Balfour Beatty Builds Communities of Tech-Enabled, Effective Planners

Balfour Beatty teams from the Pacific Northwest to the East Coast are leveraging leading-edge technologies like Touchplan – in concert with their foundational skillsets in lean construction – to deliver projects as efficiently and reliably as possible. In a market that is experiencing unprecedented supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, Balfour Beatty is boosting our effectiveness by embracing and investing in tech-enabled jobsite planning. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the only catalyst for the industry’s digital transformation, it gave emerging technologies a trial by fire on many jobsites across the U.S. That was certainly the case for our Seattle team. In early 2020, Superintendent Paul Studley implemented tech-enabled pull planning via Touchplan. Of course, Paul couldn’t have known that his efforts would coincide with the onset of a global pandemic. 

The learning curve associated with the implementation of new technologies in any industry can sometimes result in a temporary decrease in productivity, but Paul and his team experienced just the opposite. They had already created a foundation of efficiency and agility with the adoption of the Last Planner System®, and the use of Touchplan gave the team an incredible advantage in the midst of a health crisis and its many downstream workflow disruptions.

“We expected to cushion against some losses when we came back from shelter-in-place ordinances,” Paul says, “but we didn’t experience any of that. We were able to hit the ground running. Once our trade partners realized how beneficial Touchplan was, we were taking efficiency to a whole new level by lightyears.”

Pull Planning for the Digital Age

Touchplan is remarkably similar to its analogue equivalent but digitized to a web-based platform. The digitized plan page even features color-coordinated tiles for each activity that resemble the traditional sticky-notes-on-board concept. The major difference is that the plan can be accessed and updated in real time, wherever and whenever a user needs it.

“Using web-based planning has been a great way to eliminate roadblocks and enable greater efficiency within everyone’s workflow,” Paul says, “and the best part has been seeing our teammates and trade partners all grow together as a community of better planners. The system is ‘all hands on deck,’ and each trade relies on one another to complete their activities on time or to update the plan promptly and accurately when they can’t.”

The results on actual projects speak for themselves. According to the Lean Construction Institute, jobsites using lean construction tools and technologies are three times more likely to complete ahead of schedule and two times more likely to complete under budget.  

Every Party at the Planning Table

Balfour Beatty teams in Atlanta, Georgia are experiencing similar results on our Momentum and Kinetic projects, twin residential high-rise developments for repeat client Toll Brothers Apartment Living.

Senior Superintendent Chris Bohn, says the Momentum and Kinetic teams’ use of Touchplan enables all parties to be “in the room” and planning together without, in fact, being in the room. In addition to the web-based planning boards for each high-rise, in this case linked together for the benefit of shared trade partners, digitized weekly and daily planning meetings enhance team productivity and collaboration even more.

“Planning meetings go so much faster, because updates to the plan are all instantaneous,” Chris says. “We get everybody in the planning space, our team and all trade teams, collaborating to co-create the project plan. Everyone feels invested in the plan, because they helped develop it.”

Beyond allowing superintendents to focus their efforts on high-level jobsite management, instant and remote-accessible plan coordination equally benefits trade partners. Whatever the craft – drywall, electric, masonry or others – Balfour Beatty industry partners are coordinating diverse scopes of work on multiple active jobsites. Having a reliable, accurate and easy-to-update project plan on a Balfour Beatty project means they can more effectively allocate their labor and resources.

And that’s more important than ever in the post-pandemic labor market more stretched than ever with workers changing fields or leaving the job market entirely in record numbers. A lean, tech-enabled jobsite gives trade partners a plan they can count on and another reason to forge long-lasting relationships with Balfour Beatty.

Superintendent Jarrett Seay added that, because virtual meetings can involve as many participants as desired, regardless of location, they’ve even experienced long-term planning benefits for trade partner coordination in the Atlanta market.

“On our Momentum and Kinetic projects, the drywall foreman started attending the virtual planning meetings several weeks early,” Jarrett says. “With in-person, on-site meetings, it might not have been practical for him to attend at all, but this platform allowed him to join the planning process early, keeping tabs on when his work would be needed and making sure his personnel and resources were managed accordingly.”

That’s the kind of collaboration that Paul, Chris, Jarrett and many others are so excited to experience when jobsite planning is combined with a powerful tool like Touchplan. Balfour Beatty, trade partners and the clients themselves can work together on an up-to-date digital plan, accessible in the office, on the job or other remote locations. The result is a more accurate plan, more transparent trade partner goals and more reliable target completion dates.