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Brooks, T, Bruen, J and Curran, M (2020) The Value of ‘Non-Value Adding’ Activity. In: Scott, L and Neilson, C J (Eds.), Proceedings 36th Annual ARCOM Conference, 7-8 September 2020, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 14-23.

  • Type: Conference Proceedings
  • Keywords: Lean Construction, Mental health, Productivity, Resilience.
  • ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-9955463-3-2
  • URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/1ac9505dbc95ed90a6e3bba18ed07cda.pdf
  • Abstract:

    Lean Construction seeks to make construction more efficient through the elimination of so called ‘non-value adding’ activity.  Some proponents of lean construction advocate tracking of workers’ movement to identify and eliminate all ‘wasteful’ activity and increase site efficiency. With the advent of industry 4.0 the potential for worker observation and tracking will increase. The act of labelling activity and time as ‘non-value adding’ is a value judgement which to date has been largely unexamined. Green (Proceedings IGLC., Vol. 7 (1999)) challenged the concept of lean construction and examined the human cost of lean production but did not specifically focus on non-value adding activity. This study aims to start to fill this gap in knowledge through a review of the literature and analysis of three long, unstructured interviews - extended conversations - with construction site managers to explore the activity that has been described as ‘non-value adding’. The findings indicate that the respondents would like to be able to work more efficiently, particularly if this would shorten their working day. However, during 'non-value adding' time (for instance driving to and from site, taking breaks, walking around site to pick up material) the interviewees plan upcoming tasks and evaluate completed work. In addition, 'non-value adding' time allows for team building and friendship formation which helps to build mental resilience, which is of genuine value when we consider the mental health crisis amongst construction workers. There is clearly room for improvement in site efficiency of construction workers, however the impact on those workers of efficiency measures should be clearly understood before being imposed to avoid unforeseen adverse consequences.  This paper contends that ‘non value adding’ activity is not without value, and that a more appropriate term should be found.