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How Lean Construction Principles and Critical Path Methods Enhance One Another

Construction contractors increasingly are turning to Lean Construction principles in conjunction with critical path method scheduling in an effort to drive new efficiencies and savings into their project delivery processes. In such a combined approach, Lean Last Planner methods can add important workflow, crew size, location, and resource information to keep the CPM schedule properly updated and help drive on-time completion.

During a recent webinar, hosted by Engineering News-Record, presenters discussed their organizations' own Lean journeys, the improvements resulting from embracing that approach, and the implications for schedule and activity management.

Rob Sepanek, responsible for centralized planning and scheduling at architecture and construction firm The Beck Group, characterized Last Planner as a philosophy by which projects can be designed and constructed in a team atmosphere, using planning tools to implement a more predicable workflow. Such an approach, he said, also creates a culture of accountability, which he noted is a key goal for Beck Group.

At Beck Group, the Last Planner system ensures that the organization can identify bad news early and get information—good or bad—flowing to the right people to enable them to make the right decisions as soon as possible. He also noted that everyone on the project team is involved in this activity and that all stakeholders must be engaged—and held accountable—to meet their commitments and ensure successful outcomes.

Benefits of the Last Planner system include improved communication among the trades and much greater control of the schedule, he said, though he noted the importance of ensuring that CPM and Last Planner schedules stay synchronized—and collaborative.

Walter Terry, vice president of project planning for development and construction company Skanska USA Building, described his organization's Lean journey, noting that its core Lean objectives are to:

  • Eliminate waste
  • Clearly specify value from the perspective of the final customer
  • Map the process that gets that customer the value and eliminate waste from it
  • Allow the customer to pull: control production so that the company only makes what is needed, when needed—then make it fast and efficiently
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement

Skanska learned that Lean Construction can be done within the framework of a CPM schedule—and that lean processes will actually change the critical path. In addition, Lean principles and continuous improvement will open up opportunities that CPM scheduling does not typically reveal. The preferred situation, he said, is having the right level of visibility into the very detailed planning from Last Planner as well as the overall critical path.

View the webinar to learn more, including the benefits Skanska USA realizes from Lean, as well as the lessons Beck learned in implementing Last Planner—and how it is now able to measure subcontractor success.

John Livengood, president, AACE International and managing director, Navigant, also presented. Richard Korman, deputy editor of ENR, moderated the event.

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