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If you’ve engaged with lean construction lately, you’ve probably heard about takt production - if not already employed it. As many of us have seen, the interest in the method has surged within the last decade, inviting practitioners and academics to explore the construction production from the viewpoint of balance and rhythm - takt.

Indeed, the promises of effective, balanced operations management that takt production offers have been seen as a welcome change. Across the globe, dozens or even hundreds of companies have reported cases in which takt production has helped them radically increase flow effectiveness, resulting in remarkable results, such as halving the production duration. No wonder why takt production has gotten the attention of the industry!

I’ve been grateful to witness dozens of takt production success stories in my home country, Finland. Nowadays it’s hard to find a company that has not been somehow engaged with takt production; within the past five years, the interest has skyrocketed and led to a vast amount of accumulated learnings for the whole industry.

In addition to success stories that the first successful takt initiatives have brought, however, we’ve seen that the enthusiasm is also coupled with slight confusion. After the first projects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you could (and should) improve in your takt production system, leading to a state in which further development might seem hard.

This brings us to the core message of this blog, that is, a maturity model for takt production improvement. With the model, I want to provide concrete stepping stones to guide in the journey with thriving takt production. The model is based on the learnings from 24 Finnish takt implementation cases: for more detailed information, please check our IGLC paper [1]!

The Maturity Model

The maturity model consists of three steps: technical takt planning (beginner), integration and takt control (intermediate), and continuous improvement (advanced).

Technical Takt Planning

Engaging with the technical elements of the takt plan is often the first step in which companies employ takt, leading to the initial benefits. Initiating flow into the production system by takt planning urges to perceive production from the new lenses, helping to see waste and inefficiency in the production process.

Concretely put, the first step fundamentally consists of three elements: balancing the plan (by adjusting takt areas, takt time, takt wagons, buffers, and resourcing), aligning the plan with the client’s milestones, and representing the plan clearly and visually for all the project participants.

While bringing massive benefits, the first step has been seen as relatively easy to achieve. We’ve seen projects achieve 20-30% decreased durations due to effective takt planning, facilitated by an internal or external takt expert.

This is where one of the focal benefits of takt lies. Initial results are tangible and relatively easily achieved, leading to an increased interest towards the method.

Social Integration & Takt Control

Soon after the initial results, however, new concerns arise. We’ve especially seen that issues on how to ensure the alignment of all project participants with the takt plan and how to manage unforeseen deviations during the production, are brought up.

Adequate social integration provides two-fold benefits: first, through adequate training and contractual involvement, all project participants can gain increased benefits of takt production for their own operations. Second, integration eases the task of achieving more smooth flow on the site, as the material flow (just-in-time logistics), information flow (just-in-time designs), and resource flow (trade partners’ resource planning) are aligned to support the takt plan.

In addition, effective takt production cannot foster with ad-hoc production control. Instead, a proactive, paced control with collaborative problem-solving is critically needed. Collaborative methods such as the Last Planner System have been seen to work seamlessly with takt production, being extremely useful in achieving adequate social integration and takt control.

Even though the second step requires a certainly increased effort, above-mentioned aspects are essential to ensure that everyone works towards the shared goal of takt production. Especially while applying takt to more complex projects, these steps are often prerequisites to success.

Continuous Improvement

After the initial successful takt implementations, companies should start looking further than single cases, aiming to improve the production system over projects.

It is no secret that first takt production initiatives often require a remarkably increased amount of time and resources towards planning and control. However, as vast amounts of lessons have been learned and waste has been detected in these initiatives, the efforts should not be seen as only a part of a single project, but a piece within a longer-lasting continuous improvement process. When seen from this point of view, the increased efforts start making much more sense.

Primarily three aspects should be distinguished. First, the development of high-performing teams enables the creation of trust between individuals, easing the onboarding process in the following projects. Second, systematic waste elimination over projects enables a more systematic takt planning process, as one can already take into account issues that were seen and solved last time. Third, the utilization of digital tools allows more effectively collecting, visualizing, analyzing, and storing information, forming an increased possibility for data-driven decision-making.

With continuous improvement, takt production can be transformed into a production system that extends over single projects, enabling a more process-oriented view towards the portfolio of projects, further leading to increased long-term productivity.

Concluding Remarks

A key learning I want to highlight is that one does not have to do everything at once. As in the heart of lean principles, aiming for perfection with incremental and steady steps is a recipe for success.

I also want to emphasize that the presented model is a guideline, not a universal truth - some might have a journey with different stepping stones and milestones. However, I hope that the maturity model can provide a path for the ones in doubt or overwhelmed with all the possibilities of takt production, and help them focus on their takt production journey.

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Joonas Lehtovaara is a Doctoral Researcher at Aalto University, Finland. Within the past few years, Joonas has engaged in several takt production implementation cases from both academic and practical viewpoints.