Exploring the Application of Lean Principles to a Construction Supply Chain

Rafaella Broft1

1SCM Consultant and part-time Research Student, The Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management, University College London, London, UK,


The characteristics known in construction are often seen as peculiarities of the industry and prevent the attainment of flows as efficient as in manufacturing. The construction industry knows two typical problems resulting from high levels of fragmentation and low levels of repetition: lack of control and decreasing performance. Despite the critical role of a client, parties on the supply side – the lower tiers of the construction SC – are believed to be able to develop into more integrated systems, independently from the demand. Contractors are willing to develop closer relationships, but implementing SCM seems a long-term, complex process and requires a certain level of understanding and therefore learning throughout the supply chain. Some characteristics of the industry are even believed and described a non-suitable base for implementing SCM. This paper sets out to explore possibilities and examines the results of a step towards successful SCM in construction. It describes the advantages of the application of some important Lean principles, by presenting the differences within the processes needed to produce one construction 'product' in two different ways – with a product- and project-focus. The two cases involve a supply chain, operating in the Dutch construction industry and representing long-term agreements between one main contractor and its most critical suppliers in housing. With the analysis, the paper provides the reader with the necessary insights to take an important step in implementing SCM in construction.


Supply chain Management, lean construction, lead time reduction, value stream thinking, flow



Broft, R. 2017, 'Exploring the Application of Lean Principles to a Construction Supply Chain' In:, 25th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Heraklion, Greece, 9-12 Jul 2017. pp 771-779

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