Building a Lean Future | PCL

Building a Lean Future

Top athletes follow specific diet and exercise regimes to create the lean and efficient physiques necessary to excel in their sports. The same principle applies to Lean construction. Lean is a term used to describe an approach to providing value for the customer by achieving maximum productivity with minimal wasted effort and expense. Lean provides a solution that works with all three groups in the construction process—owner, general contractor, and worker—because it is founded on collaboration, communication, and mutual respect.

PCL superintendent Jimmy Ramirez scheduling
work on the San Diego Community College project
using the Pull Planning method.

The San Diego Community College project under


The principles of Lean were originally developed by Toyota to streamline automotive manufacturing techniques and have been adopted by PCL for construction management applications. The Last Planner® System (LPS), also known as Pull Planning, is one of the key processes used in Lean construction. It is a planning method that essentially identifies the completion date and works backwards to schedule and sequence a project. It emphasizes collaboration, facilitates reliable workflow, creates accountability, identifies constraints, produces a real time/accurate schedule, and measures success on construction jobs.
Jimmy Ramirez, PCL superintendent, first used Pull Planning during the construction of the San Diego City College Arts and Humanities project and attributes much of the success of the project to Pull Planning. He found it increased the accuracy of information, was efficient in issue resolution, and held subcontractors accountable.
“What I find most beneficial about using the Last Planner® is the collaboration and teamwork that the system fosters,” said Ramirez. “It creates a very translucent and integrated process for problem solving, with the main goal to get the job completed.”


PCL has found that challenges related to schedule, quality, or budget can easily be avoided by following the five overriding principles of Lean construction.
  1. Specify Value by finding out what is most important to the client.
  2. Identify the Value Stream, which includes all the activities that are required to deliver a completed project.
  3. Create Flow on a project by moving a product or service through a series of process steps without stopping.
  4. Pull from the Client by understanding what they want and creating a process to deliver it to them. Pull is a scheduling method that reduces process lead times.
  5. Continuous Improvement occurs when flow and pull come together and the process moves towards completion while limiting waste.
“By eliminating the waste in the construction process, jobs flow smoother with fewer issues, which creates a more satisfied client,” said Terry Brickman, PCL’s national director of Quality Management.
Just like top athletes trying to create a lean and efficient physique, PCL is using lean construction to create a leaner, higher-performing future.

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