Efficient planning and scheduling are essential to a project’s success. There are many different ways to plan a project, some of which are more effective than others. The construction pull planning method has been growing in popularity due to its ability to reduce any downtime and increase collaboration.
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What is construction pull planning?
Pull planning is a collaborative approach to project scheduling, that takes a reverse approach to sequencing. This involves gathering team members to identify and isolate key project milestones. From there, the team works backward to add all details and requirements. Think of it as reverse-engineering the project.
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What does “pull” mean?
Pull scheduling that is focused on the end goal and identifies each predecessor activity in the proper sequence of events. This helps to identify any trade or activity handoffs from the back end; allowing everyone on the project to know when and what needs to be done to keep the project rolling. The only way this works is because all team members understand every detail the project milestone or phase requires, resulting in a more fluid construction schedule.
On the other hand, most traditional scheduling methods, such as the critical path method(CPM), are “push” focused. Meaning, the schedule is based on the work being ordered to advance the project. Push approaches fail to take into account whether the process is ready for the next phase of work activities. So when one activity is scheduled to begin, the project manager or GC will send materials and resources to start the next activity, even if the project isn’t quite ready for it yet. Leading to delays and waste.
What does a pull planning session look like?
A pull planning session starts with defining the phases or milestones of the project and the desired dates of completion. These milestones are then represented as a timeline on a whiteboard. Now comes the collaboration portion. The project manager or general contractor will gather a representative from each crew on the project. They’ll collaborate by using sticky notes to identify what they need in relation to each other, to complete the milestone. These sticky notes represent the task that needs to be completed, and what needs to be completed beforehand.
The process starts at the completion date, and the network of activities are then developed backward until reaching the start date. Once this is achieved, time for performance will be added to each of these tasks with no float time or contingencies factored in. Then the overall project will be evaluated to be sure that all activities are logically related and put into a sequence that makes sense. Also, float time and contingencies are then added to the most “high-risk” or uncertain work activities.
Advantages to pull scheduling
First and foremost, the biggest advantage is the increased communication among all the project stakeholders. The entire team is forced to talk to each other. Communication is severely lacking in the construction industry, so this helps to get everyone talking from day 1.
By including everyone in the initial planning process, they can coordinate and communicate how to best accomplish the desired end goal. This can foster a team mentality and accountability by identifying how each task contributes to the overall project. Which, in turn, can also reduce the costs associated with change orders and reworks caused by mistakes or miscommunications.
Another advantage of pull scheduling is the resulting efficiency and reduced waste. By collaborating with all the specialty trades and close-out subs, risks can be minimized and potential obstacles are identified and avoided early. This reduces any extended lead times and work redundancies, allowing crews to start and finish their work as scheduled. The schedule can quickly identify what portions of the work should be done and when. This eliminates loss in productivity due to crew disruption, wasted time, or trade stacking.
The goal of pull planning, and lean construction in general, is to reduce waste while also streamlining work. What’s more, when lean construction processes are used, claims and payment disputes take place less frequently.
Every construction business would benefit from a world with fewer defects, delays, or disputes, and this construction payment utopia isn’t as far out of reach as some industry members might think. But pull planning will only be successful with a high level of collaboration and coordination from the jump, and buy-in can be hard to come by with some industry members.