Among the various productive sectors of our country, construction has traditionally been one of the most important, for several reasons: We are a great tourist power as well as for our climate, our history, our monuments, our natural beauty, our gastronomy, etc. for our built infrastructure that we must maintain, improve and expand. We also have a very old built heritage, and I am not only referring to our innumerable monumental buildings, but to everyday buildings such as houses, which require a permanent rehabilitation.
On the other hand, construction has been, is, and will be a locomotive sector of the economy that not only creates many jobs, but has a multiplier effect in many other sectors, contributing in an exceptional way to our economic growth.
Consequently, we should be most interested in the effectiveness of this sector and in a continuous improvement of the methods by which it occurs.
Instead, we continue to build in the same ways we did centuries ago, we have legislation in the field that faithfully reproduces those obsolete methods, both in terms of building management and public contracting, we consider that the only possible paradigm with which a building can be built is that, and contracting down is the great invention to make public works, and in most cases private, in Spain.
I will develop in this article some of our errors in the methodology we apply, how there is another way of working, another approach to the constructive fact much more effective and that allows us to leave them, improving a sector so important to our economy and our well-being.
As for all changes, it is required an open mind, breaking down paradigms is not easy, or comfortable, requires courage and be convinced of the possible improvements, Einstein said we cannot expect new results if we continue doing the same.
Construction can, and must, be more efficient in Spain, we can build better, cheaper, with less means and meet deadlines, but we must look forward, we must recognize our mistakes and be willing to implement new methodologies persevering in them until we will master them. In other countries of our environment this is already a reality, let’s do not be late again.
As it has happened so many times, construction must learn from industry, although there are many differences in the way both sectors are produced, it is obvious that the great methodological changes under construction have always come from the application of improvements in industrial processes, which have then been transferred to it.
After World War II a defeated and wounded in its pride Japan wanted to return to occupy the position that corresponded to him among the industrialized nations, but it could not be done using the same methods, the same forms of its competitors, especially of the United States, who saw in the chain of production the paradigm that had made them powerful and had contributed to their success in the War.
In the American industries, the prophecies of Henry Ford, published in his book «Today and Tomorrow» of 1926, continued to resonate: To produce and produce, to create a large stock of products that the commercial departments of the companies would care in the market.
They are firstly Kiichiro Toyoda and then Taiichi Ohno who study their competition thoroughly, residing in the United States for a while. Both oversaw the Toyota automobile company and understood that their success had to be based on other principles.
Very impressed by the large parking lots in which hundreds of finished cars were waiting for a customer’s order, they realized that this was a major failure of the American industry, a large unproductive immobilizer that in many cases had no outlet and was directly lost.
It was in the improvement where they could give the battle of effectiveness, and above all Ohno was applied to it with the greatest interest, structuring it in basic principles that would be the Toyota Production System or TPS.
Walking the years, in the eighties, Japan began to flood the United States with its cars, lighter, less fuel consumers, with good quality, less defects and cheaper than Americans. In this country, many managers began to think that they were the ones who now had to learn from the Japanese and reversed the journey that Toyota managers had made in the 1950s.
What they found was a clean production of everything that did not contribute to their development and improvement, with the focus on the customer, without losses, without useless stocks, without immobilization, a continuous and open collaboration of the work teams and a maximum fixation on quality. It was the TPS, those were the principles that Taiichi Ohno had applied at Toyota.
«The Machine That Changed the World» by professors James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos, is the title that leads to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or M.I.T. these principles. From that point on, industrial production in the United States revolved around hundred and eighty degrees, and it was fixed in improvement as a goal. Japan had understood that competition lay in the lack of defects and in obtaining it with the least possible means.
A good word to define this way of producing was «Lean», clean, without superfluous elements, to do things with just, but to do them well. This is how the Toyota Production System is renamed the United States Lean Production System or LPS.
There are many titles that from that moment begin to be published there on the Lean philosophy and Toyota heritage, inevitably come loaded with principles and even Japanese words.
For me it stands out above all of them «kaizen» which derives from two words: Kai (change) and zen (good), change to better, something that pervades everything, a principle on which teamwork is based, the collaboration in the search for continuous improvement, in a permanent way, that was the idea force that the TPS printed to production, everything was based on it.
It was another way of naming the W. Edwards Deming Cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act or PDCA, who through his teachings in Japan in the 1950s on continuous improvement, too had influenced the TPS.
The LPS is implemented and developed in the North American industry for the manufacture of all types of products, the losses are reduced to a minimum, the production chain is balanced, it is produced based on the demand of the customers, not to sell what has been manufactured, but manufacture what has been sold. «Just in Time» or JIT is the new way of making production profitable, everything has started from Toyota, but has been internalized in the United States as its own, it has been researched and deepened in improving, achieving very positive results that still exist today.
It is in the year 1992 when Finnish professor Lauri Koskela presents a scientific paper at Stanford University, United States, which in 2000 will develop as Doctoral Thesis at Helsinki University of Technology, Finland: «An exploration towards a Production theory and its application to construction «, this research will lead to the application of Lean’s industrial production methodology to construction.
Professors Glenn Ballard and Greg Howell of the University of Berkeley in California, USA, were investigating along the same lines.
From the confluence of this knowledge is born Lean Construction, later joining to this group the professor Luis Fernando Alarcón of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, together they will constitute the International Group for Lean Construction or IGLC, and from their work will be born a whole series of techniques that will develop Lean methods in construction.
The substrate that have all these techniques is common sense, collaboration between work teams and focus on people rather than processes. The phrase of Fujio Cho, one of the presidents of Toyota: «Before we make cars, we make people», is a good definition of the methodology.
Over the years Lean Construction work techniques have been growing and have been refined, as well as demonstrating their effectiveness with positive results in concrete works.
The most important ones are:
All these techniques would require a concrete study of each one of them, since they can contribute to an improvement in the construction processes in Spain, but in this article, I want to focus on Integrated Project Delivery or IPD.
INTEGRATED PROJECT DELIVERY
We assume that the Spanish construction has a single form of development: Design, Bid, Build, this is our paradigm, a truth assumed as if there was no other alternative, just consult our Legislation in the matter to realize how far it is. It does not matter that this way of working does not leave us satisfied neither with the process itself, nor with the results.
A work is undertaken by the confrontation from the zero minute between the main actors of the same: The Property, The Constructor, The Design Technicians and the Directors of Work. Each one of them will defend a plot against the others, and for this they will not exchange his information with the others, but will use it privately for his own benefit.
The designers will develop the project without taking into account the construction company, or many times the property, and once finished they will realize a budget that they know that it will not be fulfilled, but that will serve to summon a competition between constructing companies, that again will go to falsify the data by offering to do the work at such a low price and with such short deadlines that it will only serve for the property, delighted with that misleading offer, awards them the work.
In the execution phase of the work, all this will explode, in the first place, the construction company will start trying to lower the quality and / or present contradictory prices that allow it to balance its accounts. A very important weapon that they will use for this purpose will be the project, which will most often be poorly defined or poorly projected.
The project planners-directors by their part will defend their project, but rather from an aesthetic point of view, thinking about the publication of the photos of the building in the corresponding magazines, to enhance their ego and increase their future commitments, but not so much from the quality, the price or the execution period of the work, since they are aspects that in the bottom they worry less.
Who is going to pay the broken dishes of all this mess is the property, who trying to defend itself from that expensive “party», will hire a Project Manager that will help to put a little order in the chaos, but who won´t be able to achieve all its objectives because what is badly designed is the system itself.
IPD completely returns to this process, and what it proposes is that from the very beginning of the design the main actors, mentioned above, work collaboratively in a single team, and that all the information of the project and of the work will be always available to all members of the same. Open books are the formula.
By being open the information the property, the constructor and the technicians will also be able to give an opinion on the development of building issues. This ends the surprises, but also ends up taking advantage of them to cover incompetence or defects of their own.
To work as such, IPD includes that the benefits of the professionals involved are obtained based on the degree of success or failure achieved, measured in terms of price compliance, execution time and quality of the building.
There is a prior recognition of costs for the builder and the design team, but the profits will be based on what I mentioned before. This creates a true team spirit, a real interest in things to go well, is what is commonly said in football: «Kick all for the same goal», and not going each one by his side, his own interests, to the detriment of the fulfilment of common objectives.
Advancing the decision making constituting the team at the beginning, contributes to a greater efficiency of the process. There are many studies that attest to this, such as those of Patrick Mac Leamy for HOK (Hellmuth Obata and Kassabaum, one of the most important architectural studies in the world) presented at the American Institute of Architects (AIA): “As early you make a decision on the project it will be cheaper and more effective «
An important point in this methodology is the drafting of the agreement under which all parties will relate and share their interests and risks, but there is already in the United States a basis for action in the matter that is: Integrated Form of Agreement or IFOA, such as ConsensusDoc 300, signed by AIA, IGLC and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA), which can serve as a model for Collaborative Contracts. It opens here a great field of action for offices of Spanish lawyers who can become experts in this matter, as is already happening in America.
I could not close this article without referring to the tool that with its development is contributing, like none, to the implementation of IPD: Building Information Modelling or BIM. The fact that the whole team can work on a single virtual model of the building using BIM has been the biggest step that technology has taken to facilitate this way of working. The use of the cloud for the exchange of information also allows the relocation of the equipment and a degree of flexibility that makes the team work to be enhanced as never before BIM.
The BIM Commission of the Spanish Ministry of Development has announced that from 2020 its use will be mandatory in Spain; therefore, we must catch up on this methodology that strengthens like never the collaborative work.
It is not a utopia, in Anglo-Saxon countries is being applied with great success, many buildings are built in this way and many companies have long used it: Sutter Health, Autodesk, Biogen Chemicals etc. with great results in cost, term, quality and satisfaction of stakeholders.
In a first approximation, it is more important that this culture of behaviour be introduced in all parts involved in the construction process, than the development of corresponding techniques, which will follow.
Therefore, let us contribute among all to a change of mentality in the way in which construction takes place in Spain and then we will implement the methodology for the improvement of the whole process.
Miguel Ángel Álvarez