Speaker 1: Prof. Low Sui Pheng

Prof Low Sui Pheng • National University of Singapore

Title: Adopting Lean Principles in Facilities Design and Management

This presentation introduces lean principles in facilities design and management with a view to reducing wastes and improving productivity. Facilities design and management entails assets management, space management and service quality which provide many strategic opportunities for implementing lean principles. In so doing, the eight types of wastes can be identified for elimination. These DOWNTIME wastes include: Defects and reworks, Overproduction, Waiting time, Non-utilized resources, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra processing. DOWNTIME wastes surfaced for many reasons, including lack of coordination among team members, poor quality control and improper planning. To circumvent these wastes, the strategic adoption of lean principles offers a methodological approach to streamlining systems and processes to remove unnecessary wastes that do not add value to a project; thereby achieving greater efficiency and quality in a shorter time period.

The lean principles have their origins in the Toyota Way Model which has the following four levels: (1) Philosophy for long term thinking, (2) Processes to eliminate wastes, (3) People and partners who must be respected, challenged and nurtured, and (4) Problem-solving that strives for continuous improvement (or kaizen) and learning.

The five lean principles, anchored on value stream mapping, are to: (1) Identify value, (2) Re-engineer the process, (3) Create continuous flow, (4) Implement pull production, and (5) Strive for perfection. In turn, there are a numbers of tools that may be adopted to support lean implementation with a view to achieving customer focus by eliminating wastes, simplifying processes and creating clear workflow. Some examples of lean tools include standardized work, visual management and just-in-time practices.

The adoption of lean principles can lead to numerous benefits. These benefits include reducing the share of non-value adding activities (or wastes); increasing output value through systematic consideration of customer requirements; reducing variability; reducing cycle time; simplifying and minimizing the number of steps, parts and linkages; increasing output flexibility; increasing process transparency; focusing control on the complete process; building continuous improvement into the process; balancing flow improvement with conversion improvement; and benchmarking to identify opportunities for further enhancement.

Conceptually, lean principles can be implemented at all phases of a project life cycle. Nevertheless, during implementation, most stakeholders are likely to adopt the traditional “Design follows functions” approach. With foresight and planning, this should now evolve to the new “Design follows Lean Production Principles (LPP)-driven functions” to better leverage on lean benefits downstream when the facilities are occupied and used. To adopt this new approach, it is necessary for all stakeholders to have a clear understanding of what the building users have in mind when the facilities are occupied. Hence, it is critical to have a better understanding of what “functions” means to the building users. The FM professional should study what LPP-driven functions are likely to be put in place by the building users at the post-construction or asset management stage. By understanding what these future LPP-driven functions are, such considerations should then be surfaced upstream to be factored in at the pre-construction or facilities design stage. This is the crucial first step to adopting lean principles in facilities design and management to avoid abortive work later when the completed building is occupied.

Case studies from ramp-up factories suggest that design features can incorporate lean principles in varying degree by using column-less designs; clear floor to ceiling height; rectangular bays; movable partitions; wide frontal area; mezzanine floor system; varying unit size; evenly distributed lighting; white or light colour surface; private parking spaces; private loading and unloading bays; clearly defined car park entrance; wide vehicular ramp; wide driveway; multiple loading and unloading bays; sheltered loading and unloading bays; adequate floor level height at loading and unloading bays; and surface car parking facilities.

Experiences from healthcare facilities such as hospitals have also suggested the positive benefits from implementing lean principles into the design process for new healthcare facilities at the earliest possible stage. From the patient perspective, anything that helps with patient treatment is considered as valueadding. To create value, the services should be provided in line with demand, with no waiting and no queuing. Patient flow from one stage of treatment to another should also be ensured without delay. The value stream should also ensure that the patient journey adds value for the patient through a seamless link between all stages. Lastly, there should also be clear and standardized
processes within the healthcare facilities to create the basis for continuous improvement.

As more processes in healthcare facilities are automated and adopt robotics, the adoption of lean principles is also about being able to do more with less; such as improving customer service or patient care with existing resources. The healthcare provider must conceptualize clinical procedures as processes that create value for the users: namely patients, healthcare professionals and other healthcare providers.

In the context of healthcare facilities, the lean design process to delivering the “Design follows LPP-driven functions” approach entails the following five stages: (1) Define needs and map stakeholder requirements; (2) Develop an operational model to understand demand; (3) Design the main flows where just three turns will get you to where you need to do; (4) Create the services by developing the service processes; and (5) Produce the design with a corresponding understanding facilitated through the build process. Achieving the above objectives requires inputs from the project team, client team and end users from different backgrounds and disciplines. Ultimately, it is the doctors, nurses, managers, FM professionals and other staff members that ensure all users provide inputs into the design to create optimum patient flow.

This means that considerations for lean principles cannot be left until the building is completed. These have to be identified for inclusion right at the start in the facilities design phase for lean flows and operations to take place seamlessly in the facilities management phase through LPP-driven functions.

For productivity to be planned into the completed facilities downstream, the design and FM professionals must now move away from the traditional “Design follows Functions” approach to embrace the more strategic “Design follows LPP-driven Functions” approach upstream.

FM, sharing economy, Australia, regenerative design, resource efficiency

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