Lean Construction Theory and Practice: An Irish Perspective

Paul J. Ebbs1, Paul Sexton2, Dominic G. Greensmith3, Brian G. Clare4, Vincent Gibson5 & Raymond Turner6

1Lean Consultant, Umstot Project and Facility Solutions LLC, & The ReAlignment Group of California LLC, San Diego, United States, +1 619 322 3060, paul.ebbs@umstotsolutions.com
2Managing Director, SCEG Ltd, Skerries, Co Dublin, Ireland, +353 87 202 8150, psexton@sceg.ie
3Senior Project Manager, Intel Ireland, Leixlip, Co. Kildare, dominic.g.greensmith@intel.com
4Lecturer, Researcher and Lecturer, Construction Innovation Lab, Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin 1, Ireland, +353 87 378 9135, briangclare@gmail.com
5Lecturer, Researcher and Lecturer, Construction Innovation Lab, Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin 1, Ireland, +353 87 233 9360, vgmphil@gmail.com
6Lecturer, Researcher and Lecturer, Construction Innovation Lab, Dublin Institute of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin 1, Ireland, +353 85 864 1832, raymondturner@eircom.net

Abstract

Ireland is emerging from a deep recession following a 75% reduction in Architectural, Engineering & Construction (AEC) output, causing reduced demand, employee redundancies, workforce emigration and company closures. This paper proposes Lean Construction (LC) as an antidote. However, LC theory is not widely taught in Irish universities and field research and case studies are very limited – sector research is 0.002% of industry research expenditure. LC is in its early stages in Ireland and is gaining momentum thanks to the Lean Construction Institute Ireland (LCII) Community of Practice (CoP). This paper looks at professionals understanding of lean and LC and compares LC theory with current practice. Research was gathered through a literature review, three surveys (n=48; n=42; n=116), three focus groups (n=22) and eight interviews (six expert) and was analysed through NVivo Computer Aided Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). The main findings show that LC theory does not compare strongly to practice. However, lean tools in large companies (200+ employees) appear widespread. While LC is far from commonplace, practitioners are focused on “wins” and “proof” rather than the management philosophy that is LC. Future education, training and increased research will show a different perspective – practice relating more strongly to theory.

Keywords

Lean, lean construction, theory, Community of Practice, thematic analysis

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Reference

Ebbs, P.J. , Sexton, P. , Greensmith, D.G. , Clare, B.G. , Gibson, V. & Turner, R. 2015, 'Lean Construction Theory and Practice: An Irish Perspective' In:, Seppänen, O., González, V.A. & Arroyo, P., 23rd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Perth, Australia, 29-31 Jul 2015. pp 496-506

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