Improving Project Outcomes by Blending Lean and Critical Path Scheduling

Amid an increasingly competitive commercial construction marketplace, builders are seeking productivity gains to improve margins and gain competitive advantages. Construction project stakeholders at every level require unprecedented levels of coordination, control, consistency and compliance.

Lean construction methodologies increasingly factor into such efforts—and for good reason, because they can deliver significant efficiencies and savings. However, many construction firms historically have adopted an either/or approach to construction management methodologies, aligning with either the critical path method (CPM) approach or lean construction. Although lean methodologies provide the level of detail that construction workers in the field need for near-term production planning, the processes have historically been highly manual (post-it notes on a whiteboard.) As a result, the lean planning activities have been disconnected from the master schedule created by CPM, the traditional approach to creating and managing schedules.

A United Approach

Both approaches have proven merits. Limiting adoption to one or the other, however, inherently means organizations are leaving important opportunities for improving project performance on the table. Firms that can successfully harness the power of both approaches stand to gain significant competitive and operational advantages. The key is digitizing and simplifying lean (no more Post-It notes) to optimize its impact while providing a unified project management platform—with centralized and integrated data—where lean and CPM can coexist, thrive and complement each other. Applying lean principles and continuous improvement can open up opportunities that CPM scheduling alone may not always reveal.

Creating a Foundation for Success

By leveraging the right technology tools to achieve this united approach, firms can create a strong foundation for success by enabling team members to manage projects—schedules and individual tasks—from end to end, including:

  • Creating and defining project phases with a work breakdown structure
  • Identifying the duration of specific activities and the relationships between them
  • Breaking down activities into smaller tasks and committing to due dates
  • Logging completed tasks
  • Monitoring performance

It’s time to rethink the either/or approach to scheduling. Combining CPM and lean scheduling can enable organizations to harness the exponential power and benefits of a blended approach—one that digitizes lean while enabling greater visibility into project performance and better alignment and coordination of participants. Strong commitment, a clear strategy, and an integrated CPM and lean scheduling approach, powered by the right technology, positions firms to get ahead of the curve to drive more successful projects and business outcomes.  

By Mark Jenkins, director product management, Oracle Construction and Engineering

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