Pull Planning Lean Construction Practice vs CPM

Learn about the difference between Pull Planning and Critical Path Method (CPM) and how to identify problems to find solutions.

Pull Planning is a Lean construction practice that helps prioritize project delivery and the method it should follow to ensure the project is completed on time. Construction planning  software is designed to identify problems that could hinder project delivery and suggest solutions. It looks at the planning process in reverse order, focusing on collaboration from stakeholders. Looking at things in reverse differs from traditional models, as they focus on the beginning of the process focused on the end goal through collaborative efforts.

How does pull planning work?

Pull planning is a process that aligns project delivery to each stakeholder by identifying and taking a panoramic view of the team to support and coordinate team discussions with trade partners. It is a hands-on methodology that focuses on managing time, determining quality, optimizing timing, and using Lean principles. Participants are users and stakeholders working through the master schedule, charging, phase scheduling, and planning. A handwritten project outline and color-code sticky notes identify and define project areas in most cases. Construction planning construction software like Touchplan makes the process easier, with a digitized schedule that allows everyone to see the entire process and milestones at a glance.

What are some pull planning best practices?

  • Get everyone on the same page

Everyone should contribute data and relevant milestones that can aid in the successful completion of the project.

  • Set milestones and follow them

Setting milestones are critical in construction as they assist in completing phases of the project that ensure uninterrupted delivery. With these milestones in place, planning effective workflows that include all the tasks and activities to achieve those milestones begins.

  • Schedule your activities

After determining the phase plans, fix all set activities into the calendar.

  • Arrange durations

Set the duration of each of your planned activities.

  • Make weekly plans

Determine how to itemize the activities and tasks into weekly work plans.

  • Schedule daily meetings/huddles

Each day should begin with a meeting to help the project manager keep tasks on schedule.

  • Organize weekly meetings

A meeting helps the construction project manager review work plans for the week and make necessary adjustments.

  • Updates

The plan should update regularly based on the daily and weekly meeting outcomes to adjust the overall schedule.

There are three simple and effective basics:

  • Pull – which places a note on the wall when requested by the customer
  • Collaborate – presenting each task out loud
  • Commitment – never moving someone else’s note, as each task is a personal commitment by each person.

The four key concepts

All areas of construction and design use this method. For architects is also part of the Lean process when reducing waste and increasing reliability. When implementing it in design, there are four key concepts for increasing the reliability and effectiveness in this particular phase of the project:

  • Ensuring the three (3) planning meetings of the Last Planner® System are correctly used: milestone planning, phase planning, and the weekly work plan.
  • Milestone planning must have a strategy including discovery first. After completing and documenting, it is time to estimate the timeframes. Some discovery questions include what information the owner needs to know and when; what the users need to know and when; when are consultants brought in and released; what a design-builder can do design work and when should they be retained and released; and when will construction and design overlap.
  • In phase planning, a single milestone should be pulled, with the duration as short as possible. The conditions of satisfaction of the milestone should be discussed and documented, with each stakeholder documenting their primary tasks and what they need from everyone else. Each design consultant will establish and discuss their workflow. The planning meeting allows the team to review the architect workflow and align it with all other workflows.
  • In the weekly work plan, the phase plan will be reviewed every week, including the previous and upcoming handoffs for two weeks out. The team will commit to the activities for the following week. Any new information, constraints, and design improvements can adjust the plan. Effectiveness is measured through percent planned complete (PPC) and percent committed to identifying reason codes for issues to help improve each week’s process.

What is the difference between pull planning and CPM?

Pull planning is a collaborative process that involves input from the entire team. It is a Lean process that identifies activities to save time, resources, and money. A single person typically powers the CPM using their knowledge to develop a sequence of stages that determine the most efficient use of time.

Various projects, including constructing a building or highway, use CPM; or planning and launching a new product. Analysis by CPM must have a few characteristics:

  • The project must have well-defined activities that all lead to project completion.
  • The tasks may be start and stop independently of each other within the project.
  • Perform and order tasks in sequence.

What is the pull and push theory?

Pull and push theory is the dynamics between customer and supplier, whether internal or external customers. A push strategy creates finished projects. The pull strategy waits for demand or is made to order, with boundaries at the start of the process. In Lean manufacturing or construction, the project does not start until the plan is in place and approved. Also, the team will not hold additional products to avoid waste.

What is the difference between pull planning vs. push planning?

In pull planning, the teams identify the target end date milestone to reach. The clients’ needs drive this method. The first user’s activities guide push planning.

Lean Construction and Pull Planning

Pull planning is a technique used within the Last Planner System® to develop a coordinated plan per project phase. This is a collaborative approach to Lean construction principles, including everyone directly responsible for overseeing the work. Sticky notes are an integral part of this process, using colored sticky notes to identify various areas from key players within the project.

While the sticky note system has worked well for organizations, the analog process is cumbersome, antiquated, and often increases time spent on planning – the opposite effect intended for any Lean practice. Shifting to a digital collaboration tool enables the best of the Lean construction sticky note planning while effectively communicating (without loss of critical information from shorthand or illegible handwritten notes) and with clear direction in real-time. A movement towards Lean construction management software will improve collaboration, avoid miscommunication, and work with a team from anywhere to plan and build faster and within budget.

Construction Planning software

As pull planning continues to drive Lean construction practice, promoting and facilitating the right Lean planning software is critical. Touchplan is the leader in several categories of the best construction planning software, including ease of use and setup, along with customer service and support. As the highest-ranked construction project management software on the market, Touchplan has earned accolades like a high performer, best relationship management, and a leader in momentum led by actual user reviews through G2 – a leading B2B peer-to-peer review site. Touchplan goes beyond pull planning and supports teams with insights and the ability to continuously improve as well.

Pull planning templates and materials

There are several materials and examples that teams work with when starting pull plans. The most effective materials and examples are digital – encouraging real-time collaboration and improvements while implementing as simple as possible. Getting teams to work together and adopt new processes is challenging enough, so affording them materials and support to foster understanding, accountability, and action is crucial.

Some teams engage in more analog processes like pull plan kits, creating pull plan boards, or excel-based templates. Kits usually contain templates, wall charts, trackers, and tags. Self-made construction planning boards follow the archaic sticky note process. Others turn to project management templates or excel templates to excel worksheets in an attempt to stay organized. Using kits, creating boards, or engaging in excel-specific templates costs time, directly competing with the Lean’s efficiency goal, and removing important behavioral changes gained from real-time updates needed to elevate consistent, positive outcomes for projects through teams. Software that combines the goals of pull planning with the power of technology-supported learning is the suggested method.

For example, imagine a plumber and electrician completing their rough-ins before the drywall specialist sanding and completing their phase of the project. The drywall specialist must complete this phase before the painter can come in and do their part, and the next person, etc.

There will always be space for continuous improvement in the processes, especially when integrating and implementing workflows from people, processes, and technology. With the right Lean construction project management software to successfully coordinate pull planning and CPM, teams will work more efficiently and effectively for client satisfaction.

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