Efficient Construction Planning with Last Planner
Kevin White and Simon Watson of Jones Engineering Group talk to Irish building magazine about introducing the Last Planner System, the benefits it has brought on the Group’s past projects and its early use on the New Children’s Hospital Project.
In Issue 3 of 2017, Irish building spoke to Lean Construction Institute Co-Founder and Last Planner System Co-Creator Glenn Ballard about the Last Planner System. Here we learn about the application of the tool from a specialist services contractor’s perspective. Jones Engineering Group have been heavily involved in Lean Construction Ireland and are using a variety of Lean tools, including the Last Planner System.
Kevin White describes his personal involvement and the Group’s involvement in Lean Construction Ireland (LCI), “I am a founding member of the LCI and Jones Engineering Group have supported it since its foundation, including running events and the website, and representing general contracting and trade elements in the LCI.”
Last Planner System (LPS) is a production planning and control system with subsystems. As described by Glenn Ballard in his Issue 3 interview, there are significant differences between LPS and traditional planning. In the traditional planning method, there is a distinction between planners and the people undertaking the work. Traditionally, planners would plan the work and the gangs and subcontractors would do the work. In LPS those undertaking the work plan the work they are going to do within the project targets set. LPS is also different in that commitments (reliable promises) are made between the supervisors, as opposed to them being asked to agree to a set time period. With LPS there is an emphasis on learning and avoiding mistakes through continuous improvement.
Kevin White is Division Manager and Simon Watson leads Team Development at Jones Engineering Group and they tell us about their use of LPS and Lean adoption. We ask Kevin White when Jones Engineering Group first became interested in Lean and LPS. He says, “Our interest first started in 2003 with the BRE (Building Research Establishment) and CLIP (Construction Lean Improvement Programme) and we first used LPS in 2008, initially based on in-house research.” CLIP was set up in 2003 to improve the financial performance of the UK Construction Industry and to provide better products and services to customers. TheCLIP programme operated under the control of the BRE and Constructing Excellence. CLIP has worked for companies throughout the construction supply chain, from main contractors to manufacturers and suppliers.
LPS was introduced at Jones Engineering by in-house researchers and the use of external consultants and experts. Initially, internally through in-house research in 2008 and supplemented with training from DPS in 2014 and Paul Ebbs, a Lean Consultant in association with Umstot Project and Facility Solutions from San Diego, who are LPS Consultants.
Speaking about the popularity of LPS in construction media and its future in the Irish Construction Industry, they say “Much has been written lately about the use of the ‘Last Planner System’ to assist with scheduling of construction projects. Based on the learnings of those who have been involved in its use, we will see this tool used more and more in our industry. ”They describe the system for readers: “ e main function of this system is to involve the experts, from each of the stakeholders on the project, in a planning process where they can actually make their own commitments and promises.” Jones have significant experience of using this tool and know its benefits in comparison to traditional planning.
Experiences of Traditional Planning and Introducing Last Planner
“Over the years, we have learned from experience that being handed a project schedule developed by someone else simply doesn’t work! When the team have some ‘skin in the game’ and have to make their own commitments on what can be done, they feel a deeper sense of responsibility to fulfill these promises,” they tell us. “It also means they have had to plan for the upcoming tasks themselves in advance and are more aware of what they need to have in place to succeed i.e.; material, access, and information. These are the three fundamental items that all of our teams are taught to review in advance of starting a task. If they are missing any one of these items for a specific task, they must move on to the next task, as they will be unable to complete this one.”
They speak from experience about the difficulties in traditional planning. “Starting a task when you know you are outstanding either material, access, or information is non-productive. If your field install teams are working this way you will findthere is a lot of wasted time leaving tasks unfinished, only to have to return when the missing piece of the puzzle has been received.”
Kevin and Simon describe their first encounter with LPS. “Our first experience of using the Last Planner System on a large project was a couple of years ago. A similar project had just been completed for this client…behind schedule, over budget, and with the team disheartened. When the next project was due to start with all of the same contractors in place, the client saw the need to take a different approach and so instigated the Last Planner System. e difference was astounding!” They add, “Introducing LPS was not the only change taken on board by Jones Engineering that made the difference on this project. ere were a number of other improvements introduced, these also helped significantly, but LPS was the catalyst that pulled all the contractors together to work as a unified single team.”
Since this project Jones Engineering have developed the experience of using this tool and are recognised in the industry for their expertise. “Since then, we have carried out LPS training for specific cross-functional project teams within Jones Engineering Group prior to them commencing projects where LPS is used.”
“One of the other key outcomes from using LPS on projects is the bonding of the entire project team,” Kevin and Simon state. “Having all these folks in the room together and going through the various stages of LPS from Milestone, Phase, Pull, Weekly and down to Daily Plans, is like walking through the whole project before works have even commenced. All the key players get to know each other and develop an understanding of each other’s work scope in a far more accelerated manner than on a project where traditional planning methods are used.”
“The main function of this system is to involve the experts, from each of the stakeholders on the project, in a planning process where they can actually make their own commitments and promises.”
Last Planner on the New Children’s Hospital Project
Jones Engineering Group are currently working on the New Children’s Hospital Project where LPS is due to be used throughout the project, and it has already had early application. Because of the scale of this project, recognised Lean experts with experience of introducing LPS to similar healthcare facilities around the globe have been sourced and will be in place to facilitate its adoption on the project.
Kevin and Simon tell us about the contractor’s early use of LPS on the project. “During the initial project phase where we are diverting existing services out of the footprint of the building, it was decided to introduce LPS and get everyone acclimatised before the main project scope starts. Working through the Phase planning process has already thrown up some fundamental changes to the way the tunnel structure could be built to allow earlier access for Mechanical & Electrical trades. Without LPS, it is unlikely all of the right people would have talked through the build sequence and identified this opportunity for earlier access.” LPS could be critical to the planning of work and this project could be a great case study for the use of LPS in Ireland. “ e stage is now set for LPS to be the catalyst that makes this hospital project a great success. Watch this space!”
As we can see from the metrics below, Last Planner allows you to actively pursue constraints whilst allowing you to manage your activities 6 weeks in advance of becoming an issue. It also enables real-time tracking of the teams PPC (Planned Percent Complete) which highlights the opportunities to stretch your goals within the schedule. If your PPC is 100% you are not setting hard enough goals and there will be Float in your plan which is waste. Also shown below is the Constraint Removal ID Health. is helps the team focus on removing the constraints to enable the work planned. Constraint removal ahead of the work is preferable and late removal is tracked to identify common issues that are di cult to remove.
The work of Jones Engineering Group is a great example of the work of Irish Contractors adopting the Lean Philosophy, using Lean tools and supporting the Lean Construction Ireland Community to enhance the value delivered by the Irish Construction Industry to its clients. If you want to find out more about the Last Planner System and Lean Construction in Ireland, visit the Lean Construction Ireland website and read past issues of Irish building magazine.