Batson-Cook incorporates LEAN practices across our company and we currently implement LEAN thinking and concepts on all projects. Our goal is to create a collaborative team environment – inclusive of the design team, Owner, trade partners, and Batson-Cook – with all partners fully engaged and actively participating throughout the project.

Lean is a process that is used to manage the construction planning and scheduling in a more reliable manner. It maximizes the performance of the construction team by controlling their productivity rates by relying on trust, cooperation and teamwork.  The effect is to create a better flow of work, higher production, quicker schedule, lower cost and more accountability for each team member without affecting quality.

A technique we have previously utilized is pull planning which schedules from the milestone activity backwards. And “The Last Planner” schedule that places more accountability on the subcontractors and their commitment to have work in place. The goal of the last planner system is to create a predicable work flow to eliminate waste in the form of 1) labor waiting on work to become available and 2) work waiting on labor to be available.  The subs should have lower costs with a predicable work flow which will result in savings to the project.  On average, only 54% of construction activities are completed on time.  Using the last planner method, it is common to see the average number of activities completed on time increase to above 80%.  This saves time and money without reducing quality.

Within our Skyhouse Apartment program; a series of high-rise, multi-family projects across the country; we have utilized the pull planning technique to schedule the structure and finish sequences. The success has been proven through our ability to construct the structure of each floor in three days. Due to this process, we were able to complete our Atlanta Skyhouse, a 500,000-square-foot project, within 12 months, a typical project this size would have taken 18-20 months. Using the Last Planner schedule requires subcontractors to be active participants in building and updating the schedule, which results in a six-week look-ahead and weekly details of their planned work. This has forced more accountability on the subcontractor to meet their own schedules and has spurred open communication amongst the trades. Open communication and trust are critical to lean construction and using the last planner scheduling techniques. 

The SkyHouse developer has subsequently awarded 10 additional SkyHouse projects to Batson-Cook at sites throughout the Southeast and Texas. Lean Planning is used on each SkyHouse project. We continue to make incremental improvements in the effectiveness our Lean planning system. Our Big Room on each project is expanded to allow planning boards showing each day of our 4-week look-ahead period. The boards have a metal backing which allows our trade partners and ourselves to use colored magnetic strips to write out our activities for each day, place on the boards and adjust during the planning meeting as necessary to ensure that each last planner is able to influence the schedule of work. Each last planner is still required to prepare their planning sheets and review with the Batson-Cook superintendent prior to the weekly planning meeting. The Big Room also includes a Constraint Board to ensure that constraints are documented as they come up and stay on the board until resolved. A recent improvement is loading the current planning from the Big Room boards onto our BIM360 tablets so that Batson-Cook field superintendents and trade partner superintendents/foremen have the planning with them out in the field as well to track implementation of the planning.

Along with the “The Last Planner” schedule and Constraint Board there are other initiatives that incorporate lean concepts and add value including:

  • Prefabrication of assemblies.
  • Kitting – All components for a piece of work are unpackaged and grouped together at the shop. This contributes to less wasted time looking for individual parts, less packaging to be cleaned up, less material to be moved to the dumpster, fewer dumpster pulls, and a cleaner safer jobsite. An example of this concept would be a sink, faucet, piping, and other miscellaneous parts unpackaged and delivered in a single box ready to be installed at each room.
  • Just in time deliveries – less double handling of materials, clean, clear, and safe jobsite.
  • All material stored on carts – Less time waiting for materials to be moved out of the way to start work, less labor committed to just moving materials, fewer injuries due to less lifting, and the job will be safer because it can be cleaned better and faster if all material is off the ground.
  • BIM – creates coordination and facilitates prefabrication.
  • First work in place inspections – identifies issues at the start of each scope of work to eliminate rework.