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8 Wastes of Lean Construction Part 1: Defects as Lean Waste

Posted by NEHP on Mar 15, 2018 8:20:12 PM

9 Actions To Combat Defect-Driven Lean Waste

Lean Waste - Defects.pngAt the end of our value stream mapping series, we explored the concept of VSM as a mechanism for continuous improvement. The idea is that construction firms can utilize value stream mapping to continuously improve, identify, prevent, and eliminate the 8 wastes of Lean from impacting the productivity of their organization.

To that end, it pays to take a closer look at what constitutes the 8 wastes of lean and how each lean waste can disrupt a company or construction program.

Let's begin with Defects!

Defects stand as the first letter in the Lean waste acronym, D.O.W.N.T.I.M.E. By definition, defects are any imperfection, deficiency, flaw, weakness, limitation or undesired outcome within a product, service, or process. 

The waste that is generated by defects is defined as every effort that goes into creating the defect, containing it, reworking it, and ultimately dispossessing it from every aspect of the construction program.

Lean Defect.png


Common causes include, but are not limited to; poor inspections, poor workmanship, improper sign-offs, material defects, supplier inconsistencies, incomplete documentation, ineffective communication tracking, and team misalignment. 


Any one of the above causes can lead to some pretty serious consequences including, but not limited to; disruptions to overall worker productivity, disruptions to stakeholder financials, safety hazards, customer complaints and strained customer relationships.

Tip: Evaluating the impact of some defects can be done by multiplying the cost of the scrap by a factor of ten. The resulting number can be viewed as a rough measure of the cost to your business or to your customer.


Identifying and eliminating defects can be accomplished both collaboratively or individually.

The collaborative approach typically entails working with outstanding organizations like the Lean Construction Institute, or companies that practice lean principles with proven productivity solutions, automation, smart technology, evaluation work sheets, team development scorecards, and assessment questionnaires.

The individual approach, on the other hand, is probably best ventured with some mental preparation. Start by understanding that the actions necessary to manage Lean waste are not routine exercises, but a learned-mindset and a journey to become better than you are today.

Tip: Changing your mindset from the status quo to a lean mentality is perhaps the #1 place to start. Afterall, defective beliefs deliver defective outcomes. Or, as is often attributed to Henry Ford:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t -- you’re right.”

Ultimately, with a properly developed mindset, you will be better equipped to take the following actions.

9 actions you can take to ensure that defects are fundamentally and programmatically targeted in your daily operations:

  • Issue and adhere to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)
  • Perform regular floor-walk-reviews (data collecting)
  • Implement training and education for all members
  • Focus on activities that have the biggest impact to leverage wins and buy-in
  • Gain memberships with Lean organizations (for continued learning)
  • Expect and emphasize top down commitments
  • Align with your customers to inform how they can contribute to your lean objectives
  • Offer rewards / incentives programs for achievers in lean practices
  • Hire experienced companies with proven productivity records

Continue to Part 2 of our 8 Wastes of Lean Construction Series, where we examine "overproduction" as a leading waste within construction programs and manufacturing processes alike. 

If you would like more information about how we can help you with construction productivity improvement, please feel free to access our construction integration and modularization fact sheet below.

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Topics: value stream mapping, 8 wastes of lean