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Lost in transition: the transfer of lean manufacturing to construction

Bo Jørgensen (ConProC, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Stephen Emmitt (Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 4 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to explore the transfer of lean manufacturing/production from the Japanese manufacturing industry to the construction sector in the west.


Research literature from the fields of lean manufacturing/production and lean construction was reviewed. This revealed a number of characteristics that are specific to lean construction, most notably the recognition that critical research findings have been slow to emerge but appear to be gaining momentum.


In the transition from manufacturing to construction the process losses appear to be related to critical aspects and the challenges surrounding practical application to a different context. Lean is highly interpretive and there is no shared definition or understanding of what is meant by lean, lean production, and lean construction. The focus has been mainly on production system design, planning and management, and implementation. This narrow focus has meant that some important issues concerning the wider aspects of lean have been overlooked. There is a need for a “back to basics” discussion on many other aspects of the approach, such as whole‐life value and waste identification.

Research limitations/implications

The work is limited to an extensive literature review.


The extensive literature review makes an original contribution to the lean construction field and provides a valuable resource for researchers.



Jørgensen, B. and Emmitt, S. (2008), "Lost in transition: the transfer of lean manufacturing to construction", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 383-398.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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