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The Road To Leaner Construction And Maintenance

18 November 2014

A new partnership between the Highways Agency, Costain and a number of universities will research, develop and implement the leaner construction and maintenance of highways in the UK.

With initial funding provided by the Highways Agency, the recently signed research agreement will see Costain join forces with the Lean Construction Institute UK, the University of Salford, Cardiff University and Nottingham Trent University. The partnership aims to develop and implement ‘Lean Construction’ – the application of lean thinking to the design and construction process designed to create improved project delivery to meet client needs and improved efficiency for constructors.

The Costain Project Manager for the partnership, Mathew Gilligan, said: “Lean Construction isn’t a new concept and we have been doing this for a long time now, however we need to ask the question of what else can we do? How can we develop and tailor Lean Construction to our needs? Through this new partnership we can answer those questions. We aim to identify and develop new tools, techniques and thoughts that have been put forward and specifically chosen through projected benefit to the industry. The results from this project will not only have a positive impact on Costain but the wider industry as a whole and we should be very much looking forward to embedding these findings on our contracts.”

A series of seven initial projects are planned as part of the work, including scanning the horizon for international developments in Lean Construction and a pilot study to investigate the effective use of lean ways of working within SMEs and the wider supply chain. There will also be a project on road construction visual controls to ensure site workers have ready answers to their queries without needing to stop work for enquiries - a fundamental component for maximising cost effectiveness and quality working.

Derek Drysdale, Divisional Director for Lean Improvement at the Highways Agency, said: “The Highways Agency are committed to deploying lean across our business.  Although the philosophy and methodology of Lean Construction is well understood it is vitally important that we continuously improve our thinking. The Agency are also committed to supporting the Government’s Construction 2025 strategy and Lean thinking supports all aspects of the Strategy.

“The Research Partnership is a key milestone in further developing Lean in all its forms and we will of course disseminate the findings as widely as possible across the whole of the construction sector”.

Changing weather, soil conditions and other earthwork variables can significantly hamper Lean Construction, so a specific project on Earthworks Control Automation will set out to research and create a proof of concept for a construction site management tool based on real-time GPS data.

The agreement will also see a number of students from the three universities work alongside the Highways Agency, Costain and supply chain SMEs, under a new internship scheme.



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