The principles of Lean Construction are rapidly adopted by construction companies at a project management and admin level. However, the benefits are exponential when focusing on field application that benefits the trades. The challenge is that project management teams are well trained to understand Lean principles and suggest what needs to be implemented in the field without involving field team members. On a typical construction project, the trade receives a schedule, a set of drawings and overall expectation of sequence and goals in relation to other trades. However the project teams should adopt a similar approach to the Last Planner System where the Last Planner identifies what would benefit its crews in correlation to the overall project goals, and with the help of Lean Leaders apply appropriate Lean principles to a specific need.
At DPR we provided an example of how a concrete construction crew identified opportunities to improve production, awareness and overall performance. The team developed a visual production plan combining visual planning, production planning and quality elements that requires full participation of both field crew and project management.
STEP 1: With the help of the Foreman and a few crew leaders, we meet to understand how to best sequence our activities. We carefully review drawings to understand all constraints in order to develop a clear and simple visual plan.
STEP 2: Once the sequence was understood we met to develop a crew loaded concrete schedule in order to understand the impact of manpower on the financial health of the project. Doing so allowed us to compare budgeted man-hours against planned man-hours and quickly make adjustments to get a projection. At the end of this meeting the team was able to come up with a schedule that allows us to have an allocated crew and remain within budget.
STEP 3: In preparation to start activities in the field, STEP 3 combines the Visual Plan from STEP 1 and the Crew Loaded Schedule from STEP 2 to develop a VISUAL PRODUCTION PLAN. The drawings were printed in A0 format and displayed in the field on boards for the crews to easily identify:
- Sequence and flow of work
- Daily goals per activity performed (quantified per SF, CY, LF, etc.)
- Display of required metrics for the project to help review quantities.
- Crew Loaded Schedule to show how many crew members are required per day for each activity
- Quantity Loaded Schedule to show the goals per day for each activity.
- Tracking sheets to enable the crews to track manpower and quantities put in place each day.
STEP 4: Every morning the crew meet for their daily huddle. During the meeting they utilize the boards to review the activities for the day, discuss potential roadblocks and review the overall workflow. At the end of each work day the foreman inputs the quantity in place and the manpower for each activity.
STEP 5: The last STEP relates to the PDCA cycle and the spirit of continuous improvement. All the data is then inputted into a master spreadsheet so that we can compare the planned vs budgeted vs actual production data. This process allows the team to immediately identify overruns or loss of production and perform adjustments to the schedule and sequence.
With the use of visual production planning combined with the PDCA principles the team was able to continuously problem solve and find the solutions needed to overcome a 4-month delay. Through the precise monitoring of production rates, the project was able to manage budget and forecast schedule more accurately. Through collaborative scheduling, the project was able to problem solve and rethink traditional construction sequencing as challenges presented as well as implement the newest advances of prefabrication. Through visually planning the project, the team was motivated to trust others and partake in out of the box thinking and problem solving. Field, admin and design engagement leading to increased project performance and overall collaboration.
The team also faced challenges in implementing this innovative approach and identified the following areas of improvement:
- Prior to starting work it is key to perform an appropriate kickoff meeting with the crew and stakeholders. During this training the team reviews the process, goals, and overall understanding of lean principles.
- Team members also highlighted that the Visual Boards could include a section dedicated to constraints identified in the field and about the process to be reviewed weekly. This would allow for continuous improvement related to team engagement and problem solving.
- On a production tracking standpoint this project helped realize the need for accurate real time data that motivates us to improve our tracking tools and use across projects. Technology was a challenge because we had to develop our own custom tracking spreadsheet that made it challenging to collaborate with others, track data from multiple projects, share lessons learned and avoid using multiple support to implement our processes.
Combining production tracking with visual planning enables the entire Project Team to be aware of all necessary information to successfully collaborate, raise awareness and better identify and optimize value from a holistic viewpoint. This heightened awareness was instrumental in salvaging a challenging project schedule on a Southern California DATA CENTER. With the use of production tracking combined with visual planning, the team was able to repeatedly identify and solve problems, achieve milestones and find the solutions needed to overcome a 4-month delay.
1. Laurent, J. E. & Leicht, R. M. 2017, 'Cross-Functional Project Teams in Construction: A Longitudinal Case Study' In:, 25th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Heraklion, Greece, 9-12 Jul 2017. pp 317-324. https://doi.org/10.24928/2017/0063
2. Muñoz, A. , Laurent, J. & Dierks, C. 2019, 'Team Health: A Measured Approach to Collective Learning' In:, Proc. 27th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC). Dublin, Ireland, 3-5 Jul 2019. pp 191-202. https://doi.org/10.24928/2019/0245
3. Laurent, J. E. & Leicht, R. M. 2019, ‘Practices for Designing Cross-Functional Teams for Integrated Project Delivery’ In: ASCE, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. Volume 145 Issue 3 – March 2019. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0001605
4. Cleary, J.W., and Munoz, A. (2018). “Reaping the Rewards of Production Tracking” In: Proc. 26th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC), González, V.A. (ed.), Chennai, India, pp. xx–xx. DOI: https://doi.org/10.24928/2018/0494.