What Is Pull Planning?

what is construction pull planning

Most likely, you have been familiar with using the Critical Path Method (CPM) for scheduling your construction projects. After all, it is one of the most common, and traditional, construction planning techniques. A construction project needs to be scheduled, and the CPM method does make sense in theory at the start of many construction projects. Nevertheless, in practice, it’s not always the best fit and process for a project. Mainly, this is due to the fact that it revolves around one person deciding the schedule for the whole team and project. Even for the most seasoned project managers, it’s difficult to be the primary stakeholder designating all scheduling–and often it doesn’t provide the results project need.

But an alternative planning method is gaining mainstream popularity in the construction industry; pull planning. The rising substitute to CPM has been yielding solid results for many construction projects. One primary reason for pull planning’s success is that it prioritizes input from the entire team. As a result, this benefits the project by giving each team member’s expertise on what’s needed and how long each step will take.

While the method can help the project run smoother, it can take groundwork to lay out in the beginning. In our blog, we dive into a thorough overview of the concept and provide you with a step-by-step guide to getting started with the method on your next project.

Key takeaways:

  • Construction pull planning is an alternative planning method that is a substitute for the Critical Path Method (CPM).
  • The method is seeing its popularity grow because it involves input from the entire team instead of a single person.
  • The construction planning method may help a project run more smoothly but may require more planning upfront.
  • It can improve productivity with collaboration, transparency, optimization, and efficiency.
  • The essentials for using the scheduling method include involving the entire team, following milestones, setting a schedule, setting durations, having weekly plans, setting daily morning meetings, having weekly meetings, and updating the plan and schedule as needed.

So, How Exactly Does Pull Planning Work?

Pull planning works as a scheduling tool for the Last Planner System (LPS), which is based on a collaborative approach to managing a project. As mentioned, collaboration is the primary driver of the method. It shifts the process from focusing on an individual level to focus on the team. The method helps you get buy-in from everyone at the start of a project.

In LPS, the “last planners” are the ones completing the work in the planning stage of the project. By doing this, LPS makes it easier to determine problems and helps the project run smoothly and stick to deadlines.

Planning in this way is most commonly used in tandem with lean construction, which finds ways to cut down on wasted time and resources by finding ways to be more efficient and productive.

How does the method make a construction project work smarter and simpler? It starts with the project milestones, such as the completion date and works backward from the steps that efficiently lead to those milestones. By working backward, teams prioritize the most critical tasks and figure out how different tasks are connected toward the final goals. Instead of working blindly, you plan precisely where you’re trying to go and how to get there.

You put a focus on tasks–clearly defining and sequencing them. On top of planning each step, you determine the method for requesting and receiving an action.

How Does Pull Planning Improve Productivity?

The planning method boosts your construction productivity in the following ways:

  • Collaboration: The scheduling method encourages the whole team to work together, which helps the project work as one with improved communication and fewer competing interests.
  • Transparency: There is open communication, so everyone understands their own roles and how they’re doing, as well as what is going on with the rest of the team.
  • Optimization: By focusing on pull planning as a component of lean construction, team members learn to cut down on mistakes and optimize their practices.
  • Efficiency: Projects stay on time as team members have clear goals and steps to follow, with clear responsibility and communication streamlining the process.

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Pull Planning Step-by-Step Guide

Generally, the planning method is created with the use of colorful sticky notes. While this method may seem simple or even old-fashioned (where’s the technology?), tools are emerging to help manage the project digitally. In theory, though, the visuals of the sticky notes help you see every aspect of the project and allow you to adjust the tasks to create the right plan. Plus, there’s much more to the method than sticky notes, and the planning process should be carried out in a certain way to be successful.

Here are the essential guidelines to get the method up and running for your next project:

  1. Involve the full team. First, get your team members on board for the planning method. Make sure every major player in the project is involved in the plan. Each one should contribute relevant project milestones toward project completion.
  2. Follow the milestones. Once you have project milestones in place, determine the phase plan, with the sequence and activities of each task, to fit those milestones.
  3. Set the schedule. Fit the activities determined in the phase plan into your schedule.
  4. Set durations. Determine the duration of each activity.
  5. Create weekly plans. Go over the phase plan and break it down into weekly work plans.
  6. Set daily morning meetings. To ensure the success of the method, collaboration needs to be carried through its duration. Daily meetings at the start of each day with foremen to go over the daily activities will be essential to keep tasks on track.
  7. Set weekly meetings. Also, hold meetings each week with foremen to review the weekly work plan and make adjustments as needed.
  8. Update the plan.Based on the weekly meetings, adjust the overall schedule.

Get Started Today

Pull planning is an effective tool that has the potential to be game changing in a construction production process. It provides a worthy alternative to CPM that can improve project efficiency, helping keep it on track and cut down on waste. Nonetheless, it’s only one step. Using the method paired with lean construction as well as collaborative construction technology will help teams to reap the benefits of the technique truly.

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.