McCarthy is a leading national commercial building company that goes all in on every project. Fully committed and with a reputation as a builder that people can count on to do whatever it takes to get the job done, McCarthy’s goal is to deliver maximum value and consistently exceed its clients’ expectations.
Those core company values were never more evident as St. Louis-based McCarthy was embarking on a massive multiphase expansion of the Sharp Healthcare campus in San Diego. The 10-year, $600 million Design/Build Sharp Metropolitan Master Plan project was set to commence in the summer of 2020.
Ken McBroom, McCarthy’s director of operational efficiency, chose to apply pull planning sessions for the design team as the project got underway. Typically used in the construction phase, McBroom felt that the design process would benefit from pull planning.
McBroom also wanted to move pull planning management from a manual, in-person process that uses a handwritten timeline and color-coded sticky notes to an automated system.
Key to the virtual transition was the implementation of Oracle Primavera Cloud Service as their software solution. The immediate challenge was that the construction scheduling software is designed as a weekly work planning application, and the team needed to use it for pull planning for long-duration design packages.
McBroom was familiar with Oracle Primavera Cloud Service and was confident the planning and scheduling software’s versatility would handle the new task.
“They were trying to use Excel,” McBroom recalls. “And it was challenging. I walked them through the process, showed them the tool, and they said, ‘Let's give it a shot.’ They were willing to try something new.”
As the Sharp project drew near, the pandemic hastened the move from manual to virtual. All McCarthy functions, from employee health and safety to operations including pull planning sessions, had to change immediately.
Multiple stakeholders were involved in the Sharp project, McBroom says. There were 12 unique design packages, two architectural firms, multiple engineering firms, and trade partners involved.
McCarthy, its design team, and the owner made the call in July 2020 to modify the Sharp pull planning sessions from in person to virtual.
Initial pull planning management meetings could involve 20-plus designers, engineers, and architects. Not surprisingly, those first meetings were stressful, hectic, and could last two hours, McBroom says. Fortunately, everyone bought into the process.
A regular attendee was Kyle Tomita, design manager on the structural side for KPFF Consulting Engineers. Tomita had never attended an in-person pull planning session, let alone a virtual one.
There's a learning curve with any new software, he says, but after a couple of meetings he saw the clear operational efficiencies that Oracle Primavera Cloud Service provided.
Tomita’s KPFF colleague, Structural Project Engineer Eric Salazar, also praised Oracle Primavera Cloud Service for developing efficiencies in the process. Another regular attendee of the pull planning sessions, he found it intuitive and easy to use.
“I think if I had lived through the sticky-note days and then through this new method, I definitely would have appreciated this method a lot more,” Salazar says.
Adds Tomita, “I can't imagine ever going back to sticky notes unless somebody's super adamant about it.”
Oracle Primavera Cloud Service’s effectiveness beyond its use as construction scheduling software became clear as the months and the pandemic wore on.
Two-hour sessions dwindled to 90 minutes, then an hour, and for the four months before the pull planning meetings were retired, the sessions lasted just 20 minutes.
Two Sharp Healthcare senior project managers were regular attendees. Tim Crowe and David Cross say the entire team rolled up their collective sleeves and worked through the tumultuous early stages.
The efficiency of online pull planning sessions was clear, Cross says. “The savings in manpower and time spent for 20 or 30 people to drive to a central location isn’t very efficient.”
Collaboration also grew quickly between participants as Oracle Primavera Cloud Service prompted rapid resolution to issues.
“It encouraged everyone to talk,” says Cross. “Issues were identified, and by the following week there would be a solution, whereas some of those things may have been left sitting for several weeks if it weren’t for this system. Initially I thought we’d be talking about issues for months, but instead it was resolved in weeks.”
From two hours to 20 minutes—more than an hour and a half put back into people’s workdays.
McBroom watched as the proficiency grew and participants’ comfort level with the construction scheduling software and the process blossomed.
Such confidence doesn’t just magically happen simply because a new program is introduced to the process. McBroom emphasized that even though it's an automated planning and scheduling system, a facilitator is necessary to guide the process.
Stakeholders were required to enter their tasks before the meetings outlining what they were going to do along with the duration they would need. The group would then meet virtually with McBroom as the facilitator, identifying constraints and missing constraint tags and adding logic ties between tasks. Once all the tasks were tied with logic, dates would then be added to the tags to identify the overall duration of the design package.
When the plan was approved by the team, they would meet to review status, identify any new constraints, and verify deliverables. The pull planning management process was a great opportunity for the owner to be made aware of when their review times were approaching, which eliminated surprises.
“It went smoother than I originally thought, primarily because of Ken’s handling of the whole thing,” Cross says.
“I've seen other software products sold as the answer to last planner and pull planning, and they just handed it to a team and there was no one facilitating,” McBroom says.
“And then it was, ‘Well, we tried it in pull planning and it didn't work,’ which wasn't the case here. You need a facilitator to make the software work for you. If you go digital, you have to have a facilitator who knows the software and understands the process.”
Salazar appreciated McBroom’s dedication to keeping the team focused and updated.
“We knew that everything was left off where we left it last week or the previous week, and then nothing had changed. If anything needed to be updated, it would only happen at that time, and everyone would know about it. That was a big advantage of having Ken in the process.”
McBroom praised Oracle’s constant support throughout the journey. An Oracle representative was on their calls for the first six months as the team grew comfortable with the construction scheduling software, which initially was developed more for weekly work planning but flexed its versatility throughout the Sharp project to adeptly handle pull planning management.
“The fact that I could take the plan created, put a date on it, and now I have the equivalent of a CPM that the industry can read and understand is huge.”
Some 18 months later, McCarthy believes that Oracle Primavera Cloud Service for design pull plans will become a standard. The Sharp design team was successful despite the pandemic and the urgent need to move collaboration to a virtual realm.
“If we didn't have Oracle Primavera Cloud Service, we would have been stuck in the Excel world. Considering how many design packages we had to do, I don't think we would have gotten off the ground.”
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