Implementing lean construction techniques and management methods in Chinese projects: A case study in Suzhou, China

Weiqi Xing, Jian Li Hao*, Liang Qian, Vivian W.Y. Tam, Karol Slawomir Sikora

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Aimed at maximizing project value while reducing waste and cost, the lean construction (LC) approach was formally and successfully introduced to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry in 1993. Although LC has rapidly developed since that time, it was not applied to a Chinese construction project until 2005. However, due to insufficient knowledge and poor execution, this first attempt at lean construction in China was inadequate. The aim of this study was therefore to discover if the Chinese construction industry has since discovered how to use lean practices to maximize project value, shorten the project schedule, improve project quality, and reduce waste. This was achieved by conducting a case study of a LC project in Suzhou, China. The case study revealed that implementation of lean practices during the project, including Last Planner System (LPS), Kanban system, Just-In-Time (JIT), prefabrication, Internet of Things (IoT), quality and safety management, and continuous improvement, all contributed to the improvement of project performance. To supplement the case study and to provide insights on the differences between Chinese and international LC, interviews with project stakeholders and a questionnaire survey of global lean experts were conducted. Results indicated that interviewees and survey respondents both held the view that project waiting times and defects can be greatly reduced through the implementation of LC, and that improvement of construction workflow along with project productivity and quality were the two most valuable benefits of using lean practices; there was also a consensus that lack of trust and the abilities of stakeholders are the biggest challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124944
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Case study
  • Kanban system
  • Last planner system
  • Lean construction management


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