Three Tips for a Successful Pull Planning
Conducting either a Pull or Phase Planning session with stakeholders is critical to a successful construction project.
Phase Planning Sessions are typically used before a construction project begins, or a major portion of a project kicks off, to successfully navigate possible complexities in the construction process. A Phase planning session creates activities in a schedule with 8 - 25 day durations.
Pull Planning Sessions are used during the construction project to assess durations, relationships, and to navigate which subcontractor might have difficulties during the construction process. A Pull Planning session creates activities in a schedule with 1 - 7 day durations.
In this blog I will refer to both as PPS as they typically share the same techniques to have a successfully session.
A PPS session is often referred to as Last Planner® System which was developed by the Lean Construction Institute (LCI). LCI’s definition of the Last Planner® System is defined by “The collaborative, commitment-based planning system that integrates should-can-will-did planning: pull planning, make-ready look-ahead planning with constraint analysis, weekly work planning based upon reliable promises, and learning based upon analysis of percent plan complete and Reasons for Variance.” The Last Planner® System incorporates more than a PPS and for this blog we will focus on improving the PPS with a couple of tips.
The first tip to have a successful PPS is to schedule the PPS 2 to 3 weeks in advance with clear, defined goals or milestones being discussed. A 2 to 3-week written (email) and spoken (phone call) notice will allow the session to be staffed with both the Superintendent and Project Manager (PM) from each trade along with owner representation. The buy-in from both the PM and Superintendent is essential to a successful PPS. The Superintendent has the knowledge and the plan to construct their respective portion of the project, and the PM controls the purse and manpower. The 2 to 3-week notice will force both the Superintendent and PM to look at the plans, communicate between themselves, and to deduce a strategy before the PPS to accomplish their goals within their budget and schedule. If both the PM and Superintendent are in the same room, understanding the coordination of the project allows each of them a time to discuss the plan, manpower, supplies, materials, and budget for their respective portions of the project. This time will also allow the PM and Superintendents a time to discuss the complexities that may arise during the construction phase of the project between the various trades. If the PPS facilitator passes out the stickie notes for the PPS 2-3 weeks in advance with the expectations that the stickie notes will be completed before the session begins, this will allow for a much smoother and efficient PPS.
The second tip is to have a facilitator who comes to the PPS with an expectation of cooperation, collaboration, encouragement, and professionalism. The facilitator must understand that the group is smarter than any one person in the room and the facilitator will not be the expert. Expect the facilitator to ask a lot of questions such as:
- “Who will need access first?” or “Who is critical to this goal?”
- “What are the limitations or restrictions on this activity or goal?”
- “Why will this activity go before that activity?”
- “When can we allow the next trade to come into the area?”
- “How many man hours are planned for this activity?”
- “Are these durations excessive or weighted heavily on a certain task or procurement item?”
- “Can certain tasks be concurrent?” or “How can we make these activities concurrent?”
- “Where can we divide the layout of the building to allow activities to run concurrent to accomplish the goal faster?”
These along with other questions will allow for further discussion of the trades. The goal is not to have the trades discuss with the facilitator but with each other.
The third tip for a successful PPS is to have the Building Information Modeling (BIM) coordinator flying through the 3D model or BIM model on a large screen in the same room as the PPS. A great example of software for BIM modeling is VICO Office Suite. With Vico Office, building owners and general contractors can collaborate efficiently, manage costs, and optimize schedules on complex building projects. Vico Office is a 4D modeling tool that allows users to interact with the 3D model as the PPS is in progress.
Questions should come up during the PPS which will require the participants to fly through the model. Having the 3D model open and displayed allows participants a chance to see what is being discussed, question the validity of the model, and ensures all participants are engaged. Often the PPS is conducted with just a plan sets of drawings. We find not all participants come with the most current sets of revisions, which often bogs down the process, and creates confusion or in accurate durations. A 3D BIM model allows for a visual model where participates can ask for clarification to a specific portion of a project by sorting, hiding, modifying, or deleting scopes which will allow for more accurate what-if discussions.