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InEight Innovations for Fall 2021: Highlight on Short-Interval Planning

At InEight, our product teams take great pride in the time, energy and personal investment they make in research and development. In a recent webinar, we introduced some of the results of that investment with the exciting InEight Innovations for fall of 2021. What follows are a few of the key takeaways from that webinar, in particular about InEight Schedule and some new features that revolve around short-interval planning, or SIP.

Globally, I feel there is a lot of opportunity to improve critical path method (CPM) scheduling; to better the process and introduce smart change. Pulling from my personal construction experience, many large, complex capital projects are using 10, 20, 30 sometimes even 40 different systems to cover tasks like scope, cost, and schedule during the execution, operation and maintenance of an asset. And that creates a whole new set of challenges. This is exactly why InEight’s SIP vision revolves around answering one question: How do we connect the roles in construction organizations that are working in these different areas for our best project results?

 

The Traditional Short-Interval Planning Process

SIP has gone by many names. You may have heard it called look-ahead scheduling, last planner or weekly schedule plan. But regardless of the title, SIP was originally developed as a planning tactic, used to handle the dynamic nature of executing work.

What traditionally occurs is a dedicated, weekly schedule meeting to review upcoming work and to answer critical questions. Think of some of the things covered in these meetings; recapping what work needs to start this week or next week, or what crews are required to perform that work, and are those crews even available and when?

Questions may also include is there preceding work to be completed first? Am I constrained by something? And of course, if we do fall behind, what are our options to re-plan and to mitigate? These meetings are usually done on site in the trailer. Crews will huddle around a whiteboard using sticky notes or pull up a custom Microsoft Excel® sheet as the preferred tool of choice.

It’s these ad hoc processes that are responsible for managing a lot of work.

One of the most common pain points that we hear from our clients, and just through our experience is that there’s a disconnect between the CPM, or the master schedule, and these short-interval plans. Nine times out of 10, teams are running both of these schedule types, and really for good reason.

 

At the Center of CPM and Short-Interval Planning

If you think about what CPM is, it’s absolutely brilliant at establishing activity, durations, dependencies and the overall project delivery goals and objectives. And then on the flip side, SIP has been widely accepted and proven in the global market as an efficient means to manage this fluid and dynamic nature of actually executing work in the field. And the challenge lies in connecting the two together. And that’s precisely why we developed InEight’s SIP solution.

If we break this down further, it could be argued that there are two primary groups that could be managing the same plan at any given time on a project. If you think of project management – project controls, planners and schedulers, project engineers – they are primarily focused on the CPM schedule. They are preparing it for communication to the client, to stakeholders and to partners.

And then on the other hand, you have the field execution team. Think of superintendents, foremen and the people that are actually building the work. Those roles benefit greatly from this more granular nature of planning in SIP. Take for example just rearranging some steps. Whether those steps move or split, that fluid nature is very difficult to maintain in the critical path method as they require a freer environment to thrive. And as long as these lower level details stay within the activity boundaries of the CPM, all is good.

For another simple example, let’s take form, pour and strip, which is a very common activity in a CPM schedule. The project controls group can easily understand in the CPM that a foundation is actively being worked on during a period of time. However, a more detailed step-by-step approach is required for execution of that activity and the planning of a more detailed fashion is better suited for SIP. So, we’re not favoring one method over the other, but rather, we built SIP at the intersection of both of these very well-vetted methodologies.

 

Solutions and Benefits of Short-Interval Planning

A project team enters into an agreement to a planned sequence of work with an expected finish date. That’s the promise of an executed contract. So, planning within critical path method is a must. And SIP allows that visibility into the activity boundaries, which drives a real-time look into the latest version of the project schedule.

Short-interval planning additionally allows the ability to break down functional silos and expose these hidden constraints and opportunities. And that’s ultimately increasing efficiency. And that’s what people see in the market today when they use these traditional SIP approaches. We’ve taken well-vetted analog versions of weekly look ahead scheduling and we’ve placed it into a single digital environment. This allows SIP to benefit from everything cloud-based computing has to offer. And finally, we have an opportunity to drive communication across both strategies for example, providing an instant line of sight to project milestone from any point in the solution.

Take a common example of change and the potential change order process, there’s a prescriptive method to manage it – and it takes time. The reality is that the field execution team cannot wait for a potential approval. Essentially, there is a risk that you may not be granted a schedule change. And if you just go ahead and not wait for approval, you’ve created a disconnect on the source of truth. Providing a space where we have essentially an activity that is acting as a boundary or a guide way, and place under it, anything you want to do in terms of sequence eliminate risk and confusion. And if steps extend beyond that planned activity, we can elevate that communication.

We can flag users and warnings to say, “Hey, there needs to be a critical conversation to come with a solution on one of two things” or “Do we push back on the field and try to rearrange within the boundaries?” Or perhaps the activity in our example has some flow where therefore, we have the ability to extend out a duration? It’s a different approach than CPM scheduling. We’re not worried about start to finish connections and constraints. The combination of CPM and InEight’s vision of SIP is truly unique.

 

Short-Interval Planning and The Digital Whiteboard

InEight SIP’s digital whiteboard experience maintains the familiarity of job trailer grease boards and Excel sheets. We’ve kept it simple yet flexible, so team can focus more on interaction and engagement across teams and less time customizing technology.

A critical feature of the digital whiteboard is the ability to identify breaches. When CPM and SIP don’t align, you generate a checks and balance system from the AI produced CPM versus the field execution planning in SIP.

This latest innovation and its early introduction to the market is something we couldn’t be more excited about. I think back to my time in the field working on mega jobs, the time spent customizing, conditional formatting in Excel, people asking, “Hey, where are we at with this,” and me having to respond, “Hang on, let me update it,” really, it’s inexcusable quite frankly. This is what the market needs today and we’re just hoping that people want to come in and enjoy it.

These days, everything might be remote. With our SIP capability in InEight Schedule, you’ve got it all right in front of you at your fingertips. You can see exactly what’s going on. And then the beauty of this too is that you can do all this functionality inside of InEight’s integrated platform, or in conjunction with Primavera P6, for example.

Ready to find out more? Check out the full InEight Innovations release, then schedule a demo for your team. In the meantime, we’ll see you next quarter with more innovative solutions to solve your real-world problems.

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