Since its arrival in the early 1990’s, the Lean Construction movement — and its associated framework, the Last Planner System® — has emerged as a proven way for construction firms to reduce waste and increase productivity on their projects.
THE DATA: Teams not using the Last Planner System only complete about 54% of the scheduled work within a week. Those who do typically report 20-40% higher completion rates.
The question for most firms, then, is not whether or not to implement Lean Construction, but how best to do so. This is where cloud and mobile technologies have a big role to play.
The Cloud & Mobile Advantage
In many ways, Lean Construction is about ensuring the right people receive the right information at the right time. Cloud and mobile technologies greatly facilitates these goals.
By storing your information in the cloud, your team gains a “single source of truth” that connects all the project data: from the master schedule to the weekly work plan; from quality punch lists to the most up to-date BIM.
Mobile tools — like smartphones and tablets — make that information accessible to your team regardless of location. With a glance at their mobile device, team members can view important construction documents without having to walk back to the trailer or work off of memory. Whatever information they need to help make a point-of-work decision on what they should do and how they should do it is instantly accessible.
BIM 360 Plan Screenshot
Accessibility to documents is only part of the story, though. Cloud and mobile technologies also excel at reducing latency in communication.
Things change very rapidly and very frequently on construction projects. If you’re out of the loop on the information flow, then chances are you’re either not working on what you should be working on, or — even worse — you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, which will later need to be reworked.
Cloud and mobile means you can push updates out to the team as soon as any changes are made, almost entirely reducing communication latencies — helping to avoid potentially wasteful situations.
Better than Paper or Desktop
At this point, some of you might be wondering: can I adopt lean practices without adopting cloud and mobile technologies? Could I “go lean” using more traditional tools and methods?
Well, yes — you could. But you probably wouldn’t want to. Here’s why.
Conventional analog methods of planning — think: sticky notes and whiteboards — have several key limitations:
- You can’t easily share a plan that’s physically stuck inside a room
- Modifications are difficult, requiring manual effort to adjust
- Changes don’t easily flow to the field, creating more headaches
Meanwhile, desktop software — like Excel spreadsheets — seems like a great idea because it’s perceived as “free”, and it’s something that people already know how to use. However, Excel is not an enterprise level system. People can make changes to documents from their desktop that nobody knows about, resulting in errors that can affect the integrity of the information. Additionally, Excel users must take time each week to publish and distribute their spreadsheets.
A recent joint-venture case study by DPR Construction and Sundt presented to the Lean Construction Institute Congress helps put a finer point on some of these concepts. The case study examined a company that did a conventional Last Planner System rollout for the first phase of a project, and then a technology driven rollout for the second phase. The results:
Conventional methods caused the company to spend 13 hours a week on areas such as updating and distributing the plan.
Cloud and Mobile tools trimmed this to only 4 hours a week! That’s an entire workday of time reclaimed — and a very compelling reason to go mobile when implementing a lean methodology.
To be continued in Part 2…
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