Skip to main content

Digital collaboration tools: Why is Lean management important in construction?

A foreman documents his task for today in the RefinemySite app

RefinemySite is a digital collaboration platform for implementing the Last Planner System® (LPS). This software puts the focus on planning processes, team meetings, and continuous learning. Stefan Gaa, Product Owner of RefinemySite, explains why Lean management is important for today’s construction teams and for the improvement of the construction industry as a whole.

Why use Lean management?

COVID-19 continues to reverberate through the latest news on the construction industry. The impacts of COVID-19 over the past years forced many jobsites to evaluate their productivity and processes. As the virus halted or shut down sites worldwide, even those of us who were committed to reducing resource waste before the pandemic recognized how survival in the “new normal” calls for greater transformation and more sustainable change.

Lean construction, which empowers every worker onsite to identify constraints, resource waste, and ways to optimize workflows, can also create opportunities to improve resilience. Digital collaboration platforms can further this effect by helping us better execute Lean methods like the LPS® and foster jobsite cultures able to innovate and adapt in the face of unexpected challenges.

So, how can digital collaboration tools encourage resilience and foster productivity innovations?

Constant communication

Every region was affected differently by the pandemic. Some jobsites remained open with safety protocols in place, and some remained closed even beyond the initial quarantine period. It was during this time that many of us realized how central we’ve made the physical jobsite to executing (and storing) our plans, schedules, and communications.

Digital collaboration software mitigates communication issues that arise from working remotely or having team members do a mix of in-person and remote work. While there are some roles that must be onsite, transferring budgets, schedules, and timelines to a digital platform keeps your workforce connected and removes basic challenges, such as not having information available in real time.

RefinemySite from Bosch is a digital collaboration tool ideal for tackling the productivity challenges we’re all experiencing. Not only is the platform cloud-based (a model the industry needs to adopt as we move forward), but it’s also designed for instant communication, enabling project managers, superintendents, and trade contractors to share the realities of the project, whether in-person or remotely. With digital collaboration software, the latest news on a construction project’s status can always be incorporated into the joint schedule, contributing to the streamlining of projects in the construction industry as a whole. A clear, structured timeline of a project’s process also allows for an easier evaluation of the ‘5 Whys’ in Lean. This affords a team a deeper analysis into the root of any issues that may be encountered during a project and allows for the quick development of long-term solutions.

Valued team members

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has opened a big can of uncertainty that trickles down to each team member. In addition to the pre-pandemic labor shortages, there is a lot weighing on the relationship between worker and firm.

By focusing on fundamental components of the Lean management philosophy — such as respect for the employees — companies can stabilize collaboration and increase productivity.

  • Trust: There’s a symbiotic level of trust between firm and employee. This enables the employee to take charge of their role knowing they can align with the firm’s vision.
  • Empowerment: Because of the established trust, the employee feels emboldened to do their work and correct the plan/timeline accordingly.
  • Communication: With transparent contracts and schedules that are available to all parties, misinformation and conflicts are avoided.
  • Responsibility: The work and accountability are shared. This provides both safety and motivation for the employee.

These four concepts present more reasons why we should use select Lean methodologies to involve project teams, especially those responsible for value-added work, in the process planning. The result of the collaboration is thus not only the created end product. On the jobsite, for example, these concepts promote an understanding of how each participant contributes to success, in addition to the schedule. The resulting transparency leads to an increase in trust, responsibility beyond one's own performance, and more focused communication.

RefinemySite is the digital implementation of the LPS® methodology, that supports those fundamental components of Lean management through its focus on collaborative process planning and team communication.