Pull Planning: Your Guide to Working Backwards In Construction 

This guide covers everything you need to know about pull planning in construction, including the process, benefits, best practices, and more.
pull planning
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology

Schedule & Track Work With An App Built For The Field

Whether you’re a construction student with an eye on becoming the next game-changer in the industry or a seasoned professional looking to keep pace with cutting-edge methods, you’re in the right place. This guide is your ultimate roadmap to understanding and mastering pull planning in the ever-evolving construction and field services sector.

Are you ready to better understand what pull planning is and take your projects to a whole new level of efficiency? Because we’re about to break down its nuts and bolts, show you the scaffolding, and, of course, why it’s beneficial for you and your construction team.

In this guide, we’ll review what pull planning is, explore its process, reveal the rewards of working backward (Spoiler alert: it’s not just about saving time, but also those precious dollars!), and get our hands dirty with the best practices that can make you an exceptional pull planning master.

What Is Pull Planning?

Essentially, pull planning is a popular lean construction method. But it’s not your run-of-the-mill, everyday construction practice—it’s a way of managing your workflow to speed things up significantly.

You might think the name “pull planning” sounds like it involves some literal pulling. Well, not quite. Instead, the term “pull” in this context refers to a project planning approach that works backward—kind of like having dessert before dinner!

Let’s say you have a final project completion date. Now, instead of moving forward from the project start date (the typical approach), pull planning works its magic by starting from that final date and planning the necessary steps in reverse order.

Ultimately, pull planning aims to eliminate inefficiencies, reduce waste, and optimize the use of resources. Instead of pushing tasks (often without considering if the next process is ready to take them), you pull them when needed. Simply put, it’s like a just-in-time delivery for your construction project tasks.

This way, each task is scheduled at the best possible time, considering the dependencies and the readiness of the following tasks. It’s about ensuring that every puzzle piece fits right in and that no part is left idly waiting or causing unnecessary delays.

Pull Planning vs. Push Planning 

When it comes to project scheduling in construction, two popular methods often steal the spotlight: Pull Planning and Push Planning. But what exactly are these techniques, and how do they stack against each other? Let’s break it down.

Push Planning is a traditional project management approach where tasks are scheduled from the start date to the end date. Project managers typically make the plan, “pushing” tasks down the line based on their assumptions of task duration and sequence.

On the other hand, Pull Planning is a more modern and collaborative approach. It works backward from the project end date or milestone, “pulling” tasks as needed. This method relies heavily on team collaboration and input, ensuring the plan reflects the project’s core realities and constraints.

Pull Planning
Push Planning
1. Better workflow efficiency.
2. Minimizes waste.
3. Reduces project delays.
4. Improves resource allocation. 
5. Enhances overall project performance.
1. Simplicity and ease of understanding.
2. Works well with small projects.
3. Suitable for projects with less complexity and interdependencies. 
1. Requires extensive team collaboration and communication.
2. Initial learning curve may be steep.
3. Needs high commitment from all stakeholders.
1. Inefficient workflow due to batch processing of tasks.
2. Leads to wastage of resources.
3. Prone to delays due to unforeseen issues.
4. Lack of flexibility in managing complex projects.

So, which approach should you choose? Well, it really depends on the specifics of your project overall. For instance, pull planning might be your best bet if you have a complex project with many dependencies or are looking for more team collaboration. However, push planning might be the way to go for more straightforward projects. 

Key Elements of Construction Pull Planning

Understanding pull planning in construction requires a grasp of its core elements. These fundamental components interlink to produce a robust and efficient pull planning system.

Last Planner System (LPS) 🎯

The Last Planner System, or LPS, is a core aspect of pull planning. The Last Planner is the person or team in charge of executing the upcoming task in the project timeline. This individual or team has detailed knowledge of the task’s specifics and possible constraints.

The Last Planner’s role is to ensure tasks are “pull-ready.” In other words, they’re responsible for ensuring that all the prerequisites for a task are in place before it’s set into motion. They are involved in planning, forecasting, and problem-solving to ensure the work progresses without significant issues.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) 🧩

The Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, is a crucial part of all construction projects, and pull planning is no exception. It is a framework that organizes tasks into manageable units. This way, every task is outlined, assigned, and primed to be carried out when needed.

The WBS is a tool to visualize the project’s scope, establish the required tasks, and understand the relationships between them. It ensures that tasks are introduced into the project in an organized and systematic manner.

Critical Path Method (CPM) and Analysis 🕗

The Critical Path Method, or CPM, is integral to pull planning. CPM is a method that enables project planners to predict project duration. This is accomplished by studying the sequence of tasks and determining their dependencies.

CPM is useful in calculating the minimum timeframe required for project completion. It identifies the sequence of tasks essential for the project to finish on time.

The Pull Planning Process 🚦

Let’s embark on a step-by-step journey through the pull planning process. Don’t worry, it’s not a rollercoaster ride; it’s a straightforward and methodical approach that turns complex projects into manageable tasks. Here are the key steps.

1️⃣ Identification of Project Milestones and Goals 

The initial stage of the pull planning process involves identifying and defining the project’s major milestones and goals. This step sets the tone for the entire project. Unlike traditional project management, where you start at the beginning and work your way to the end, pull planning requires you to define the end first and work backward.

The end milestone could be a variety of things depending on the nature of the project—for instance, say, the completion of a building, the opening of a bridge, or the finishing touch on a landscaping project.

In addition to the final milestone, you also define other significant milestones along the way. These could include the completion of foundational work, installation of key systems, or other critical phases of the project.

2️⃣ Formation of a Multidisciplinary Project Team 

The second step involves forming the project team. But it’s not just any team; it’s a multidisciplinary team that includes all the critical stakeholders in the project. This team could include architects, engineers, project managers, and subcontractors—basically, anyone with a crucial role in the project.

Having a diverse team is vital for the pull planning process. Each member brings their unique perspective, skills, and insights to the table. This diversity helps ensure that the plan is comprehensive and that every aspect of the project is considered.

3️⃣ Collaborative Sessions 

The final step is the collaborative planning sessions. These sessions are the heartbeat of the pull planning process. This is where all the stakeholders come together to define the tasks, sequences, and dependencies that make up the project.

Collaboration is key in these sessions. Each team member has a voice and is encouraged to share their knowledge and insights. For example, a subcontractor can provide valuable input on the time and resources required for a specific task. At the same time, an architect can give feedback on how a particular design element might impact the construction timeline.

Through these collaborative sessions, the team can develop a shared understanding of the project and make collective decisions that optimize resources, reduce waste, and ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

Construction Pull Planning in Action 

Sometimes, it’s easier to understand a concept when you see it in action, which is why we’re going to explore a real-world example of pull planning at work. Tankersley Construction undertook the ambitious task of building a 6,800 sq ft custom home. Now, that’s no small feat! To effectively manage this complex project, they decided to employ pull planning.

In the initial stages, the project team identified the key project milestone: completing the custom home. This primary goal guided the subsequent steps of the pull planning process, including breaking the project down into several milestones.

Next, they assembled a multidisciplinary team, including architects, engineers, and various trade contractors, each with unique skills and expertise. This diverse team was critical for accurately planning and scheduling the various tasks in the project.

The team then engaged in a series of collaborative pull planning sessions. Each member contributed their insights and needs, helping define the project’s tasks, dependencies, and optimal sequence.

For example, the electricians could directly collaborate with the roofers to find a mutually beneficial schedule, where the electrician would get in to set up lighting so the roofers wouldn’t be moving supplies through the house in the dark. This collaborative approach continued through all project phases, resulting in an efficient, well-coordinated construction schedule.

This example from Tankersley Construction is a testament to the effectiveness of pull planning in managing complex construction projects, demonstrating how pull planning fosters collaboration, optimizes resources, and improves project outcomes. To get an even more detailed look at this example, you can check out the video below.

Construction Pull Planning Best Practices: Tips for Success 

Now that we’ve explored the what, why, and how of pull planning in construction, let’s discuss how to do it right. To help guide you further, here are some best practices to help you successfully implement pull planning in your own construction projects.

Clearly Define Your Project Milestones and Goals 🎯

The success of your pull planning process starts with well-defined project milestones and goals. The more specific you are about your end objectives and major milestones, the more effective your planning will be. This clarity will guide your team throughout the project, keeping everyone aligned and focused on what needs to be achieved.

Engage All Relevant Stakeholders 👥

One of the keys to effective pull planning is the engagement of all relevant stakeholders. This includes everyone who has a role in the project, from the architects and engineers to the construction managers and various subcontractors.

Each person brings unique insights and expertise to the table, ultimately contributing to a comprehensive and realistic plan.

Foster Open Communication and Collaboration 🗣️

Collaboration is at the heart of pull planning. Therefore, it’s essential to create an environment where all team members feel comfortable sharing their knowledge, ideas, and concerns.

Encourage open communication and foster a culture of respect and inclusivity. Remember, the goal is to create a shared understanding of the project and make collective decisions that benefit the project.

Keep the Plan Flexible and Adaptable 🔄

Construction projects are dynamic, and things can change rapidly. While having a detailed plan is important, keeping it flexible at the same time is equally important. This means being prepared to adapt and adjust as needed, as this adaptability will help you to respond effectively to unexpected challenges and changes.

How To Implement Construction Pull Planning: Your Step-by-Step Guide 

Now that you’re up to speed on the theory and best practices of pull planning, you’re probably wondering how to implement it in your own construction projects. Well, you’re in the right place! Let’s go through a step-by-step guide on implementing construction pull planning.

1️⃣ Overcome Challenges and Barriers to Implementation 

Implementing a new approach like pull planning is bound to encounter some resistance or hurdles. Addressing these challenges directly is essential to help avoid any bigger problems further down the pipeline. 

This could involve dispelling misconceptions about pull planning, addressing concerns about change, or identifying and removing operational obstacles. Be proactive in overcoming these barriers to ensure a smooth transition to pull planning.

2️⃣ Train and Educate Project Teams 

Once you’ve addressed the initial barriers, the next step is to train and educate your project teams. This training involves teaching them the principles, techniques, and benefits of pull planning. You could organize training sessions and workshops, or even hire an external consultant to help out. The goal is to ensure everyone understands what pull planning is and is on board with the approach.

3️⃣ Integrate with Digital Tools and Software Solutions 

In today’s digital age, technology can significantly simplify and streamline the pull planning process. There are various software solutions available that are specifically designed to support your pull planning. 

These tools can assist with task scheduling, collaboration, visualization, and more. Integrating these digital solutions into your pull planning process can enhance efficiency and productivity.

4️⃣ Establish a Culture of Collaboration and Continuous Improvement 

Last, but definitely not least, it’s crucial to foster a culture that supports pull planning. This involves promoting collaboration, encouraging open communication, and embracing continuous improvement.

Regularly review your pull planning process, seek feedback from your team, and always be open to making improvements.

Following these steps will set you on the path to successfully implementing pull planning in your construction projects. It might take some time to transition and get everyone onboard fully, but with perseverance and the right approach, you’ll soon start reaping the benefits of pull planning.

How To Schedule & Track Tasks With Workyard 

Are you ready to take your construction project management approach to the next level? Then, explore Workyard, a robust and powerful tool designed to simplify the scheduling and tracking of your tasks.

Organize Tasks in Chronological Order 🗓️

Workyard allows you to arrange your tasks chronologically, giving you a clear overview of upcoming tasks by day, week, or month. It’s like having a personal planner that’s always up to date. You’ll have a bird’s eye view of what’s coming up, enabling you to plan ahead and manage your resources efficiently.

Easily Schedule and Coordinate Tasks 📋

With Workyard, scheduling tasks is as easy as dragging and dropping. That’s right! No complicated procedures or codes to decipher. Simply click on a task and drop it where it belongs on your schedule. This user-friendly feature makes job scheduling a breeze, ensuring you’re always one step ahead.

Clear Communication on Task Details 📝

Workyard also facilitates clear communication about what needs to be done for each task. You can add notes, checklists, and attachments to each task, ensuring your team knows exactly what’s expected. It’s like having a digital blueprint for every task.

Real-Time Task Progress Tracking 📍

With Workyard, you’ll never be in the dark about your project’s progress. The platform provides real-time location information, so you’ll always know where your workers are and what they’re working on. This live update feature allows you to make informed adjustments on-the-fly, ensuring your projects stay on track.

In a nutshell, Workyard offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution for managing your construction tasks—and the best part? You can try it out for free! Give Workyard a spin and discover a better way to manage your construction projects; start your free trial today!

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