Aug 8, 2009

Time to Lean Ourselves

By now, Lean is a well-established practice. If you’ve been in this profession for some time, you probably first heard of it in Construction Management. And for a few years now, Lean has been buzzing around next to the word Healthcare. But if you haven’t heard of it yet, Lean dates back to the 1950’s. That’s when Taiichi Ohno set a number of management practices for the Toyota Production System.
Since then, Lean thinking has been focusing on one idea: producing services that the costumers need, when they need them, and in the amount that they are needed. And to get there, Lean advocates look at the production process and the building quality very carefully.
For construction managers, the Lean approach can mean success. Every step of the construction chain is measured, studied, and improved. At the end, they have a product delivered on time, when the customer needs it. In healthcare, the application of Lean is similar. The healthcare service process is carefully studied and improved. For the patients, this can be safe, timely and affordable care. For the health care providers, this means reduced stress and increased effectiveness and job satisfaction. For the health care organizations this translates to reduced risk and costs, and increased profits.
Now architectural designers are also thinking in Lean terms. They are applying the Lean principles to functionality and programming as it relates to early planning and schematic design. However, what about ourselves? The practice of architecture falls under the Service Industry too. We have customers and a service to sell. With ABI numbers looking down, we are all looking at different ways to cut costs. It might be time for a new business model.

We have seen quality control, checklists, IPD, BIM, and general management business practices put in place. We have grown into this traditional practice, and we are passionate about this profession. All things considered, we are proud of our work. But there is always room for improvement. We knew that when we were pulling overnighters in our college studios. This time around, the delivery chain model under which we have been operating can use an upgrade. The operations and processes that get our projects out the door can use some of the Lean principles. They can be redefined, and with that we can be changing our industry. Is it time for new thinking?


  1. Essentially, lean puts everything right in their place at the right time while lessening the waste and being bendy to adapt to change. It brings new concepts, tools and techniques that have been efficiently utilized to perk up the process flow.

    Dong Henze

  2. Couldn't have said it better myself!