Who is more likely to accurately estimate how long the electrical on a construction project will take: the electrician or a construction manager? It seems evident that the electrician would have a better insight into how long the job would get done. Nevertheless, traditional construction management techniques significantly ignore the electrician’s opinion. This is what the Last Planner System or LPS aims to address.
The Last Planner System was invented in the 1990s and aimed to enhance construction management by enforcing greater collaboration between experts in order to produce more accurate project scheduling and planning. Ultimately, It is a form of lean construction used by around 15% of builders worldwide in some form or another and is continuously growing in popularity.
So the question is, what is the Last Planner System, and how can you get started with this system?
What is the Last Planner System (LPS)?
The full name is known as “Last Planner System of Production Control.” Production control is essential on projects to support working on planned accomplishments, doing what should be done to move along a planned timeline, and determining the possible alternative direction that accomplishes desired goals.
What is the Benefit of the Last Planner System?
Studies from Emerald Group Journals show that the Last Planner System enhances planning, encourages better jobsite management, and improves communication and coordination between project stakeholders. Through weekly meetings, everyone has a clearer idea of what they need to do and when it should be completed. This also enables them to raise and address concerns and issues before they get out of hand.
The Last Planner System provides a relatively straightforward way to bring lean construction techniques into your construction projects. With this system, general and subcontractors can gradually introduce lean project management techniques into their jobs without entirely transforming existing behaviors.
Who are the Required Participants in the Last Planner System?
Since LPS is a collaborative planning process, all those that have a role in the project concerned with planning need to participate in scheduling management. It is expected that there will be various participants required at different phases in the project timeline depending on their scope of work and when it will be planned and carried out.
The following stakeholders will be expected to participate in all phases of LPS:
- General Contractor
- Project Manager
- All subcontractors and trade contractors
- Project Manager from each subcontractor/trade contractor
- General superintendents and foremen from each trade subcontractor
- Project engineers and/or construction project coordinators
- Suppliers and/or vendors with key materials, as necessary
- Off-site manufacturers or fabricators, as necessary
- Third-party support (inspection, testing, LEED certification specialists, commissioning agents, etc.)
- Architects, engineers, designers, consultants, etc.
What are the Five Phases of the Last Planner System?
1. Master Planning
Like conventional construction management planning, this stage involves planning a timeline for the entire project and identifying milestones. Initially, the architect, project owner, and general contractor define the Master Schedule collaboratively.
The master planning phase focuses on identifying key milestones that help gauge the pace at which the construction project will progress if it is to follow the established schedule successfully. Typically, milestones are completion dates for each major project phase and dates for releasing the purchase order (PO) of long lead building items.
b. Master Schedule
Ideally, both design and construction last planners participate in developing the master plan schedule. The term “last planner” refers to the individuals on the team responsible for delegating the final assignment of work to specific teams and ensuring they have the materials, equipment, tools, and information available to complete their respective scope of work.
During the design phase, the last planners are usually Architectural and Engineering project managers. However, during the construction phase, the last planners are usually foremen and superintendents of the general and subcontractors.
2. Phase Planning
This part is where the Last Planner System is distinct from conventional construction management. In this portion of the system, the teams involved in each project milestone collaborate with one another to plan in detail how they will complete their respective phase on time. Construction teams might use the concept of ‘pull planning’ in this part, where they work backward from the deadline and ensure they can complete their tasks in time for the next phase to begin.
a. Phase Breakdown
Phase planning is usually conducted two to three months before each construction phase. Phase, in context, refers to the part of the project that can be considered a complete individual unit. The phase breakdown for a project depends on the size and complexity of the scope of work, with beginning and completion milestones for each phase as identified during the master planning. Phase planning establishes an agreement between the last planners on how all the work between beginning and completion milestones will wrap up.
b. Workflow Schedule
Phase planning employs a pull planning approach; wherein last planners are very detailed about the sequence of commitments and requests they are making. The approach adheres to a central lean practice of advancing flow by starting with the final condition necessary to complete a phase and developing a sequence of work through a series of requests, and the performer promises to define clearly how work will transition from one operation to another. Phase planning sessions are vital for the team to determine how to expedite the work to progress at a consistent rate with limited variation.
3. Make-Ready Planning
The Last Planner System frequently asks the project crew to look ahead at each stage – typically thinking forward by four to six weeks. On a weekly basis, the core team looks ahead at possible causes of delays and constraints and thinks about how to address them.
a. Identify Constraints
Constraints are circumstances that prevent a task from being completed as planned and involve concerns such as material and labor availability, construction document conflicts, equipment access, and permits.
Constraints are identified on a project log, promising to remove each constraint by a specific date. Inadequate make-ready planning is usually the single factor in project scheduling breakdowns, so the team must attentively attend to make-ready planning. The make-ready planning also involves the refinement of tasks or activities identified during phase planning in detail, as the work is better understood.
b. Make Work Ready
Those tasks in the phase planning that are not yet broken down to the level of operations for daily and weekly execution planning need to be laid out into further detailed tasks.
4. Commitment Planning
The LPS relies on a certain degree of peer pressure. What we mean is that each week, individual project teams can commit to completing certain tasks. Since face-to-face or online project management coordination meetings are conducted weekly, every team member is motivated to complete the work they’ve promised to deliver on time. Reliability among project teams is critical in developing these shared plans for the project’s overall success.
5. Continual Learning
Learning is a daily action for lean construction project teams. Last Planner provides two opportunities for continuous learning:
a. Daily Coordination
In this brief stand-up/huddle meeting, the last planners confirm whether their teams completed the planned work for that given day, and if not, adjustments required to stay on schedule for the week must be discussed. These daily adjustments are critical, as customary adjustments are easier than weekly modifications, which are much easier than monthly adjustments.
b. Rapid Learning
By measuring the percent of promises complete (PPC), diving deep into reasons for plan failures, tracking reasons for variance, and implementing lessons learned to improve future plan reliability. Analyzing causes for plan failures and acting on these reasons is the true basis of learning.
The Last Planner System is a powerful innovation in construction management planning and is now showing growing interest across the industry. The frontrunners often outperform companies who arrive later, as with other innovations around.
Understandably, implementing and then campaigning a new idea in your organization can be challenging. However, it’s also important to realize that there are issues that no company in construction can escape from, such as lack of labor, schedule delays, and the growing complexity of projects. Those that refuse to acknowledge these problems and learn about and adopt safeguards, like the Last Planner System, will watch other companies in the industry advance while they are left behind.
So, is it time for your team to try the Last Planner System?
To help you with this transition, we introduce a project management tool that can help your team connect and develop the five phases of the LPS in a streamlined and collaborative online environment. Pro Crew Schedule enables your team to plan, schedule, track tasks, and document all the daily, weekly, and monthly movements on site.
Adopting innovations in a traditional industry like construction has never been easier. Try Pro Crew Schedule for a 30-days free trial today.