Article Date: 08/20/2012

Survey Results Suggest that Most Lean Initiatives Boost Productivity

By Steve Rizer


More than three-quarters of professionals responding to FMI Corp.’s new Productivity Survey reported having seen some level of productivity enhancement as a result of their lean initiatives. Only 4 percent of respondents indicated that such initiatives led to a slight decline in productivity, while the remaining survey participants (19 percent) responded that productivity levels remained “about the same.” Results from FMI’s 2012 Productivity Survey are included in a new white paper from the Raleigh, N.C.-based company entitled “The Science of Efficiency and Productivity: Construction 2.0 in the New Normal,” which additionally examines building information modeling (BIM) and prefabrication/modularization.


The survey also found that 42 percent of survey respondents believe that lean “is really just good management practices that have been relabeled and branded.” An additional 27 percent of survey participants indicated that they understand lean “very well and see it as a practical way to improve productivity and/or operational performance.” One percent of respondents consider lean to be “a bunch of smoke and mirrors that some contractors are using in their marketing materials.” The remaining 30 percent indicated that “lean is something that I hear a lot of people talking about, but I do not know much about it or [its] potential to help us” (16 percent) or “I have not heard about lean or how it applies to contractors” (14 percent).


The paper concludes that “the challenges of lean lie not with the tools themselves but in the deeply ingrained behaviors associated with the status quo. For instance, short-interval planning tools, or ‘last planners’ in lean terminology, are important proactive devices to help field managers allocate resources and set measurable goals. The benefit is clear -- better planning eliminates emergencies and reduces costs associated with overtime, quick shipping, rework, etc. However, adoption of a new planning system across a contingent of managers and supervisors is not easy, and without strict accountability metrics from senior management, the planning tools simply become another sheet of paper."



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