The Last Planner® System of Production Control
The Last Planner® System of Production Control is one of the few lean tools developed specifically for the construction industry (A lean tool being a tool or process designed to maximize customer value whilst minimizing waste).
A quick internet search will unearth many scholarly articles (such as this) describing at length how LPS is designed to work and the theory behind it. However, for anyone looking for a quick jargon free view overview it is a different story. So here, with apologies to the academics and purists, is a beginners guide to the Last Planner ® System.
Back to Basics
The main aim of LPS is to involve the people who will be responsible for doing or supervising the work in the detailed planning of the work. These Trade Foremen and Supervisors are referred to as the Last Planners. Whilst it may seem common sense to involve these people in the planning process, the sad reality is that over time the construction industry has moved to adopt new software tools at the expense of such engagement. Trade subcontractors have also become increasingly viewed as commodities rather than partners.
Five Step Process
Last Planner ® System is a five step process:
- High level (Level 1) project planning is undertaken as normal that identifies key delivery milestones.
- A detailed programme is developed for each of the milestones by the Last Planners prior to work commencing on that phase of work using a technique called Pull Planning (see below).
- Every week the Last Planners meet to review work planned in the short term (4-6 week look ahead) of any given phase of work and identify any constraints to that work happening (these are recorded in a constraint log).
- At the same meeting, the Last Planners will commit to what work will be undertaken in the next week. Only work that planners agree to commit to completing will be included in the plan.
- Every week the percentage of progress planned for the week prior that was actually completed is calculated, reasons for delays identified and opportunities for improvement agreed.
Pull planning is a process of planning involving all the Last Planners required to achieve a particular milestone. Each trade is allocated a different coloured post it note on to which they record individual activity details such as activity description, duration of activity and resources required.
Starting at the milestone to be achieved on the right hand side of a large sheet of paper, the Last Planners progressively work backwards, placing their own activity post it notes to signify the work that must be undertaken and negotiating with other trades to agree the order it must be undertaken in order to reach the milestone.
Planning is undertaken from right to left (end to start) as research has shown that our brains are more likely to forget activities in a process if it is viewed from start to finish.
Only the Last Planner can populate and/ or move his or her post it notes. This reinforces ownership for commitments made by them as well as empowering them to make the commitment in the first place or not. Any rescheduling of works therefore has to be a collaborative effort of all Last Planners.
Planned Progress Complete
Every week the Last Planners meet to review how much of the work they planned to complete in any given week was actually completed. This gives rise to a metric called Planned Progress Complete (PPC). It may surprise some to learn that the average PPC on construction sites in Australia in any given week is only around 54%.
That is 46% of all work planned in any given week is not completed!
Through a process of continuous improvement, based on analysis of the PPC and reasons for failing to complete tasks, it is possible by use of LPS to consistently achieve a PPC of 70- 100%.
Whilst 100% PPC should always be a target, the nature of construction means that there is always likely to be unforeseen events that prevent this from being achieved.
Every day the Last Planners meet for a short ‘Daily Scrum’ meeting to review work undertaken on that day and agree work to be undertaken the following day. These meetings allow for plan adjustments to be made to take into account any unforeseen events and ensure as smooth and safe a flow of work as possible.
Whilst the Last Planner® System has mostly been adopted for construction phase planning, it can be just as effectively applied in planning of design projects. Care needs to be taken however to provide an appropriate level of task definition and hand off requirements between the Last Planners who in this case would be the different design discipline leads.
Whilst the use of LPS in Australia is still in its infancy, there is a growing body of evidence both here and overseas that demonstrates that use of LPS on projects results in:
- More predictable outcomes,
- Project time savings of up to 20%
- Significant improvements in productivity.
- Better quality outcomes
- Improved Safety as 80% of safety incidents occur as a result of unplanned activities.
Want to find out more?
Why not arrange a Villego simulation for your team?
This interactive training session requires teams to plan and construct a lego house first using traditional methods of planning and then using the Last Planner® System to compare the results.
Once you have seen LPS in action and what it can achieve, we are confident you will want to adopt it on your next project.
For more information, or to book a Villego training session, please contact Lean Construction Advisory.