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Using Tech to Implement Stronger Lean Construction Practices

IPS-Integrated Project Services, LLC is a global leader in developing innovative solutions for the consulting, architecture, engineering, project controls, procurement, construction management, and CQV of technically complex facilities worldwide.

Touchplan has been able to help us meet a significantly accelerated schedule and coordinate the execution of work in the field. We can see where the work is and how many trades will be in a specific area. One of the most significant components in helping us succeed was breaking down the building into numerous ‘Touchplan Areas.’ We plotted and posted our highlighted areas on the wall in our main room for all to see, which has greatly helped our team get work activities down to the granular level. Each trade partner inputs their daily tickets in their respective locations or swim lanes, and this is where we can truly start pulling in work and allow us to plan for the short- and long-term.

Ryan Wolfgang, Assistant Project Manager, IPS-Integrated Project Services, LLC

Headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, IPS-Integrated Project Services, LLC is a global leader in consulting, architecture, engineering, procurement, project controls, construction management, and CGMP compliance services for the life sciences industry. The company is comprised of industry experts that provide innovative solutions to clients worldwide.

The company has over 2,800 professionals based out of 45 offices across 17 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

Known for their slogan “Knowledge, Skill & Passion,” IPS is a forward-thinking, technologically advanced service provider, leading the industry in innovative solutions for its clients. The main focus within the construction management group has been to find new ways to implement stronger lean construction practices for more streamlined and effective project delivery.

One of IPS’ latest projects involves the construction of a technically complex biopharma facility in Sanford, North Carolina, for a contract manufacturing organization (CMO), Abzena. Abzena provides a complete set of solutions in integrated early discovery to mid-phase biotherapeutic and ADC drug development services in the pharmaceutical industry. When finished, the building will serve as a turnkey facility for biopharma processing, producing monoclonal antibodies and other bio-products for various clients. Facilities like this allow companies to provide lifesaving medicines to patients worldwide.

For this project, IPS has been tasked with taking an existing warehouse shell structure and converting it into a life science facility for Abzena. This construction will require a significant amount of infrastructure and utilities to support the products being produced by tenants. The construction schedule is on an accelerated timeline, with phased turnover dates as early as August 2022. Due to the intensity of schedule and scope, the IPS team needed to find solutions to get more granular schedule details and buy-in from trade partners for successful project execution. These and other factors contributed to IPS choosing to use Touchplan.

“We have to complete a $215 million, high-tech, ~170,000 SF. CMO facility on an accelerated schedule,” said IPS Assistant Project Manager Ryan Wolfgang. “Because we have to deliver portions of this facility in the next few months for Abzena’s clients to start product runs, it is imperative that we get the nitty-gritty details on how this facility will be built. Although our master schedule tells us where we are going and when we need to be there, it does not tell us the daily steps to get from point A to point B. This very detailed work process comes from working through the Last Planner System, which gets people to build the facility together to develop the most efficient execution plan for work. Touchplan is the tool that allows us to track the work we are doing through the Last Planner System and provides us with dashboards and information to better utilize the information we have. Touchplan acts as a table for us to gather around as a group to have a productive discussion about the work being performed.

Avoiding Risk by Predicting Safety

With any project, safety is paramount, but it is even more critical for life sciences construction. The IPS team’s use of Touchplan has allowed them to do extensive look-aheads, which has reduced many risks by identifying potential problems well before they happen.

“IPS has a robust safety culture; using Touchplan has enabled us to anticipate some possible issues and head them off based on the team’s input via the software,” said Superintendent Lee Daugherty. “Just recently, a ticket placed in Touchplan for an upcoming crane lift alerted us that the event would need several procedural steps before it could happen. Since the ticket was in Touchplan, the whole team was alerted, ensuring all of the preceding actions were completed. We do not want to be reacting to safety concerns; we want to be proactive in mitigating them.”

A Rolling Onboarding

When you have a construction project that lasts a year with technically involved construction, the construction manager will deal with numerous specialty trades and a fair amount of turnover based on the kind of work that must be done.

As proponents of lean construction methodology, IPS is committed to ensuring that construction planning software will make work easier for their trade partners, not to add more responsibilities to their list.

“When we onboard new trades to this project, we are very clear that the goal is to optimize their communication of work to us in the field,” said Wolfgang. “We invest time on the front end and work with the Touchplan customer success to make sure trades understand the tool, which will allow them to plan their work thoughtfully, saving a ton of time as the project moves forward.”

“The longer the trade partners use construction planning software, they see that it has benefits beyond just providing information to IPS. The initial rollout develops into a longer-term benefit as the trades buy into the system.”

Wolfgang added, “You start to see the trade partners realize that they can use Touchplan for their business operations. With Touchplan, IPS provides the trades with a technology they can use for their three-week look-ahead and coordination with sub-tier trades. It’s not just something that IPS is using; it’s something that all trade partners can utilize to ensure that they have the resources they need to execute work effectively. By providing the “table” to gather around for the discussion, Touchplan helps trade partners better coordinate their work to reduce any stress, miscommunication, and confusion on jobsites between the trades.

Staying on Course

Any type of construction wants to be on or ahead of schedule. However, when the construction is for a facility that develops lifesaving medicines, it kicks up a notch. Add to that a target for a portion of the space to be ready by the beginning of August, and the clear need for schedule accuracy becomes even more critical. By using Touchplan, the IPS team is meeting its short- and long-term commitments.

“A project as intricate as this one can make producing a reliable master schedule a bit more challenging. To execute in the field, we needed a different solution that the field could handle and allow the superintendent and project managers to drive this project forward,” said Daugherty. “Touchplan has allowed us to do that. It gets us back to the basics, like a dry-erase board but in an electronic form. It’s simple to use, even for the least tech-savvy guy, and the information the data provides is fantastic. We would not be this far along in the project without it.”

Touchplan has also allowed IPS to stay on top of pull planning through the pandemic, which required more remote and digital collaboration.

Also, with the help of Touchplan, our team was able to coordinate deliverables while socially distanced during the highs of the pandemic, keeping everyone safe and our project on track. “With the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty,” said IPS Project Engineer Shane McNamara. “Touchplan made it feel like we didn’t miss a beat, and it was business as usual.”

Our relationship with IPS has produced some mutually beneficial results, including:

  • Significant reduction of risk due to look-ahead planning
  • Efficient onboarding of multiple trades during the construction
  • Efficient remote digital planning during pandemic conditions
  • Staying on top of an accelerated construction schedule
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