By Trestles Construction Solutions, LLC on Jan 28, 2019 9:00:00 AM
When talking about construction industry waste, everyone agrees it is bad, but oftentimes no action is taken to reduce or eliminate it. Because of the challenges or variation that construction firms and their people face on a daily basis, many believe its just the “cost of doing business” and pass those costs on to their customers. Toyota, within its Toyota Production System (TPS), categorizes waste into 7 forms: transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, over-production and defects. These are non-value-added activities that the customer doesn’t want to pay for and shouldn’t have to.
Whether it is in the office or in the field, the key is to communicate to team members how waste is defined, help them learn to see it, and put in place continuous means and methods to systematically eliminate it. To be noted, some waste is necessary—that is, activities that are required but do not add value from the eyes of the customer. For example, the process of handling material does not add direct value, but is necessary. In addition, recording time, progress and constraints take time away from actually installing the work, but these tasks are also necessary.
If your team isn’t on the same page about what waste is, it is going to be difficult for them to work on reducing it. This blog will examine one strategy to reduce waste, short interval scheduling, and—most importantly—how to get your team bought in.
What is short interval scheduling?
Short interval scheduling is a process that addresses the dynamic nature of executing work in the field, continually evaluating dependencies and other constraints to keep work flowing smoothly. It requires detailed planning to ensure the crews have what they need when they need it, and sets forth safety, quality, productivity, cost and completion expectations before the work begins.
Short interval scheduling is comprised of six key steps:
- Break the work down into a manageable scope of work or Work Package, with a reasonable duration that aligns and supports the established milestones, per the project master schedule.
- Identify and list the tasks required to the next level of granularity.
- Based on experience, determine the logical sequencing of the tasks and what tasks can be executed concurrently.
- Assign the mix and number of craft persons to each task.
- Compare the plan to the master schedule and the estimate.
- Make adjustments as required.
Short interval scheduling works to decrease waste and improve efficiency and schedule predictability. It creates the opportunity for collaboration between the people that are responsible for performing the work as opposed to a scheduling technician dictating requirements without knowing or taking into account the context of the current situation.
No one likes change
Though it may not be in the form of the defined process we suggest above, some sort of short interval planning and scheduling takes place on every construction job, every day that work is being performed. Discussions may occur in groups or with individuals, crafts are assigned to frontline supervisors, and those crew leaders, at some point, will tell their people what to do and when to do it.
Introducing a standard, more effective, efficient method of short interval planning and scheduling offers many benefits, but may face varying levels of resistance. Many frontline supervisors simply have never been trained on how to plan and schedule. Others may take pride in their ability to make quick decisions when dealing with chaos. Effective planning takes time and is not easy, and neither is adjusting to change
Having had extensive experience training and implementing short interval planning and scheduling, we typically find the frontline guys and gals are not the problem. They want to have what they need and it feels good when the work is going smoothly. It's embarrassing and demoralizing when they have to face their crews every morning and can’t get the work done because they don’t have what they need due to some out of control upstream process or people they depend on dropping the ball.
Instead, the field crew often resists the adoption of a new planning and scheduling processes. No one likes change, and it can be hard to adjust after doing things the same way for years.
Implementing short interval scheduling
The key to successfully implementing short interval scheduling and getting team buy-in is effective change management. For management tackling short interval scheduling implementation (or any other process improvement), we would suggest the following common sense change management approach.
Define the problem
Explaining the problem with the current way of doing things is the first step to getting buy-in for a big process change.
Example: “We are experiencing significant cost overruns and schedule slippages on many of our projects. Continuing to have poor performing projects is not healthy for the company in general, our people or our reputation.”
Provide data to support the problem statement
Quantify the problem with examples. Without data, it’s just an opinion.
What would it look like if we perfected our planning and scheduling (construction in heaven)?
Example: Our ideal outcome is fewer injuries, complete work on time, high productivity, and less rework, leading to an optimum work environment where our people can grow and excel.
Communicate the strategy based on the research completed. Explain how the company will implement best practices and technology, and will engage the people who do the work to realize the vision.
Manage the implementation as a project, including addressing the who, what, when, where and how. Wide-scale initial implementations typically fail. Pick a pilot with an enthusiastic sponsor or champion who is highly respected by the field for initial implementation.
Monitor & Support
Senior management must show actual support by staying engaged, offering training, providing adequate resources, removing constraints and providing encouragement.
Measure and effectively communicate results and provide recognition to those involved in the pilot.
Implement the process and technology to all projects making sure expectations and standards are not only clearly defined, but means and methods are in place to ensure compliance. Remember it is not a standard unless everyone is following it.
Create a clear communication channel to management (preferably an established team) so suggested improvements can be analyzed and implemented if justified, creating a new standard. This is a never-ending continuous improvement cycle using the framework Plan-Do-Check-Act.
Short interval scheduling is a process that if implemented effectively, can lead to dramatic safety, quality, productivity and schedule reliability improvements. These improvements will help grow your bottom line, facilitate growth and differentiate your company from your competition. Your retainage of good people will improve and you will be a magnet for talent.
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