Tariq Abdelhamid, Ph.D.

Construction Management Program

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CMP831 Lean Construction Principles and Methods

SPRING of every year



Dr. Tariq Abdelhamid

School of Planning, Design and Construction

Michigan State University

919 East Shaw Lane, Holmes Hall West 187

552 West Circle Dr, RM 214/302c

East Lansing, MI 48825

P: 884-4557 /432-6188




Class Meetings:

5:00 PM-8:50PM

309 Human Ecology



Course Overview:

Lean production is a system of production management that was conceived by Toyota Motor Company in the 50s.  In the early 80s, this system has attracted the attention of researchers in production and operations management and numerous studies have been undertaken to unearth its mysteries.  Perhaps the most comprehensive of these studies is the five-year five-million-dollar future of the automobile study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In 1990, Womack et al published the results of this study in a book titled “The Machine That Changed the World”.  The book became a national bestseller and, needless to say, widely publicized Lean Production.  In its editorial review of this publication, the New York Times Magazine stated that “The Fundamentals of this system are applicable to every industry across the globe…[and] will have a profound effect on human society- it will truly change the world.”


Compared to conventional manufacturing principles, products manufactured using lean principles have required significantly less resources to produce and have resulted in the following (Technology Century 10/2001):


1.      Productivity gains of 300 to 400%.

2.      Labor productivity increased an average of 25% a year.

3.      Defect rates reduced from more than 2000 to less than 50 parts per million (PPM) and in many to less than 10 PPM.

4.      Cost of quality cut by over 60%.

5.      Work-in-process inventory slashed by more than 80%.

6.      Revenue per 1000 square feet of factory space was raised 350 %.

Since the early 90s, there has been a growing interest in the manufactured housing community to adopt Lean Production paradigms.  This was a logical consideration given the parallels between product manufacturing and in-plant house manufacturing.  In fact, Toyota has a subsidiary called Toyota Homes that manufactures houses in plants and ships for assembly on sites.


In the late 80s/early 90s, Lauri Koskela, a construction academic, questioned the inability of the construction industry to deliver projects on time, on budget, and at desired quality.  He attributed this inability to the lack of a theory of production in construction.  Concurrently, Greg Howell and Glenn Ballard were experimenting with a management system that can provide reliable workflow on construction sites.   These two efforts formed the beginning of the Lean Construction community, represented in the International Group for Lean Construction (established in 1993), and the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), Founded in 1997.  Both groups are the main powerhouses advocating and conducting research on Lean Construction, which is not only an exercise to adopt lean production in construction.    Lean Construction is not Lean Production applied to construction.  There are similarities but Lean Production and Lean Construction are different. 


Lean Construction has escaped canonical definition mainly because Lean principles defy easy characterization.  A frequently referenced definition is that of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI).  According to LCI, Lean Construction is a production management-based philosophy emphasizing the need to simultaneously design a facility and its production process while minimizing waste and maximizing value to owners throughout the project phases (including the post-construction phase) by improving performance at the total project level, using a conformance-based vs. a deviation-based performance control strategy, and improving the reliability of work flow among project participants.  Lean Construction is concerned with the holistic pursuit of concurrent and ‎continuous improvements in all dimensions of the built and natural environment: ‎design, construction, activation, maintenance, salvaging, and recycling ‎‎(Abdelhamid 2007).‎


According to Glen Ballard, co-founder of LCI, "Lean project delivery changes the job site concept of reliability, eliminating the 'systemic lying' that pervades traditional project management,” and that “with Lean, control means insuring outcomes starting at the crew level.  A project is truly under control when you do what you say you're going to do and minimize project disruptions."  Greg Howell, also co-founder of LCI, believes that "Understanding the reliable work flow imperative in Lean production runs counter to the construction industry's 'can do' culture. But we must move beyond the deep cultural aspects of that mentality and create a system that cultivates judgment and reliability. We'll never trust each other if we don't become more reliable."


A number of construction companies have embarked on lean conversion initiatives and are starting to reap the benefits.  One practitioner stated, "Lean lowers the 'hair-on-fire' index on our jobs."  The Boldt Company, a national provider of construction, consulting and maintenance services with annual sales volume of $400-million is also embracing Lean Construction principles.  Paul Reiser, Boldt's vice president for production process innovation, cites three reasons for being attracted to Lean:  "First, Lean is simply systematically applied common sense. Second, it is counterintuitive. Unlike anything I've seen before, it causes us to rethink how we manage work. And, finally we saw it as an opportunity to deliver high value facilities to the marketplace in shorter time."


Incorrectly assumed to be related only to the construction phase of a project, Lean Construction is really Lean in the Construction Industry, with all of the industry’s different providers (owners, architects, engineers, constructors, suppliers, regulators, etc) considered benefactors of what it has to offer.


Course Aims:

Lean Construction is a set of principles and methods that significantly and continuously change what and how we build.  The course provides an understanding of Lean Construction principles and methods through reading, lectures, and discussion periods.  Teamwork is emphasized through group projects, and learning is facilitated using educational simulations.


Course Description:

This course provides an understanding of Lean Construction principles and methods through reading, lectures, and discussion periods.  Topics covered in the course include:  Lean Project Delivery, Relational Contracting, Lean Programming, Lean Design, Lean Construction, Lean Assembly, Lean Supply, Lena Workstructuring, Production Control, and Design of Construction Operations.


Terminal Course Objectives:

–After completing this course you will be able to:


This course is intended for students to:

1)     Summarize the history and evolution of production paradigms.

2)     Explain and distinguish the principles of Lean Construction

3)     Discuss and critique Relational Contracting methods such as Integrated Project Delivery and Integrated Lean Project Delivery

4)     Use and compare lean-based productivity improvement techniques to study and improve construction operations

(a)   Linear Scheduling

(b)  Work Sampling and Value Stream Mapping in Construction

(c)   Discrete-event computer modeling and simulation

5)     Apply the Last Planner® System for production planning and control

6)     Describe System Dynamics and Agent Based modeling ( time-permitting)


Required Background:

Courses: CMP411/CMP415 or CMP811/CMP815, or instructor approval.



-        Some aspects of project management (scheduling, estimating), statistics, and probabilities.

-        Proficiency with modern computer applications (e.g., Excel, Access, Visio, AutoCAD, MicroStation).


Recommended background:  MSC800 [or MSC801 concurrently]



Required Material:

1.      Lincoln H. Forbes and Syed M. Ahmed (2010).  Modern Construction: Lean Project Delivery and Integrated Practices – CRC Press.

2.      David Schmidt (2003).  The Blind Men and the Elephant: Mastering Project Work.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

3.      Course and reading material: available on

4.      Handout materials (in class).




Optional Reading Material:

5.      Oglesby, Clarkson, Henry Parker and Gregory Howell (1990). Productivity Improvement In Construction. New York: McGraw-Hill.  (Instructor will provide).

6.      Go to and then Suggested Readings on Lean Construction



Evaluation and Grading:





Homework Assignments (includes simulation games in classes, when indicated) –20%



Questions from Reading Assignments **–20%



Discussion from Reading Assignments –5%



Lean-based Performance Improvement Project (VSM) (Group) – 25%



Final Exam 30%










< 70%



**To facilitate meaningful interaction and learning, you will be required to submit two questions per book chapter and/or paper  from the readings via email by Sundays  of every week at NOON – No late submissions are accepted.  These assignments are indicated by the letters RQ on the tentative schedule.


Weekly reading assignments

Read each chapter twice:

•        First time: get a sense of the issues and the writers approach to them.

•        Second time:

•        Highlight key ideas/claims the author makes.

•        Note how each of the ideas/claims is supported.

•        Write your initial reaction to the ideas/claims

•        Identify relevance of new ideas/claims to construction and implications and potential actions that you can think of.

•        Submit 2 questions per chapter and for which you seek clarification.

•        You will be asked to respond to questions from your classmates as well.


Let’s create enriching discussions and conversations in the class.


Course Format:



·        According to the Academic Programs (2000-2002) publication ( states that a Lecture/Participation is: “A regularly scheduled class which differs from Lecture in that students are, at times specified by the instructor, expected to participate in class-room activities by means appropriate to the subject matter: performance, peer-exchange, recitation, discussion, etc.”



Course Guidelines:

1.      Submittals:

·        The due date for all assignments will be firm.  You should plan ahead to avoid conflicts with submittal dates.  You must inform the instructor of such conflicts and, if needed, present appropriate substantiation.

·        Each assignment will be collected at the beginning of class on the due date unless otherwise stated in class or on the assignments.

·        Two late INDIVIDUAL assignments will be allowed, but no submission will be accepted after the graded work is returned to the class.

·        Assignments considered late will be reduced by 20% for each 24 hours delay.

·        Some assignments will be individual work and others will be group work.  You may discuss the principles required to complete assignments with your classmates on individual assignments only.  However, you are expected to hand in (for grading) your own write-up of the solutions.  Copying or rephrasing of someone else’s written work is unacceptable.  On individual or group assignment, specific assignment questions should be directed to the instructor.

2.      If you miss a class, ask your group partner / friend to pick up your copy of the handout and other announcements.  The instructor does not keep extra copies of the handouts.

3.      Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states "the student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards." In addition, the Construction Management Program adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades, and in the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades, which are included in Spartan Life; Student Handbook and Resource Guide. Students who plagiarize will receive no credit on assignments.

4.      Religious Observance: If you wish to be absent from class to observe a religious holiday, make arrangements in advance with the instructor.

5.      Dropping this Course: The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (2/5/16). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (3/3/16). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have dropped this course.

6.      Missing Class to Participate in a Required Activity: To be excused from this class to participate in a required activity for another course or a university-sanctioned event, you must provide the instructor with adequate advanced notice and a written authorization from the faculty member of the other course or from a university administrator.

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