What is Lean Construction?

Lean construction is, very simply, a way to approach Construction like manufacturing. It involves a scientific method to improve efficiency, much like Total Quality Management(TQM). Lean Construction centers on the holistic approach that wasted actions and materials cannot be billed or otherwise made up, so focus must be put on improved quality and how to reduce this waste.


What is Lean-ish Construction?

If there’s a major drawback of Lean Construction it’s that the Lean approach tends to be inflexible, especially when it comes to the construction industry. Lean-ish Construction is any continuous approach to help increase productivity and reduce waste that isn’t “full-blown” Lean. Perhaps imperfect, “lean-ish” construction is still a good way to learn the greater lessons of Lean Construction, applying them to your own unique business. This is also called Practical Lean Construction.


Why Lean (or Lean-ish) Construction?

At the MCAA Convention last March in San Diego, MCA of Chicago gathered some of the brightest people in our industry for a casual talk about how to be more proactive to stay competitive in the future. Two ideas came out of this discussion: vertical supply chains and Practical Lean Construction. With MCAA tackling supply chain discussion for now, MCA of Chicago leadership thought it would be worth our while to look at Lean Construction more closely.


And that’s exactly what MCA of Chicago going to do—with our members and for our members. We’re going to investigate to the fullest Lean, Lean-ish and any other type of Lean Construction we can get our hands on, because we want to make sure our member mechanical contractors survive. This

is an important and long journey; what you’re reading here is only the tip of the iceberg. So MCA of Chicago hopes you’ll join and help us, sharing your own experiences with Lean and Lean-ish Construction. Our goal is that, by introducing to our membership the ideas behind Lean Construction, we can ensure a happy, healthy future for the unionized mechanical construction industry.


As MCA of Chicago addresses Lean Construction, you may be asking yourself, “Why now?” That’s simple: because we need to be more efficient to survive as an industry! Competition is getting tougher than ever. Regardless of whether it comes from other non-union or other union trades, we need to be at our best.

How Lean Are You?


In the News

Five Lean Manufacturing Techniques That Boost Shop Efficiency—Dennis Sowards
Project Management Best Practices—Matt Stevens, Ph.D. & Jennifer E Day, Ph.D.
Continuous and Balanced Improvement in Construction Culture—Matt Stevens, Ph.D. & Jennifer E Day, Ph.D.

Meet The Experts

Dennis Sowards: Lean Expert

Dennis Sowards is a dynamic speaker and Lean consultant, based in Phoenix. He provides a unique look into the application of Lean thinking to real-life situations in the construction industry. He has shared the Lean message at MCAA and SMACNA national conventions, with many mechanical contractors, and at trade association meetings around the world. He’s the author of the best-selling book The Lean Construction Pocket Guide and has written numerous articles about Lean Construction in publications, such as: Contractor, SNIPS and PM. Dennis holds BSE and MBA degrees from Arizona State University.


Matt Stevens, Ph.D: Lean-ish Expert

With industry experience spanning more than 40 years, Matt Stevens is now owner of Stevens-Day Construction Institute, Inc. where he has been a management advisor since 1994.. He has given more than 600 presentation and advised more than 100 contractors. Matt received his doctorate from the M.E. Rinker Sr. School of Construction Management at University of Florida. He has authored two industry books, Managing a Construction Firm on Just 24 Hours a Day and The Construction MBA, both published by McGraw-Hill. Matt’s advising work focuses on organizational development, strategic planning, business evaluations and organizational productivity.

Know any Lean Experts? Email Dan Bulley at dbulley@mca.org so he can share them!