Thursday, February 18, 2010

A conceptual BIM of a church building

Built this model last semester as a practice of bidding a church project.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Planner® System as a problem solving framework

Last Planner® System (LP®S) reduces uncertainty and brings stability. However, when we put LP S in a problem solving framework we realize that the core of LP®S is based on two problem solving techniques: (1) Root Cause Analysis and (2) GROW model (Goal-Reality-Obstacle/Option-Way forward).

During the LP®S use-
  • We set milestones for an activity - We set goal (G)
  • We do the reality (R) check during the brainstorming sessions and look ahead planning
  • We look for obstacles (O) i.e. constraints analysis and find options (O) to deal with the constraints
  • We go ahead and execute the plan that’s our way forward (W)
  • Next we ask "why" five times which is a popular root cause analysis technique

LP®S planning protocol can be explained using these two problem solving techniques and they encompass George Pólya's method in "How to solve it?”
Pólya suggests the following steps when solving a mathematical problem:

1. First, understand the problem.
2. After understanding, make a plan.
3. Carry out the plan.
4. Look back on your work.
5. Analyze, how could it be better?

There is a scope of future research in applying different problem solving techniques and models to the problem of unpredictability of production plans and testing if other approach gives better results.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Last Planner® System and Building Information Modeling First?

I will begin with discussing the history of lean thinking and then discuss the most compelling and promising tools enabling lean thinking.
The very concept of lean construction originates from Taichi Ohno's innovative management philosophy - Toyota Production System (TPS). Precisely, the same Toyota Production System is known as "Lean" in western world.
Ohno states in his book - Toyota Production System- Beyond Large Scale Production - the two most important building blocks of TPS are Just-In-Time (JIT) and Total Quality Management (TQM).
JIT in a layman's words is an approach with the objective of producing the right part in the right place at the right time. And TQM is a management philosophy that seeks to integrate all organizational functions (marketing, finance, design, engineering, and production, customer service, etc.) to focus on meeting customer needs and other organizational objectives.
Last Planner® System (LP®S) of production control is a tool based on JIT philosophy. Frequently applied by lean constructors in planning process and more precisely in scheduling process. LP®S encompasses the principles of JIT and utilizes the concept of Kanban too. LP®S makes plans more reliable and it is a building block of lean philosophy into construction just like JIT in TPS.
Second building block of TPS is total quality management (TQM) that is concerned with quality management, as the name indicates and for doing so its focus is on value creation. Repeat work is a big waste in Ohno's book that we all agree. Rebuilding a wall wrong built or redoing the MEP tasks because of defective drawings and so conflicts is certainly waste and poor quality management. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology that enables integration and visualization of the facility in virtual world. Contractors use BIM to detect conflicts and Architects use it to communicate their design rationale to all the stakeholders.
Lean is a philosophy but you need methodologies and tools to make lean a reality. Last Planner® System and Building Information Modeling are serving the purpose. Despite several cultural, training, educational, leadership, contractual and legal barriers these innovations are diffusing in the construction industry.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Lean Construction for successful project management

Recently I came across this article by Dennis Sowards "BIM and LPS improve project management". Dennis explained LPS-Last Planner System and Building Information Modeling (BIM) fairly well.

However, in my opinion there is no point in asking the question "Should we choose BIM over Lean or Lean over BIM?" As Dennis explains in the article that before asking this question "you need to consider what each process offers before choosing one over the other", I would say: lean is a management philosophy and BIM is a technology for effective management of project information. In other words lean is a way of management and BIM is a tool for management.

Lean construction is based on a simple principle "reduce waste and increase value." To reduce waste (of time, material, labor etc.) a number of initiatives have been taken, for example Last Planner System (LPS) of production control, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Target Value Design (TVD) etc.

If we closely look at these tools, techniques and methods developed over last two decades the sole aim of these tools is to reduce waste and increase value of a project delivery. This goal translates into the goal of continuous improvement.

At this point this question can be raised "Where BIM comes into picture when we talk about lean construction?" As I said the sole aim of lean construction is continuous improvement, BIM is a tool that brings improvement to the process of project delivery- and thus continuous improvement.

Traditionally design information is shared using 2D drawings. The waste embedded in the process include: change orders, poor information flow, rework etc. BIM does not eliminate this waste entirely but it reduces the waste and so BIM enables lean.

LPS is a tool used for planning purposes, with a goal of making plans more reliable. Making plans more reliable is very important if we look at the waste generated due to broken promises. On the other hand LPS enables integrated project delivery, because "last planners" (foremen/supervisors), GCs, architects, engineers, and trade partners collaborate to make plans more reliable using LPS. Collaboration and integration is the essential condition for the use of LPS.

In conclusion lean construction philosophy and building information modeling technology both are essential to emerging building industry which is facing a downturn due to financial crisis and which is more conscious about sustainable and green construction than it was in the past.