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From Lean Production To Lean Construction

Shang Gao, S. P. Low
Published 2014 · Business

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The last few decades have witnessed three major phases or paradigm shifts of industrial production in the modern world (Womack et al. 1990; Smith 1992). These phases are generally concluded as craft production, mass production and lean production. Shook (1998) highlighted that the concepts such as mass production and lean production reflect ways of thinking about production within particular cultures and eras rather than simply focus on production systems. Moreover, these production paradigms can be related easily to the automobile manufacturing factories, where they are created, exercised and eventually evaluated to the next phase. The first part of this chapter provides a history of evolution of production practices and philosophies through the automobile manufacturing industry from the craft production era to current lean production. The differences in production philosophies, their limits, and their impacts in the construction industry are also reviewed. The second part of this chapter attempts to answer the following question: Can the success of lean principles be replicated in the construction industry? A number of scholars hold positive attitudes towards this proposition (including Koskela 1992, 2000; Ballard 2000). To address this issue, it starts with brief discussion of the peculiarities of construction that differentiate that industry from manufacturing industry. The following discussion covers the terminology of lean construction, along with its principles, tools, and implementation frameworks, as well as criticisms of it. It also sheds light on governments’ roles in promoting lean construction in Western countries and outlines a few cases of lean practices that have emerged in developing countries.
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