Construction Defects can be crippling, and what makes it worse is how avoidable they are. This Waste is closely linked to Talent, because the key to catching them early is empowering your workers to monitor and speak up.

If the inspector finds a Defect, it’s costly to fix. If the customer finds it after the job is completed, it can be devastating both to cash flow and, more importantly, reputation. Train your foreman and all workers to be vigilant. Have them take the extra 20 minutes at the end of a task to inspect their work before moving on.

Catch it Early:

Construction Defects could be anywhere from annoying to catastrophic, and the difference often hinges on how early you catch it. A flaw in the foundation that only manifests after completion is far costlier than noticing it during the pour.

You can’t do it all yourself. Train every worker with basic leadership skills so they feel empowered to look for and report any possible defects.

Don’t create an atmosphere of fear. If a worker thinks they’ll take the blame and the penalty for something, they’re less likely to report it. Even if it is their fault, it saves money to have them tell you about it, knowing that you’ll be constructive in helping them to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Check your Materials:

ConstructionHopefully you’re already inspecting all materials as they’re delivered. If they’re new, the process is simple: don’t accept faulty materials. If the lumber is warped or the insulation is damaged, you don’t accept it.

Wastes blur together. If you over-produced one job, and need to flip those materials to the next, you no longer have any recourse for materials that have been shipped, tossed, exposed, and otherwise pummelled. The Defects may be visible or hidden.

Using defective materials is never worth it. Defects will always manifest themselves, whether in an hour or a month, and you’ll be working backwards to fix it. Dump the defective materials, and accept the loss as a hard lesson for avoiding Overproduction next time.

Remove Variation:

Lean tactics often overlap several Wastes. Standardization is key in avoiding Over-processing, but it’s just as useful for tackling Defects. Construction can often feel like herding cats, so a shift to Leaner thinking from all parties needs to be a prerequisite.

There may be several “right” ways to do something, but there’s only one “best” way. The best way is achieved through balancing efficiency (to avoid Over-processing and Time Wastes) with quality (to avoid Defects).

Identify the best way and document it. Train the your workers on it and standardize those practices on your worksite to create predictable results every time.

Lean Thinking:

Lean construction is about putting the value of the project above the needs of the individual stakeholders. It seeks to replace the feudal system of each contractor, looking out for themselves, with a more decentralized model of authority, where each partner takes their commitment to the overall value seriously.

Ultimately, standardizing processes to reduce Defects requires this shift in thinking. If the project managers empower all stakeholders to feel engaged in creating the overall value of the project, so it assumes more meaning than the average work day, they will start to be eyes on the ground, actively watching for Defects to emerge.