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Sat 10 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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The future in the landscaping industry: Lean management and sustainable development

Patrick Edelmann, president of Edelweis, on how to apply lean management.

Landscaping emphasises and complements the grandeur of a building or green space. When well planned, designed and executed, landscaping translates into a long term value added investment.

A successful landscaping project is harmoniously balanced with the surrounding elements, increasing in value and improving over time. It sets the tone and helps creates that all-important first impression.

Sustainable development

The principle of landscaping itself is to benefit the environment. The utilisation of plants helps decrease pollution and dust and enhances the quality of life of its users by creating a visually stimulating and pleasant environment.

Landscape design may address environmental concerns by integrating sustainable development at different stages, resulting in a cost-effective solution for both client and builder.

Sustainable development affects the environment, the use of human resources, and feasible economic savings.

Initial planning stages in landscaping present numerous opportunities to integrate sustainable development: evaluation and utilisation of existing elements; choice of materials according to transportation and environmental transformation impact; plant selection according to climate and available water resources; incorporating foundation and building elements creating landscape protection in rare yet powerful weather systems; planning for the long-term evolution of a landscape design.

Tight coordination among the various parties involved is fundamental to prevent waste of time and money during the construction stage. The utilisation of techniques such as work method optimisation and equipment use help achieve sustainable development objectives.

Landscaping is a constantly evolving market. Keeping up to date with recent technological and equipment innovations provides the builder with the proper tools required to improve on delays, costs, environmental impact, and to evaluate the investment return on equipment costs.

Lean management

These strained economic times require budgetary tightening in all fields, hence the importance of applying cost-effective solutions without sacrificing final product quality.

The lean management (kaizen) concept is an organised method improvement assessment, application, and follow-up program within a company aimed at continual improvement.

‘'Lean'' is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. In simple terms: More value with less work.

"Kaizen'' is a daily activity. Its goal goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process which, when done correctly, humanises the workplace, eliminates strenuous work and teaches people how to perform experiments at work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business.

People at all levels of an organisation can participate in Kaizen, from the CEO down, as well as external stakeholders when applicable. The Kaizen principle can be applied as a suggestion system, to individuals, and small or large groups.

A well integrated lean management structure can easily improve the bottom line from 15% to 25%, increasing productivity while improving employee work conditions and adhering to sustainable development practices.

In conclusion, landscaping, often considered secondary to building construction, is gaining in importance and popularity in building projects because it addresses current issues such as the environment, quality of life, and cost-return on investment.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email rob.wagner@itp.com

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