How 360° Images Improve Communication on Lean Projects Through Greater Visibility, Coordination, and Progress Tracking

How 360° Images Improve Communication on Lean Projects Through Greater Visibility, Coordination, and Progress Tracking

By Tom Feliz, Director of Enterprise Sales at OpenSpace and Benjamin Feldman, Content Marketing Manager at OpenSpace 

Lean construction principles bring many benefits to teams who follow them, but they also require a higher level of communication. On a Lean project, everyone has an opportunity to raise their voice and have a say in the plan. More communication is more effective because it allows the team to benefit from insights raised by team members and adjust the plan on a daily basis.

However, teams often need better tools to facilitate this kind of flexibility and constant communication. This is especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing limits on daily jobsite personnel that still exist in many locations.

Ensuring that everyone is on the same page is crucial to moving quickly and avoiding waste. In this post, we’ll review how daily 360° photo documentation is making Lean construction principles more powerful by empowering teams to communicate more easily and work more efficiently.

  1. More Productive Meetings Using a Digital Replica of the Jobsite  

Lean projects keep schedules closely tied to conditions on the ground, with the daily and weekly meetings providing opportunities to adjust and raise issues or problems. The purpose is to ensure coordination of all teams.

This kind of accountability and collaboration allow the tightly intertwined sequencing of work that makes Lean projects more efficient. The Last Planner System®, used by most Lean construction teams, involves several layers of communication:

  • Daily Huddle
  • Weekly Work Plan
  • 3-Week Lookahead
  • Pull Plan
  • Milestone Plan

Now, new technologies are making it easier to have visibility during these meetings. With complete 360° jobsite images, teams can simply pull up a specific floor or room and view it during the meeting. They can easily scroll through several rooms and move from one floor to another, spotting issues, agreeing on how to resolve each one, and planning out the day’s schedule.

Not only that, but anyone on the project — including those working remotely — can do a virtual walkthrough of a jobsite and see what work has been completed. Individuals can flag issues using field notes on the image itself and these are sent to relevant team members automatically.

Steve Koehler, a Project Manager with The Rockwell Group, expressed how important this is, saying: “in our world, a picture can be worth a thousand words, since some things are very difficult to explain.”

  1. Better Sequencing of Trades Based on 360° Images 

On a Lean project, waste is minimized. That means crews are scheduled based on tight timelines, and work is sequenced according to due dates for each trade. Any confusion can lead to delays and waste, because each crew is tightly intertwined with the others.

On any such project, each of the trades are customers of each other, needing to follow closely together with as little buffer as possible to complete the project. This “takt time” of crews moving together in unison is what creates good flow on a project for more productivity. Each trade must complete their work and hand it off to the next team on time. If the next team cannot get started on time, it throws off the entire schedule and disrupts the flow of the entire project. That is why everyone must be disciplined about communication and reliable promises. This can be easier said than done.

However, technology is making it easier: having up-to-date 360° images of the jobsite gives teams the visibility they need to adjust schedules in real-time and prevent costly interruptions in workflow. A Project Manager, Superintendent, or Foreman can identify areas of the project that are falling behind or ahead of schedule. They can then talk to each team and figure out how to get back on track more easily with this type of information at their fingertips.

Without having the ability to do a virtual walkthrough of the site each day, these issues might be missed, which could have a cascading effect on the timelines for completing the project. But through the use of 360 degree technology, teams can stay abreast of changes and properly sequence crews for the duration of the project.

Scot Lauwasser, a Project Manager and BIM/VDC Manager at Boldt, confirmed that this is extremely helpful, saying: “there are times when I have 10 different projects, and there’s no way I can get to every site once a week. I can use [360° images] to stay on top of things.”

  1. Automated Progress Tracking for Lean Projects 

Having accurate progress tracking is important on a Lean project because it allows PMs and the extended team to see the pace of work being completed on each area of the project. It means that each crew can be double checked to ensure they are delivering on what they committed to.

This kind of accountability allows the tightly intertwined sequencing of work that makes Lean projects more efficient. However, on a typical project, all progress tracking would be done manually. One crew member would go out and track the electrical rough-in; another person would go out and track plumbing rough-in. A third person would go out and track mechanical ductwork and mechanical piping. A fourth would track the framing and drywall, and so on with each of the trades.

That kind of manual process is outdated and time-consuming. Now, with the latest 360° photo documentation tools, progress tracking can be done automatically. This does not require workers to walk the entire site and write down numbers on a clipboard. Rather, the numbers are updated using artificial intelligence that scans the images and populates a dashboard automatically.

Having these numbers available at a glance is invaluable. It allows teams to track everything — remotely or on site — and update plans accordingly. They can easily see the PPC (Percent Plan Complete) for each trade and also see how much is left to do. Decision makers can allocate resources and crews based on the data they see in front of them.

This is revolutionary for Lean projects because percent complete is the ultimate metric for these types of projects. Being able to get this hard data without sending team members to walk the site everyday is incredibly valuable. It minimizes the time and effort needed to confirm work in place and complete QA/QC inspections.

360° Images Are the Future of Planning and Progress Tracking on Lean Projects 

It is clear that for many top teams in 2021, 360° photos are making Lean projects run more smoothly by allowing for better communication, responsive sequencing of work based on ground truth, and automated progress tracking that helps everyone work more efficiently. Learn more here

Thank you OpenSpace for being a sustaining sponsor of the Lean Construction Institute!