A promising process Some are milestones, some are deliverables — all are simple sticky notes — but behind each one is a commitment. BY: AMANDA ERICKSON IMAGES: RENDERINGS COURTESY OF LMN ARCHITECTS
TOP: Rendering of the street level entry on 8th Avenue and Howell Street OPPOSITE PAGE: R.C. Hedreen Co.’s new 45-story hotel will be the largest in Seattle when completed
n May of 2014, the team of R.C. Hedreen Co., LMN Architects and Sellen began designing what will be the largest hotel in Seattle at the corner of 8th Avenue and Howell Street. The design process, however, held one significant departure from tradition: the team used pull planning to guide the entire design phase, setting in motion a higher level of integration, coordination and efficiency. “Pull planning was our main tool in this project,” said Paul Davison, project designer with LMN Architects. “It got everyone talking and that’s one of its greatest successes.” Pull planning is not new to the industry. The lean scheduling tool is traditionally used by contractors during the construction phase to develop the schedule and sequence activities to be as efficient as possible, thus embodying the lean tenets of reducing waste and maximizing value. Designers also use it to evaluate the schedule at specific milestones.
For this project, however, Hedreen, LMN Architects and Sellen decided to take pull planning to another level in two significant ways. They used the tool to reorganize and actively manage the design process, from design development to construction documents, and they also involved key subcontractors early to participate in a design-assist role. Using pull planning to this extent was a first for all team members, and it demanded a commitment from the very beginning.
Setting the Foundation
In pull planning, all stakeholders involved in a specific scope or phase outline every deliverable needed to reach the deadline. Each deliverable is assigned to someone who estimates the time it will take to complete it and handwrites it on a sticky note. Working backward from the end date, the team then sequences each deliverable based on the necessity — or “pull” — of the downstream deliverables. This process, and the
resulting posted sticky notes, form the foundation of a schedule with little redundancy, an efficient workflow and clear assignments. The decision to use pull planning was in part from a desire by Sellen to promote team integration, as well as a necessity borne out of the sheer size of the project. “We’ve seen real value when everyone on the team is committed to an integrated design and construction process,” Sellen CEO Bob McCleskey said. “We are promoting design-build delivery and using lean tools on many of our projects to improve overall project delivery and communications.” To help facilitate and kick off the pull planning, the team brought in a lean consultant. They spent two days building the schedule and setting the foundation for the process. Throughout the next 15 months of design, leaders from all major disciplines — including the owner and key subcontractors — would meet every three weeks, assess