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AMHIGLEY BUILDERS BLOG: Mastering Construction Timelines - Effective Scheduling Strategies

Welcome to the AMHIGLEY BUILDERS BLOG, where our experts share their insights and technical expertise on the construction industry.

This month, Grace Sauline Rockwell highlights the principles of pull scheduling and lean construction, exploring how these methodologies can transform your project timelines, improve resource management, and ultimately lead to more successful project outcomes. Grace is a leader of the LCI Northern Ohio CoP, a great resource, both nationally and locally, to learn more about Lean Construction.

    Grace Sauline Rockwell |Corporate Manager of Project Controls | 11 Years at AMHigley


In the fast-paced and highly competitive world of construction, efficient project management is paramount. One of the most critical aspects of project management is scheduling, which can make or break a project's success. Pull planning and lean construction offer an approach that not only enhances efficiency but also fosters collaboration and reduces waste.

All scheduling efforts aim to develop a reliable plan, to identify and complete critical work on time, and to ensure that owner milestones are met. When potential changes arise, scheduling also plays a critical role in capturing the impact of the change on the project, so that the owner can determine how to proceed, knowing how it will impact their project completion dates.

Pull Planning refers to the method of developing a construction schedule by working backwards from a milestone, “pulling” the required handoffs for each activity into the plan to identify when the work is actually required to not delay progress or interrupt flow. This differs from CPM (critical path method), the traditional scheduling system utilized in construction, which schedules work to occur as soon as possible, once all predecessors are completed.

Lean Construction aims to maximize the value to the customer by eliminating waste in construction. Lean originated from Lean Manufacturing (The Toyota Way), and as the benefit was realized, other industries, such as construction, developed their own tools and methodologies to bring the same benefit to their own projects and systems.

The intention of Pull Planning, in fact the intention of all Lean Construction tools, is to eliminate waste. Some of the wastes that Pull Planning attempts to mitigate are Overproduction, Excess Inventory, and Defects (Rework).

Pull Planning is one of the phases of the Last Planner System. The Last Planner system (LPS) is the Lean scheduling methodology that has the “last planners” (the foremen from our trade partners who plan and assign the work on site) develop and maintain the construction schedule. There are 5 levels of Last Planner System scheduling, which align with PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) methodology:

  • Master Schedule: Establish interim project milestones - the only phase completed by the CM/GC without trade partner involvement.
  • Phase Plan / Pull Plan: Develop a pull plan for the upcoming phase of work with the last planners.
  • Look Ahead Plan: Review the activities that are 6 weeks out to identify and address any constraints before they impact the work onsite.
  • Weekly Work Plan: Foreman schedule the work they have planned for the upcoming week and coordinating amongst the project team to optimize flow.
  • Learning: Discuss which activities occurred per plan and which did not, and identify the reasons for variance of the activities that did not proceed per plan; use these learning to mitigate persistent issues and develop more reliable plans in future weeks.

When Last Planner System has full project team buy-in, it can be a very effective way to optimize flow by creating and executing reliable plans. You minimize situations where you have workers waiting for work, or work waiting for workers.  When some parties are not able or willing to actively participate or make reliable commitments, this can degrade the value of Last Planner System and frustrate those who are participating.

 Last Planner System can bring significant value throughout the Preconstruction and Construction process. Construction Managers typically manage the effort once construction planning begins.  

Many Owners contractually require a CPM (critical path method) schedule to be developed and maintained on their project. When we identify that there is significant value to be added by the collaborative planning and coordination that LPS facilitates, Construction Managers can and should fully utilize LPS on a project with trade partners while simultaneously maintaining a CPM schedule. The most value can be realized when LPS is a contractual requirement from the owner, because then all parties are bought-in to the process, including the owner and design team.

Embracing pull planning and lean construction methodologies can revolutionize the way projects are managed in the AEC industry. By prioritizing efficiency, collaboration, and waste reduction, these approaches not only streamline construction timelines but also enhance overall project quality and stakeholder satisfaction. Implementing pull planning ensures that every step in the process is driven by real-time demand, fostering a more reliable workflow. Meanwhile, the principles of lean construction help in identifying and eliminating waste, leading to cost savings and improved project outcomes.