The downside of VDC

Builders need an integrated Lean Construction-VDC model to avoid inadvertently introducing new inefficiencies

Virtual design and construction processes can help tech-oriented builders head off challenges, but a 2015 paper presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction notes that if owners don’t have a plan for implementing VDC, they can introduce inefficiencies that hurt more than help.

Related: Art and data science—How builders make technology work for them

The study analyzed 29 research papers on VDC to look for examples of waste. It identified eight broad categories for waste in VDC processes, and found that the five most common sources accounted for 80% of the references in the studies.

The eight categories of waste include:

  • Non-value-adding processing. VDC software is a powerful tool, but choosing the right product for your firm is important. Unnecessary features or functionality increase the price, and running redundant or inappropriate reports wastes time and can lead to miscommunication.
  • Excess motion. When users spend a lot of time on repetitive processes, it hurts productivity.
  • Excess inventory. Unnecessary or redundant documentation, or multiple sources of documentation, can lead to backlogs, which hinder productivity and can increase capital expenditures.
  • Waiting. When analysts, decision makers or crews have to wait for a downstream task to be completed or delivered, it extends the project timeline, increasing costs and lowering customer satisfaction.
  • Overproduction. Delivering more than what is required, whether through duplicated processes or extra features, increases costs across the board.
  • Unused employee knowledge. Despite the benefits of technology, human capital is still a valuable tool. Showing workers that their ideas and contributions are appreciated and important to the success of the firm is critical to preventing turnover and recognizing new opportunities or threats.
  • User experience. Poorly designed interfaces that make it difficult to find information or move it between applications lead to higher operational costs.
  • Defects. Construction defects lead to rework, increased costs and poor customer satisfaction.

The authors suggested that incorporating Lean Construction methods into VDC processes can help business owners reduce waste in their processes.

“VDC practitioners may benefit from careful attention to their VDC management processes to reduce waste, such as those that are implicit in the implementation of VDC methodology,” the authors wrote. “Only when Lean principles, systems and tools are applied through every single phase of VDC practice [can] the AEC industry … take better advantage of both methodologies.”

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