Tips for Successful Long Lead Planning
A common risk (and constraint) to construction project schedules is the availability of project materials. Project materials can include anything from building materials, to office supplies, to tools, equipment needs, and even personnel.
Often times construction firms must procure materials and services from various suppliers who do not work in unison, but rather have multiple commitments of their own to complete and varying deadlines to complete them under.
All of these puzzle pieces must be carefully planned and aligned to keep deliverables flowing, schedules intact, and project costs in check.
One way to maintain a steady and dependable flow of supplies and services is through Long Lead Planning (LLP). Long Lead Planning is a lean tactic which facilitates project efficiency through detailed accounting of long lead delivery schedules and needs. To be successful, LLP requires alignment, open communication and collaboration among all vendors, suppliers, contractors, and processes within a project.
By aligning all of the parties in the supply chain conversation, everyone can have a view and say in what materials will be needed, the quantities that will be needed, and the timing of delivery.
Easier said than done of course!
So, to aid in this process, here are six key actions that management can take to ensure team alignment and successful planning of long lead materials and equipment:
- Itemize the long lead list or register
- Assign responsibility for specific items or sequences
- Confirm that pre-funding is in place for relevant activities and that budgets are aligned
- Confirm that engineering submittals are approved for the specific list
- Confirm all shipping methods
- Define what tracking method will be used to align the team on weekly reports
This process is part and parcel to Value Stream Mapping (VSM), and it is one of the most important steps that construction project owners and managers can take to preemptively design efficiency into the life-cycle of their project.
While there are various methods that may be used for defining long lead items, Value Stream Mapping is a preferred tool because it serves multiple functions. VSM not only allows construction management to define long leads, but to identify potential waste, bottlenecks, process conflicts, etc., map them, and make plans to eliminate them before they can disrupt the flow of inventory and/or information.
Another consideration in Long Lead Planning (and VSM for that matter) is to map out where suppliers and production activities are physically located so that management can most accurately anticipate delivery timelines and/or potential logistical conflicts.
It is also important to look at 3rd party (or indirect) aspects of the supply chain to determine if one supplier’s schedule or commitments will impact other supplier’s timelines. Once this has been done, all participants must agree upon basic terms of service and delivery dates. Buy-in from all parties is likely to come easier if all long lead items have been mapped and defined with care and accuracy.
After all parties have confirmed their commitments and the owners and managers of the construction project are satisfied then they may proceed with the construction project as planned.
Having a detailed flowchart for all material and production processes within a construction project creates a higher level of visibility, organization, and preparedness, all of which is critical for ultimate project success. In the end, Long Lead planning offers a competitive advantage to any company willing to adopt the practice.
If you would like more information about construction productivity improvement, please feel free to access our large-scale modularization fact sheet below: