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Never Has There Been A More Urgent Need To Tackle The Eight Wastes Of Construction


Never Has There Been A More Urgent Need To Tackle The Eight Wastes Of Construction

Ian Bruce, Business Unit Director – Manchester, HE Simm

Downtime is the nemesis of project completion in the construction industry and the cause can often be found in one of the “eight wastes of construction”. The construction industry is responsible for improving the quality of lives with breath-taking accomplishments however in counter-balance, a huge generator of inefficiency and waste.

The industry is under increasing pressure to reduce waste, improve performance and expand recycling, facing many new regulations and targets from the European Union and the UK Government as waste continues to be an urgent priority.

Figures published by the UK Government• show that waste from the Construction Industry was around 120million tonnes per annum, which shockingly includes approximately 13million tonnes of unused material. So clearly, more needs to be done to reduce waste and planning and materials efficiency are the cornerstone of continued improvement.

The seven wastes originated in Japan, where waste is known as “muda.”, with manufacturing in mind but the principle fits to the construction industry, particularly the broad philosophy, “lean construction”, which is based on the continuous strive for better value for the customer. Now the eighth waste, “Extra Processing” has emerged, illustrating duplication of tasks, borne out of poorly designed processes and policies.

The eight wastes in construction cause unnecessary inefficiency which ultimately impact the bottom-line. Everyone in the industry will have experienced one of the eight wastes first-hand:

#1 Defects always need additional time and/or resources to correct; from editing paperwork, to replacing materials due to design changes. Defects can be limited by the application of standardised work plans and more stringent quality control at all levels.

#2 Overproduction occurs simply when too much is produced, or delivered too early and must be stored. Working capital is tied up by overproduction and the only way to overcome this waste is well defined procedures for every process and task completed.

#3 Waiting means that work has had to stop for some reason, usually a resource is not available, equipment is faulty or a response is required before continuing. One way to address this is to provide adequate staffing to handle the workload at the bottlenecks.

#4 Non-Utilised Talent often seen as the worst kind of waste; not or under-utilizing peoples’ talents, skills and knowledge can have a detrimental effect on an organisation. The key solution is to enable employees by targeted training and providing forums for sharing ideas.

#5 Transportation having resources where they’re needed is essential, however too much transportation tends to increased costs, wastes time and raises the risk of product damage and deterioration. To limit transportation requires identifying unnecessary steps in the process.

#6 Inventory excess materials that do not match customer demand risks needless costs due to expired material or costly storage. Standardising processes and keeping resources accurately documented and tidy can go a long way to minimises inventory waste.

#7 Motion any time spent moving around instead of doing work. The solution is to improve processes in order to decrease the distance between stations, and make it easier to reach things that are often used.

#8 Extra Processing multiple versions of the same task that do not add value to the customer, where there is undoubtedly a better method of completing the work. On a practical level, eliminating unnecessary documentation, sign-off processes and meetings can help to eliminate extra processing.

All the eight wastes in construction inflate costs, time and resources through inefficiency. Whilst a painful process, scrutiny of the fundamental cause of waste by examining processes and questioning their validity is the only way to limit them. “Is there an unnecessary step?” “Is there a better way?” “Does it add value to the customer” “Why is the work not flowing as it should be?”. This should be a continuous practice and may result in the re-formulation of processes.

There has never been a more urgent need to tackle sustainability across our supply chain, whilst providing a higher level of social value to the communities in which our projects serve. A holistic supply-chain approach is essential to making a positive impact on sustainability in our industry.


  • Source: Elsevier Ltd