Utilizing Pull Planning and NetPoint for Integrated Project Delivery
April 07, 2022
PMAer Nick Gendron is a Project Manager and Project Controls Scheduler with significant experience in power, aviation, pharmaceutical, information technology, transportation, healthcare, and hospitality industries. He is skilled at providing overall construction management, leading teams, reporting on budget and schedule, and successfully providing high-quality work.
Pull planning, or short interval scheduling, occurs when you build your schedule by working backward from goals. For instance, a general contractor delivers a high-level schedule with milestones and rough durations. Then every couple of weeks, all the subcontractors meet and schedule in minute detail all the tasks that need to happen over the next four to six weeks to reach that milestone.
For example, at the start of a project, we use pull planning for six weeks of the excavation process, foundations, and underground utilities. All subcontractors that have anything to do with underground utilities, excavations, and foundations need to be in the room. They discuss the milestones needed to reach in six weeks and work backward to decide which tasks need to be done to meet that goal. If the goal is to finish the foundation in six weeks, we will need to pour and cure the concrete. Before that, we need to install rebar, and before that, we will need to complete forms. We determine how much time each task will take and create a detailed schedule to accomplish our goal. This approach is effective because it gives a clearly outlined plan to the people working in the field, with everything scheduled down to the details for each six-week period.
There can be literal incentives written in contracts stating that everyone gets more money if the project is finished early. Suppose the owner wants an integrated project delivery (IPD) contract. In that case, the owner will write those monetary incentives into everyone’s contract to be split up evenly between all the contractors. The beautiful thing is if, at the end of the job, there were no claims on the project at all, and everyone is successful. This was achieved because the process worked, and as issues came up, they were addressed with everyone in the room, and costs associated with a change were discussed right at the start. So, this is a desirable delivery method for all subcontractors who don’t like to make their money on change orders but prefer to perform the work and be paid for it. Some contractors would never admit it, but they severely lowball a bid and make up the money through change orders. That doesn’t work here because the change order processes are significantly reduced.
Traditionally, pull planning starts with contractors writing their roles and duration of work on a sticky note, which is then placed on a board in order of activities to create the six-week schedules. This part of the process could be improved using NetPoint, a superior scheduling product compared to what is currently on the market for pull planning. Most of the software available essentially produces virtual sticky notes and doesn’t translate into a schedule. However, we can translate a sticky note into a line item in the NetPoint schedule that has logic and can be imported into Primavera. NetPoint can maintain and build off all the details of the six-week plan to produce a clear and concise schedule that can be printed out and posted on all the job sites. This is easily understood by those working in the field, unlike a Primavera schedule which can be challenging to read and communicate. Additionally, if we could develop the NetPoint pen further, subcontractors could write down their activities and durations with logic to develop schedules immediately. That technology could make a massive difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of pull planning.
Pull planning is an essential part of IPD, and they work together because everyone is clear about their role and responsibility. The IPD process and the language in its contracts set the expectation that each stakeholder on the job is equal. Stakeholders are all committed to working together throughout the entire project. That commitment includes pull planning. The job is planned in a short interval, pull planning environment that includes team meetings and updates to the schedule daily. Then every couple of weeks, you’ll do a six-week short interval schedule with the team. So, the IPD process and the scheduling process go hand in hand. Everything is short intervals and transparent, and we as a team always communicate to get the job done.