy shuffling materials around instead of putting work in place and creating value (#4, Non-Utilized Talent).
Tips to Eliminate the Eight Wastes in Construction
Although this example is a bit simplified, I’m hopeful you can visualize the waste and think of examples of the Eight Wastes cycle you have experienced on your own projects. Again, once you can recognize the waste, you can then begin to eliminate it. I’ll end with a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help teams learn to see the waste:
- Make is visual. As in most cases in the field, visual communication is key! Try making an Eight Wastes board and post in the job trailer or jobsite for yourself and/or your trade partners and field leaders to see on a continuous basis. The more you are reminded about the waste and are faced with it, the faster your perspective will change in how you view the jobsite.
- Talk about it. Morning huddles and toolbox discussions are ripe opportunities to teach about the wastes, how to identify them, and how to remove or mitigate them. Encourage your last planners and boots on the ground to come back to meetings reporting on the wastes they have identified and if they were able to resolve it. You will see your jobsite culture shifting and trade partners taking action against waste in the field.
- Don’t quit. Waste can suck the life and morale out of a jobsite culture. It’s disrespectful and will consume valuable resources that would be better utilized in an effective and productive manner. As LCI puts it, “It’s the enemy of good construction.” Make it your personal mission to be relentless against the wastes that you see on your jobsite, even if you’re not the CM/GC. Control what you can control—others WILL recognize it and behaviors WILL change.
If you have a good tip you would like to share on how to learn to see waste or would like to share an Eight Wastes of Lean story from one of your projects, please let us know in the comments below!
By: Joe Donarumo, Senior Superintendent & Director of Lean Application
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