The Highways Agency has joined forces with industry partners and three UK universities to research, develop and implement the leaner construction and maintenance of highways in the UK.
With initial funding of £150,000 from the HA, the recently signed research agreement will see the University of Salford join forces with Costain, the Lean Construction Institute UK and academic partners, Cardiff University and Nottingham Trent University to develop ‘lean construction’ – the application of lean thinking to the design and construction process, which is designed to create improved project delivery to meet client needs and improved efficiency for constructors.
The partnership will be led by Prof Carl Abbott from the University of Salford and marks the culmination of a long relationship between the SCRI and the Highways Agency, led by Professor Lauri Koskela from the University of Salford. Speaking about the new framework, Prof Koskela said: “We are pleased and excited by the commitment on the part of the industrial partners to engage with research on lean construction. Considerable benefits for all collaborating parties are anticipated. It is noteworthy that we are launching a new, collaborative style of working between the parties; similar to what is already applied on advanced construction projects. In so doing we walk our lean talk.”
A series of five initial projects are planned as part of the work, including scanning the horizon for international developments in lean construction, as well as pilot study to investigate the effective use of lean ways of working within SMEs and the wider supply chain. There will also be a project on road construction visual controls to ensure site workers have ready answers to their queries without needing to stop work for enquiries – a fundamental component for maximising cost effectiveness and quality working.
Derek Drysdale, divisional director for lean improvement at the Highways Agency, said: “The Highways Agency are committed to deploying lean across our business including our £3bn supply chain. Although the philosophy and methodology of lean construction is well understood it is vitally important that we continuously improve our thinking. The Agency are also committed to supporting the Government’s Construction 2025 strategy and Lean thinking supports all aspects of the Strategy. The Research Partnership which includes industry, the Lean Construction Institute – UK and academia and is a key milestone in further developing Lean in all its forms and we will of course disseminate the findings as widely as possible across the whole of the construction sector.”
The agreement will also see a number of students from the three academic partners work alongside the Highways Agency, Costain and supply chain SMEs, under a new internship scheme.