Understanding lean construction certifications

Learn more about lean construction certifications, their benefits, and the options you have for becoming certified.

Understanding lean construction certifications

The term “lean construction certification” is typically used in reference to a program offered by The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Keep reading to learn more about this certification, how you can obtain it, and the benefits of doing so.

An overview of lean construction

Before we discuss lean construction certifications, let’s briefly explore lean construction itself.

Lean construction borrows several principles and concepts from manufacturing, including:

  • Pull planning: This is a collaborative construction project management process centered around transparency and efficiency. It involves a full team of construction management professionals working together to create a schedule (and meeting regularly to reevaluate that schedule and ensure it still meets the project’s requirements).
  • Continuous improvement: As part of the lean construction process, no project or activity is isolated. Rather, professionals strive to continuously improve their processes based on real-time feedback.
  • Ensuring a predictable workflow: Predictable workflows are efficient by virtue of removing the need for guesswork on construction projects. Everyone knows (or can easily figure out) what task comes next, reducing the likelihood of scheduling conflicts and errors.
  • Reducing waste: Lean construction is specifically designed to address a few common forms of waste, including under-utilizing resources, over-producing, errors, and excess inventory.
  • Customer-focused value creation: Construction management professionals practicing lean construction put significant emphasis on understanding how customers measure value and ensuring they deliver on that front.
  • Communication: Lean construction is a team effort. Professionals using this methodology value frequent communication regarding priorities and next steps for projects.

Benefits of lean construction

Next, let’s briefly discuss the benefits of lean construction, which will be useful for understanding why many people pursue lean construction certifications.

Improved adherence to schedules

Lean construction’s efficiency helps save time on construction projects, increasing the likelihood that work will be completed on schedule. This is seen as a key benefit of lean construction since delays are a significant cause of cost overruns on construction projects.

Improved stakeholder engagement and satisfaction

When utilized correctly, lean construction minimizes the amount of time spent on unnecessary tasks and promotes an overall sense of progress. This keeps stakeholders (everyone from project owners to subcontractors) engaged and more likely to perform satisfactorily.

Increased safety on job sites

Many efficient practices promoted by lean construction are also inherently safer. Keeping material and equipment in close proximity to where it will be used is a classic example. That decision is more efficient in that it saves time that would otherwise be spent moving assets further than necessary. It’s also safer in that it reduces the likelihood of accidents and injuries while moving equipment and materials.

Reduced labor costs

Lean construction is a valuable means of reducing labor costs because it aims to ensure workers are using their time in the most productive way possible by focusing on the correct tasks, in the right order.

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What is the lean construction certification?

The AGC’s lean construction certification program (also known as the CM-Lean Certification) is an assessment-based certification conveying expertise in lean construction principles and methodologies. To receive the certification, participants must complete seven educational units:

  1. Variation in Production Systems: This unit teaches students about the types of variation (including their different sources) on construction projects. It also covers the concept of throughput and variation mitigation.
  2. Pull in Production: As part of this unit, students learn how to evaluate batch-and-queue and continuous-flow systems. They also learn how to apply pull systems to construction.
  3. Lean Workstructuring: This unit introduces students to the Last Planner System (LPS). It teaches them the basics of lean workstructuring, including its desired outcomes (i.e. increasing workflow predictability).
  4. The Last Planner System: In this unit, students dive deeper into the Last Planner System and learn how to apply it to projects.
  5. Lean Supply Chain and Assembly: This unit explains how to navigate supply chain considerations (i.e. procurement) in a lean fashion by distinguishing between waste and value-add activities.
  6. Lean Design and Preconstruction: The sixth unit explores value-based project management and how the lean methodology impacts design and contracting.
  7. Problem-Solving Principles and Tools: This seven-hour course teaches students the lean approach to solving problems. Topics covered include building interpersonal relationships to avoid problems, conducting observation walks, and more effectively identifying the root causes of problems.

They must also apply to take (and successfully complete) an examination.

Note: The CM-Lean Construction certification is also offered elsewhere in North America (i.e. by the Lean Construction Institute in Canada). Pricing and procedures may vary depending on where the certification is offered.

CM-Lean Certification renewal requirements

The CM-Lean Certification remains valid for a period of three years. To renew the certification, professionals must complete and submit 30 hours of lean construction-related education and pay a $100 processing fee.

Professionals who fail to renew their certification in time enter a six month probationary period and must pay an additional $150 (on top of the usual processing fee) to renew. Professionals who let their certification lapse completely must retake the examination. If the certification curriculum has changed since the professional initially took it, they must redo the educational course materials as well.

Benefits of receiving the CM-Lean Certification

Improved career opportunities

As mentioned earlier, countless construction companies in North America use lean methodologies to unlock benefits such as:

  • higher-quality deliverables
  • reduced costs
  • improved scheduling
  • improved safety

Consequently, professionals meeting lean requirements for certification enjoy significant career opportunities.

Demonstrable knowledge with an in-demand skillset

The AGC’s lean construction certification program features a comprehensive curriculum. Consequently, professionals who complete (and subsequently maintain) the certification are understandably seen as possessing a valuable skillset.

The AGC is widely recognized as a national leader in construction certifications

The AGC has more than 27,000 member firms and provides industry-standard training on a variety of disciplines, including:

  • building information modeling
  • construction project management
  • construction safety

This arguably gives the AGC a leg up on other organizations offering lean construction certifications.

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Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is a writer and content strategist focused on the construction sector. He’s passionate about educating readers on construction management techniques and best practices.