One of the most powerful features of the Last Planner® System for Production Control (Last Planner) is the Make Ready process. The Make Ready process is the practice of doing what is necessary to transform a task that should be done, usually identified in a phase pull planning session, into a task that can be done. Good Make Ready practices allow the weekly planning and daily work execution to proceed with much less effort.
Step 1: Select the Make Ready planning horizon. For most projects this is the minimum recommended six weeks ahead of when tasks are to be done. More complex projects may select a longer planning horizon of eight to ten weeks. The purpose of this planning horizon is to provide the team with enough time to address the concerns related to making a task ready to perform. With a planning horizon selected, each Monday the team publishes a lookahead schedule identifying the tasks agreed to be completed within that the period. If the planning horizon is six weeks, then this lookahead schedule will include the following week as Week 1 and the following five weeks.
Step 2: Review the lookahead schedule ahead of the weekly coordination meeting. Every last planner reviews the lookahead schedule, starting with their responsible tasks that are starting in Week 6. It’s recommended that last planners work from a constraints checklist, evaluating tasks against a checklist that includes possible constraints such as labor availability, material availability, equipment availability, design clarifications, contractual decisions, and permit requirements. Last planners should notify the person managing the Constraint Log of any constraints they identify, including a clear description of what is required to remove the constraint, the task constrained, the date the constraint needs to be removed, and the person believed to take responsibility for removing the constraint. Don’t wait for the weekly coordination meeting to announce the constraint – send it in to the Constraint Log manager ahead of the weekly meeting.
Step 3: Refine tasks planned for starts in Weeks 1 through 5. By the time tasks are five weeks away from execution last planners will know more about the work than they did during the pull planning session that planned those tasks. Now is the time to consider whether it helps to refine those tasks, breaking them into smaller tasks to better synchronize material and work flows. This is especially important for phase pull planning tasks that are several days long. Sometimes the refinement process can identify new constraints. When that happens follow the process identified in Step 2.
Step 4: Secure promises for removing constraints ahead of weekly meeting and update the constraint log. Some teams are in the practice of using the weekly coordination meeting to build the constraint log and secure promises for removing constraints. This practice usually unnecessarily lengthens the meeting. Each new constraint may only require a few minutes of discussion to clarify and secure a promise, yet ten new constraints can easily lengthen the weekly meeting by thirty minutes. Use the meeting time to highlight significant constraint removal concerns and reinforce the importance of identifying and securing promises for removing constraints ahead of the weekly meeting.
Step 5: Get promises to remove constraints on the weekly work plan and include in daily coordination review. Constraint removal is as important as any other set of project tasks, and needs to be treated as such. Part of the weekly work plan needs to include the constraints promised to be removed the following week. Daily huddles need to include a review of constraints promised to be removed that day. If the person responsible for removing the constraint is not physically part of the huddles then a telephone call – not email or text message – is warranted.
Step 6: Use the lookahead schedule document to provide visibility into constraint status. Add a field to your lookahead schedule for identifying the constraint status of every task. A simple color coding system will work well. Red indicates the last planner responsible for that task has yet to evaluate it for possible constraints. Yellow indicates that the task has been evaluated and constraints need to be removed. Green indicates that the task is constraint free, either because it never had any or because the identified constraints have all been removed.
The project team’s goal ought to be to have 100% of tasks made ready by the time they are planned to be executed. The six steps above will go a long way toward reaching that goal.