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How to successfully implement 4D Planning

Understanding a Gantt Chart can be a complicated process. The scale of detail can be overwhelming, span multiple pages and be hard to read. This can drive the behaviour of contractors towards focussing solely on the activities they are responsible for and miss key milestones or critical handoffs with other trades. Consequently, relying solely on the Gantt Chart to communicate the project can lead to poor project outcomes because the schedule was unsuccessful at communicating the overall objectives and requirements of the project.

With all the challenges facing the industry communicating a schedule has never been more important. That’s where 4D planning can make the difference. 4D planning provides a time animated video output of the schedule by combining the 3D model with the build sequence required to deliver the project.

What is 4D planning?

4D planning brings a completely different approach to construction project management. It extends current 3D visualisation capabilities to add the fourth dimension of time, sequencing work and creating chronological videos that demonstrate how projects will be executed.

More information on 4D planning is also available on our recent blog ‘4D BIM; what does it means and what are the benefits‘.

The brain processes images and video 60,000 times faster than text. It’s no wonder that 65% of learners are visual learners. Conveying a schedule in 4D BIM is therefore a game changer in conveying a construction schedule as several thousand lines within a schedule can be easily articulated through several seconds of video.

Consequently, 4D planning is extracting new value for projects by:

  • Ensuring stakeholders gain a deeper understanding of the project schedule.
  • Increasing understanding of deliverables and timescales by improving operations and logistics.
  • Identification of risks and issues to drive safety standards before they become expensive mistakes.
  • Understanding the project flow, minimising costly remedial work.
  • Increasing collaboration within the team and ensure all parties are accountable.
  • Improving project coordination, optimising the use of space for ground crew and trades.


How to successfully implement 4D Planning

Adoption of 4D Planning in Construction

If you were to poll Tier 1 and Tier 2 construction firms, they would all say they use 4D planning on their projects. But if you dig deeper and ask if 4D planning is being used from project inception to completion the reality is, 4D planning for all its benefits is rarely in use for the entirety of the project as studies show only 44% of general contractors rely on BIM for at least half of their projects.

In the most part 4D planning is used as a key tool during tendering to win a job (it can be the competitive edge in presentations) but it can add tremendous value if used throughout the lifetime of the project. For example, a 4D schedule makes it easy to identify planned versus actual progress, or for communicating key areas of the project with trades (e.g. onboarding trades or highlighting a safety risk, or time critical issue).

In our recent blog ‘4D planning is extracting new value from BIM software‘ we explain how 4D planning creates a clear vision for project execution by bringing a different approach to construction project management.

What’s stopping the industry fully adopting 4D Planning?

The are several factors that have impacted the adoption of 4D scheduling in the past 5 years. Typically time, team skill set requirements and change management are cited as reasons for adopting 4D planning.

There has been an industry perception that introducing 4D planning into the construction process adds an additional schedule to create and maintain. This has led to concerns over time and cost impacts within an industry constantly challenged with delivering on time and budget.

This perception is compounded by an expectation that adding 3D models into the equation will require additional Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) software and skill sets within the scheduling team. There is consequently an expectation that lead time will be added to the build and maintenance of the overall programme; particularly when even the slightest project impacts that require schedule re-work will lead to the redevelopment of the 4D schedule.

However, if organisations adopt 4D construction planning software that integrates the 3D model with the plan directly within the same application, this dramatically simplifies the adoption of 4D planning. This is because the planner or scheduler can work in exactly the same way as they do today, linking the 3D model with activities in the same way they create logic links to streamline the creation, maintenance and communication of 4D schedules. Consequently, by making 4D planning easy organisations can gain the benefits of 4D planning without the cost and time burden of utilising disparate planning and time animated systems.

Further information about Asta Powerproject 4D helps to make 4D planning easy is available here.

Our advice to using 4D BIM during construction

From our experience, starting simple is key to sustaining the benefits and competitive edge of 4D for the long term. Here’s our three top tips to getting started:

Right team, right project.

If you’re starting out on your journey or looking to relaunch a 4D planning initiative within your organisation, finding the right team and right project are key to sustainable adoption. The right team and project will ensure the team is actively involved in maintaining the 4D schedule.

When starting out ensure those involved understand the purpose of 4D planning so the entire team remain invested throughout and do not give up. Initially things may be awkward but remember “nothing worth having comes easy”. Having a willingness to experiment with new workflows and provide feedback will soon lead to the team realising that “lightbulb” moment and doubling down on positive results – and remember don’t overcomplicate it to begin with. Start small, test, learn and grow.

For instance, start by looking at what information you consistently have access to within your 3D models and see how you can leverage that meta data to build and support your plan. Next you may look at feeding back to the design team to ensure location information (e.g. zones, floors, areas) is included, so you can use this information to automatically build a first pass schedule you can then fine tune.

It also pays to find a project where the visual benefits of 4D planning will be invaluable. This could be a buildings project with restrictive site access, an infrastructure project with time critical handoffs, or as a differentiating communication tool to win a client contract. This will create the motivation in the team to create and maintain the 4D schedule.

Build one plan.

You do not need separate schedules or separate applications to plan in 4D. Utilising 4D planning software that allows you to build, link and manage the 4D plan within the same application will streamline the time and cost of maintaining the schedule throughout the lifetime of the project. This is because the software will make it easy for you to update and reschedule the project when there are model revisions, and when changes (like adverse weather) affect the project timeline. In addition, you can get a visual understanding of adjusting the schedule in real time by comparing the plan with alternative build process or with actual build data.

What’s more, the earlier you can build your plan from the 3D model the greater the cost opportunities for your business. By starting with the model, you can harness the metadata it provides to build your schedule directly from the model. Better yet, by building simple design standards within your model creation or preparation process, you can automate the initial stages of crafting the schedule entirely. Again, you don’t need to make this complicated; as outlined above, ensuring your models have zones, levels or work areas can allow you to quickly build the foundations of your schedule.

Align your business objectives

Before you get started on your 4D planning journey setting business objectives is a critical first step to success. This ensures all stakeholders are aligned and gives your measurable outcomes to track performance as well as ensuring that, when challenges arise, decision makers are all bought into the process to remove roadblocks.

  • Before you get started it is therefore worth considering:
  • What does success look like and how will you know you’ve achieved it?
  • Who will sponsor the initiative within your organisation to drive adoption?
  • Do you have any projects and project teams that would be a good fit?
  • What level of detail do we already have in our 3D models we can use? Do we need more? (Remember start simple and build from there)

Asta Powerproject 4D allows you to combine a 3D model with your project schedule to create a powerful 4D environment. For more information contact our sales team on +44 (0) 34 5646 1735 or book a demo.

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