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A review of global lean construction during the past two decades: analysis and visualization

Long Li (Department of Construction Management, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Zhongfu Li (Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Xiaodan Li (Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Guangdong Wu (Chongqing University, Chongqing, China)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 2 April 2019

Issue publication date: 10 July 2019



The purpose of this paper is to provide comprehensive analysis and understanding of lean construction (LC) and to help researchers to find new gaps and research opportunities and develop potential collaboration chances.


The bibliographic data were obtained in peer-reviewed journals. The science mapping analysis and social network analysis (SNA) were used to conduct the analysis and visualization. Science mapping was performed to identify the research topics, evolution and the relationships between these topics. Also, the most influential LC-related articles in each topic were identified based on the concept of H-classics. SNA was also used to explore the collaboration status of authors and to identify the core authors in the LC field.


The results showed that topics in the LC field are consistently and continuously changing, which also reveals the fact that the lean concept system has evolved over time to a certain extent. The topics that could form the knowledge base of the LC research field in the future are related to two thematic areas: supply chain management (SCM) and planning and scheduling. SCM focuses on developing a system where supplier and client work together in coordination to deliver materials, works, equipment and labor and other resources. Moreover, prefabrication is a new hot topic, while BIM is a well-developed and isolated topic in the last five years. This result indicates that more studies need to be conducted in the future, to promote the integration of BIM and lean practices in the construction phase, as well as to explore the value of BIM in the reduction or elimination of waste and lean project delivery. As for global collaborations, LC research has been widely pursued throughout the world. The USA and the UK play the most dominant role in the international collaboration network.

Research limitations/implications

Since the analysis of data takes some time, the specific results of this paper are limited to articles published in peer-reviewed journals, which leads to a certain degree of research lag.

Practical implications

This paper provides insights (such as major journals, institutions, key scholars, the evolution of topics, highly indexed articles and the new LC trends in the last five years) for researchers in the LC field.


This paper gives a general review of the above-mentioned literature, including the number of LC-related articles published in each year, as well as the major journals and main contributors to the field of LC.



Conflicts of interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71371041 and 71561009 and 71310165), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M590605 and 2017T100477), Postdoctoral Science Foundation of Jiangxi Province (2016KY27), Social Science Planning Foundation of Jiangxi Province (16GL32), and Natural Science Foundation of Jiangxi Province (S2017QNJJB0493).


Li, L., Li, Z., Li, X. and Wu, G. (2019), "A review of global lean construction during the past two decades: analysis and visualization", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 1192-1216.



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