Application of Lean Principles to Reduce BIM Implementation Costs

It is well known that today’s construction industry is undergoing a major technological advancement with Building Information Modelling (BIM), a transformative technology with associated processes that have shifted how construction projects are conceived, executed, and managed. The benefits of BIM have become increasingly obvious; many have already adopted it, and more are trying to do so. This recognition has extended to the point where some governments have mandated BIM for their public sector projects and building approval processes. However, a critical challenge hindering the effective adoption of BIM is the issue of associated costs, especially when implementing BIM in a less developed economy like Sri Lanka.

One of the promising scientific approaches to cost optimization is the Lean concept. Lean Principles are known for their ability to enhance operational efficiency, improve the quality of products and processes, and reduce waste. All of these factors can contribute to optimizing costs, or in better terms: to optimizing value. Costs cannot be considered independently but need to be evaluated based on the benefits they can deliver. However, not all benefits would necessarily align with the user’s needs. For example, BIM can support realistic visualization of the proposed building. If the client does not require regular visualization of that nature, spending a significant amount of money on a high-end computer system and rendering software is a waste. When the system is designed and set up based on the technology, incurring such unnecessary costs is possible. The concern is further emphasized by the fact that BIM means different things to different users, and their BIM expectations could vary.

Therefore, the value-driven approach of Lean Principles is likely to bring value to BIM adoption in a BIM Infant Industry like Sri Lanka. As a result, it became interesting to identify the potential application of Lean Principles to the cost centres of BIM implementation to efficiently implement BIM in the Sri Lankan construction industry. A study was conducted to uncover opportunities for addressing the major barrier of costs associated with BIM implementation by applying suitable Lean Principles, thus enhancing overall value.

Through a literature review, several cost centres associated with BIM implementation were first identified. The application of Lean Principles to address these issues was determined through a qualitative study involving data collection from experts and content analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten experts who possessed expertise in both Lean and BIM. Since there was a limited number of local experts in Sri Lanka, overseas experts with prior experience in the Sri Lankan context were also included.

From the study findings, it can now be concluded that the application of Lean Principles can significantly reduce the costs associated with BIM implementation in the Sri Lankan construction industry. The study identifies several Lean Principles that can be applied to BIM implementation, including value stream mapping, 5S, visual management, and continuous improvement. The study also identifies specific cost centres associated with BIM implementation and offers recommendations for reducing costs in each of these areas. Ultimately, the study suggests that the application of lean principles can lead to more efficient and effective BIM implementation.

This is a synopsis of an article we published in the Benchmarking journal in 2023. The article is titled “Can lean principles assist in reducing BIM implementation costs? A contemporary application of lean principles to the Sri Lankan construction industry.” While many other studies have focused on using BIM to achieve Lean in construction projects, our study differs by examining how to apply Lean principles to achieve value in BIM implementation, making an original contribution to knowledge.

Citation to the original article

Weerasinghe, L.N., Rathnasinghe, A.P., Jayasena, H.S., Thurairajah, N. and Thayaparan, M. (2023), “Can lean principles assist to reduce BIM implementation costs? A contemporary application of lean principles to the Sri Lankan construction industry“, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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