As soon as a construction schedule is published it is out of date. It is the inherent nature when taking a snapshot in time with something as fluid as construction. We create our “look ahead” schedules each week, distribute them to our trades, and by the end of the day something different than originally planned will be happening. It’s the challenge of our business. Schedules change. Conflicts exist and it’s our job to schedule with and around them to the best of our ability.
“Pull Plan Scheduling” at its core is a visual way to schedule that makes it easier for the supervisor to make changes and invite trade contractor buy-in. Attachment #1 below is a basic example of a Pull Plan Schedule. A poster board with grid lines is posted on the wall where it is easily accessible by all project team members. Days of the week are listed across the top. Separate Stickie Note colors are assigned to each trade contractor. During the trade meeting the supervisor puts a schedule milestone date on the board three weeks before it is scheduled to start. For the example on Attachment #1 we used “Start Drywall” as a milestone date. The supervisor asks the Contractors, “What needs to be completed before we reach Start Drywall?” The Insulator says he needs 3 days to complete his install before drywall starts. The MEP contractors say they need 8 days to complete rough-in before insulation starts, but they can’t all start at the same time. The Framer says he needs 3 days to complete his work before the MEPs start. Working backwards from “Start Drywall” the Contractors post their sequence and durations on the Pull Plan Schedule. The Pull Plan Schedule proves to the team that they will meet the “Start Drywall” milestone.
By involving the Contractors in the scheduling process while they are gathered in one place creates an environment where schedule driven conversations occur between them. Conversations about when one contractor should start and the other should stop or how to phase multiple trades that are working in the same area. All of their information gets posted on the board buying them into the schedule they created resulting in a higher probability of being accurate. An example of a Pull Plan Schedule on a multi-story building is shown here on Attachment #2.
In the days that follow the Pull Plan Scheduling session the schedule will ultimately require updating. Updating is as easy as moving a Sticky Note. An advantage of the Pull Plan Schedule is that the current schedule is always posted and visible to the project team. The scheduling process works best when Contractors stop by the project office to update their schedule with the supervisor (taking pictures of the schedule will eliminate any “surprise” changes). A schedule that a Contractor creates with the Team helps their understanding of how they affect the overall Team’s schedule more than when they are issued an Excel sheet.
As a Superintendent, Pull Planning has been valuable to me on all my projects both big and small. Right now I am finding it very useful as we progress on New England Construction’s Rumford Center Phase II Project. You will be impressed how many conflicts will be avoided using Pull Plan Scheduling.