Last Planner System: The Key Cog in the Lean Construction Wheel

Lean construction is built on the idea of creating efficiencies, eliminating waste, and increasing productivity in construction projects. One of the most important concepts tied to successful Lean construction projects is the Last Planner ® System (LPS).

LPS is a planning method to support each phase of a construction project. The most important activity takes place before construction begins to ensure that the project is set up for success meeting the goals for cost, schedule, and quality.

To maximize the capabilities of the Last Planner ® System, it is important to understand that LPS is not a menu of planning options to select from. That is a common misconception, and if you try to pick and choose, then the system will not work as its designed and intended.

Rather, the LPS is a holistic approach to construction management to ensure that all key activities are supported to drive toward the goals of the project. Taking a holistic approach will ensure that you achieve a higher level of productivity.

How Does LPS Enable Quality in Lean Construction?

The traditional thinking about construction is that you can only Pick 2 — cost, schedule, or quality. However, full implementation and execution of the Last Planner ® System along with an aligned contract (see article) allows the project to achieve all three.

In this system, quality is embedded throughout each phase of construction. This is achieved by increasing the amount of time and resources in the pre-planning phase using collaborative thinking, problem-solving, and technological tools to establish a cohesive construction plan.

  • Issues are addressed beforehand.
  • Variables are anticipated ahead of time.
  • Realistic budgets and timelines are set.
  • Attainable goals are agreed-upon.
  • Communication channels are established.
  • Materials are coordinated for delivery.

The result is that the normally occurring dynamic changes in any project can be addressed pro-actively and collaboratively. The extensive work in continuous communication and collaboration allows stakeholders to coordinate adjustments in or ahead of time.

How Do You Implement the Last Planner ® System?

Remember, implementation of the LPS is not pick-and-choose. Each phase requires certain steps to achieve complete support of the construction project and to drive productivity. Consider the steps required before construction begins.

Phase 1 (Master Planning): Set the master schedule, establish milestones that will be tracked, and ensure a clear understanding of what is being promised. Collaboration and strong communication begin in this phase to carry throughout the project.

Phase 2 (Phase Planning): Set the workflow schedule, build the construction plan, and focus on how to make clean, efficient hand-offs between teams. The mechanics of a Lean construction project are critical. Everyone in the project should have a clear understanding of their role and how to execute the plan to support the project goals.

Phase 3 (Ready Planning): Before construction begins, identify the constraints to the project, set the table for the work to be completed, and commit to removing constraints. Again, communication is vital to ensure that construction is ready to begin and that the project will be successful.

Then, once construction begins, teams should take steps to review progress and compare actual results to the milestones to ensure that productivity goals are being met:

  • Share feedback on what’s working.
  • Incorporate the lessons learned.
  • Work toward eliminating waste.
  • Verify that the project is on-track to meet cost, schedule, and quality goals.

AMTS Recommends LPS to Support Construction Productivity

When our company works with construction companies to provide project management support, we recommend using the Last Planner ® System as part of a Lean construction approach.

In our experience, LPS keeps projects on-time by creating clear expectations for the schedule, allows projects to stay in budget by setting measurable and attainable goals, and delivers quality through careful planning that supports the project from beginning to end.

We would appreciate the opportunity to help implement LPS in your next construction project. We believe that you will realize productivity growth by utilizing this critical cog in the Lean construction wheel.

To get started, contact our team today. We look forward to speaking with you.