Lean Supply Systems in Construction

Roberto Arbulu1 & Glenn Ballard2

1Strategic Project Solutions Inc., rarbulu@strategicprojectsolutions.net
2Research Director for the Center for Innovation in Project and Production Management (dba Lean Construction Institute) and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, ballard@leanconstruction.org


This paper proposes a strategy to improve the management of supply systems in construction using lean principles and techniques. The objective is to assure on-time delivery of information and materials to project sites at least cost and maximum value for the final customer. The primary mean for achieving this objective is to accomplish supply management functions with least waste; e.g., low supply and demand reliability, large inventories not needed to absorb variability, and physical waste. The paper explores supply complexity in construction in order to better understand where certain types of waste are originated. The strategy proposes the use of a web-based tool based on the Last Planner System to improve planning reliability so demand variability is minimized, the use of regional logistics centers for distribution of materials to sites, the use ofkanban techniques to pull selected materials on a just-in-time basis, and a link between production control and material management processes on site. It also highlights the importance of minimizing material lead times with emphasis on standardization and pre-assembly practices so supply systems are more effective. It concludes highlighting the most important challenges for the implementation ofthis strategy.


Assembly package, inventory, just-in-time, kanban, logistic centers, pre-assembly, supply chain management, value stream.



Arbulu, R. & Ballard, G. 2004, 'Lean Supply Systems in Construction' In:, Bertelsen, S. & Formoso, C.T., 12th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Helsingør, Denmark, 3-5 Aug 2004.

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