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Your complete introduction to pull planning (in five minutes)

Efficiency is critical to meeting deadlines and keeping customers happy. But there’s more than one way to plan and execute building projects.

Traditional planning techniques aren’t delivering the results many construction companies want. Instead, industry leaders are looking at a newer process called pull planning to run efficient projects.

You’ve probably heard the term pull planning, but you may not be familiar with how it works – or the advantages of this emerging method. Perhaps you can see the benefits of pull planning, but you’re unsure how to implement it within your construction business.

Either way, you’re in the right place, as Elecosoft has put together an introductory guide to pull planning. In just five minutes, you’ll have a better understanding of:

  • What pull planning is
  • The benefits of pull planning over traditional construction planning methods
  • How to implement pull planning in your next building project

What is pull planning?

Traditionally, construction projects have relied on the critical path method (CPM) to manage progress. A project leader or site foreman will set rigid schedules and push tasks to tradespeople.

Pull planning takes the opposite approach. It breaks down construction programmes into smaller, more dynamic phases with an overall objective. Each phase is built out from the last job completing that objective – working backwards to sequence what must be completed before the next phase can begin.

This mindset shift forces companies to consider when work can actually start, based on demand. It optimises productivity, as nobody’s hanging around waiting for the previous task to finish, or unable to start a job because materials are not on site yet

The pull planning process isn’t just dynamic: it’s collaborative too. All key stakeholders, from architects to subcontractors, come together for regular planning sessions to identify milestones and organise tasks. Some companies will use sticky notes to sequence workflows in these sessions. However, collaborative task management software like Asta Connect makes pull planning easier to manage.

Here’s a good analogy for traditional construction planning vs pull planning

Imagine you’re planning a road trip using a printed map versus planning your route on real-time navigation software. Both will get you to your destination. But only one will react to unknown factors like traffic, weather and road closures that you encounter along the way.

Now imagine you’re meeting someone at your destination to hand over something important. With your static map, that person will have to wait around from the time you predicted you’d get there. In contrast, you can update them on your actual ETA with dynamic software so they set off at precisely the right time to meet you.

What are the benefits of pull planning in construction projects?

Pull planning techniques can make construction projects run much smoother for several reasons. These include:

  • Less waste. Pull planning minimises waiting times and idle resources by focusing on task completion rather than a fixed schedule. This reduction in wasted time and effort improves project efficiency.
  • Closer collaboration. Everyone’s input is equally valued in the pull planning process, encouraging open communication. Increased cooperation leads to better problem-solving and greater accountability among team members.
  • Earlier identification of problems. Not only are existing problems solved quicker, but breaking the planning process into phases can help project teams predict potential issues and find a resolution.
  • Greater adaptability. Even with pre-emptive problem-solving, construction projects can encounter unexpected challenges like weather delays and material shortages. Pull planning allows teams to adjust and reprioritise tasks quickly rather than downing tools until the issue is solved.
  • Transparency and trust. Pull planning is more of a team effort than CPM, as everyone oversees how their tasks fit into the wider project. Everyone feels they are working together to complete the project on time and within budget.

How to implement pull planning in your next building project

Hopefully, you’ve found the benefits we’ve shared compelling, and you’re ready to try pull planning in a future construction project. So, how do you make this happen?

The first step to implementing pull planning is ensuring your whole team is on board. Collaboration is crucial to this methodology. Your architects, designers, engineers and contractors must understand what pull planning is and buy into its benefits.

With everyone behind you, the next step is to identify key project milestones around which you can create construction phases. From here, you can involve the wider team with the actual pull planning – breaking each phase into manageable and logical tasks.

Earlier, we mentioned the benefit of documenting tasks digitally rather than sticking post-its on a whiteboard. Many contractors are turning to Asta Connect for pull planning, as our digital whiteboard feature uses virtual sticky notes to break down master schedules into smaller workflows.

 

Once you’ve created your initial pull plan, you’re ready to commence work. But don’t forget to review that plan regularly. The next phase can’t begin until you’ve completed the previous task list, so pull planning works best if it’s continually monitored and improved.

Make pull planning simpler with Asta Connect

The construction industry is under pressure to deliver better results with fewer resources. Pull planning is ideal for this, as it helps companies improve collaboration, increase efficiency and deliver smarter outcomes.

Executed correctly, pull planning will reduce waste, enhance adaptability and encourage productive working. But your company will need some form of collaboration software in place to manage the move from push to pull. You don’t want lost or misplaced sticky notes impacting your progress!

Asta Connect is a cutting-edge collaborative task management tool that unites contractors, project managers and planners. Our software uses pull planning techniques to coordinate tasks and track progress via a simple visual interface.

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