Originally published 12/1/2019; Updated 11/19/2021
Curious about the pros and cons of digital pull planning and if it could be your solution for strategic construction project planning? We've posted several blogs covering what pull planning is, how it works for construction, and firsthand accounts of how the last planner system works in practice. This blog will continue the series by addressing common misconceptions of digital pull planning and outlining its distinct advantages compared to traditional pull planning. PLUS: How digital pull planning can be used with remote teams.
The Most Common Misconceptions About Digital Pull Planning
While there are numerous misconceptions about digital pull planning, this post will take a look at the top three: a sharp decline in interaction with your subcontractors, difficulties in using the software for trades, and problems with adoption of the process itself.
Often the biggest misconception associated with adapting digital pull planning is the loss of interactivity with your subcontractors. There seems to be an assumption that the term “digital” means an automatic reduction in the ability to interact in the real world. In short, this just isn’t true and the past few weeks have certainly demonstrated that "digital" doesn't have to mean a lack of contact or connection. Construction crews utilizing digital pull planning typically always get together in person to review goals and progress. There’s nothing that says face-to-face interaction should be cut short. However, digital tools give construction teams the option to strategically plan while remaining physically distant and can make the facilitation of those in-person check ins much easier.
Another common misconception about digital lean planning is that it’s harder to enter information by the trades because they’re too busy (or any number of other invalid excuses.) It’s important to dispel this myth because the reality is your trades don’t even ever have to touch the software if you don’t want them to. Digital pull planning can be that seamless and that easy-to-use.
The final misconception to address concerns adoption by trades. This argument typically arises from the belief that tradespeople are so set in their ways (i.e. entrenched in the “old school industry”) that they’ll never be able to adapt to something new. This isn’t a new misconception because it was prevalent when cell phones started to become more widespread. Now, the thinking goes that they’re just too used to using paper/sticky notes to make the leap to digital. Again, this isn’t the case at all. In our current time of physical distancing, all workers are embracing adaptations to the way things have typically been done and, in our experience, once tradespeople are introduced to digital pull planning, the value is quickly evident. As a final proof point, there’s one quote from industry contacts that’s quite telling: “We don’t know of anyone who has ever gone backwards from digital pull planning.”
The Top Advantages of Digital Pull Planning
Adopting digital pull planning hinges upon the full realization that digital lean planning is an objectively superior way to get construction projects done. With that in mind, let’s examine a few of the advantages of embracing the last planner system.
1. Easier entry (and easier to read) vs. sticky notes
Although sticky notes are a proven tool in the pull planning process, digital pull planning software has really rendered them
obsolete and today's physical distancing requirements make them near impossible to execute. To wit, VeilSun had a client that was halfway through a pull when they saw how much easier it was to input via software. So, in the middle of their pull, they ditched their stickies and decided to go 100% to digital. Not only can a digital pull be safer for your team in the weeks ahead, but you're likely going to be able to go faster with a digital pull.
Going digital allows everyone to have access and complete transparency. That means that the foreman has the ability to preview everyone’s cards before the pull along with the power to actually visualize dependencies on cards. Best of all, you can adjust everything in real time so as you move stuff around, it keeps dependencies in mind. In other words, digital pull planning warns you if something breaks.
3. Ensure consistency
The digital pull planning platform makes sure everyone’s on the same page—literally. It promotes proper lean processes and standardizes how people do and think about things. Knowing the digital last planner system is based on best practices lets you proceed with confidence as your project progresses.
4. Reuse different pulls and cards
As we mentioned before, digital pull planning allows you to go faster—but not just on a single part of the project. One of our clients has been copying pulls for different floors with changed dates, essentially acting as a template and letting them replicate their success in other parts of the project.
5. Post pull scheduling
Typically, someone takes a picture of the pull after it’s completed and distributes it to the team. But this can make it hard for a foreman to know who is supposed to be where and at what time because there’s no subs schedule. QLean software creates a schedule and immediately distributes it to all the subcontractors so everyone knows where they are
supposed to be each day. And, if they get behind, it lets everyone else know. The digital pull planning software keeps everyone accountable at every stage of the project.
As an added bonus, digital pull planning naturally resonates with the younger generation entering the workforce because they expect things to be digital. It’s good for your workforce to see you don’t need to stick to old-fashioned approaches and that you’re willing to adopt and implement tools that work for them.
One last advantage: digital pull planning can even be leveraged as a sales tool. You can talk about how the digital benefits in the sales process, most notably more opportunity to be on-time and on-schedule. You could even deploy to owners/clients for oversight since everyone has visibility and accountability.
With the way digital pull planning dispels common misconceptions and overdelivers on benefits, it’s no surprise more and more construction companies are moving to implement it on all of their projects whether they need to practice physical distancing or not. If you’d like to learn how to make digital pull planning a reality with your team, learn more about VeilSun’s QLean software and get in touch with us. We’re always happy to show you how to save time, create less waste and solve for the most pressing challenges in your construction projects.