For the past few months we've been focusing on planning - but sooner or later you're going to have to build something in order to earn that income you're planning for. With that in mind, I'm going to talk this month about what you can do to make your entire operation - particularly your construction activities - run more efficiently and profitably. Companies like General Electric and Toyota follow a set of principles known as "lean manufacturing," or just "lean." You could earn a Ph.D. in lean manufacturing methods, but what you need to know to run a lean construction company is nowhere near that complicated. Lean is about doing more with less: fewer resources, lower direct costs, less overhead, and - especially - less waste.

Broadly speaking, "value" is what consumers are willing to pay for the goods and services offered to them. In "lean" thinking you should consider value from the viewpoint of your customers first because customers are what keep your doors open. But value can also be measured from the standpoint of the business itself....

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