Last Planner System: Improving Productivity in the Field

Studies show that in the construction industry only 54.4% of work activities are completed as planned. Mortenson is currently implementing the Last Planner System at Hennepin County Medical Center’s (HCMC) new Specialty Center, a new approach to ensure that construction activities are being tracked, planned and completed with early, interactive input from all trade partners.

This method is a dramatic departure from the typical approach that included little to no input from trade partners. Results are already being realized by the HCMC project team by improved productivity and efficiency in the field.

The Last Planner System:

  • Uses weekly meetings with trade partners to review weekly work plans
  • Identifies constraints earlier than normal that prevent an activity from being started or completed on time
  • Publishes a date that a constraint must be resolved for work to proceed as planned
  • The person who is responsible for removing the constraint is identified and they commit to a date they promise to have the constraint removed

“We are in the infant stages but the Last Planner System is showing great promise and the team is excited about the implementation,” said Project Manager Bryan Gingerich. “The process encourages trade partner engagement in the schedule and helps us make reliable commitments to each other.” 

Metrics are created by the project team each week to track percent, planned, complete (PPC) and share the results amongst the project team. “Recently the process flushed out a sequencing issue in flooring mitigation which allowed us time to work with the design team to provide an agreeable solution,” said Gingerich. “Using the Last Planner System on the HCMC project, we are currently beating the industry average for completed construction activities by 29%.” The PPC at HCMC is about 70%, versus the industry average of 54.4%.   

This way of managing the schedule encourages clear and open communication between the various trade partners and consensus groups. The collaborative process facilitates solutions and improves buy-in from the entire project team. 

“The Last Planner System has been greatly beneficial to us,” said Tony Watson, Project Manager with Parsons Electric. “Anytime we have a platform to discuss ideal sequencing and can have early discussions with other trades on how we interact with each other is extremely helpful.”  

Parsons Electric appreciated having productive conversations that resolved issues before holding-up electricians in the field. “I believe this process is creating empathy for each other and a new level of understanding for how all the trades impact each other,” said Watson. “Planning the best sequences for each trade means we must all compromise for the greatest team production. That is a great bonus for all of us!” 

The hope for this new process is that early give-and-take will prevent out of sequence work down the road and remove roadblocks that would hinder the installation sequencing long before they would normally become a problem.