Kanban boards for Construction Industry

Kanban boards for Construction Industry

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Thursday, 15 December 2016 04:03

A Kanban board is a visual tool that represents the progress of a workplan. It derives from a method invented by Toyota in the late 40s and it has become one of the core tools of the lean process.
With the advent of computers, Kanban boards became widely used across several industries and today it is possible to use this kind of tool even in construction. If you are not using a Kanban board already, you shall check this out...

The Kanban system was invented at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990). Taiichi Ohno was a Japanese industrial engineer and businessman, considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System which became Lean Manufacturing in the US.
Originally Kanban cards were moving with goods throughout the process on the factory floor and receiving a Kanban card was granting authorization to perform a given production activity. 
Today Kanban is more a visual tool to summarize on a board the status of several tasks belonging to the same project.



From a practical point of view, the Kanban representation allows to see what's going on in the process at the current moment.
kanban board sketchEach card represents a particular task. Cards are queued on the first column of the board and usually prioritized in a sort of to-do list, commonly identified as "backlog".
Cards are then picked from the top of the backlog and moved (pulled) to the second column. This changes the status of the Task to the status indicated on the second column. This action is repeated every time a task is "ready" to move to the next status, until completed.

A very basic representation looks like the one in the image above/left, with just three statuses "to-to", "doing" and "done".  As a matter of fact, it is recommendable to add more statuses to a process so that it becomes possible to have a fine indication of the time that it takes for a task to go through the different phases of the process. 
For this purpose, the "to-do" column can be split into several columns concerning the preparation stage of the tasks, such as "backlog", "gathering info/materials", "waiting for approval/confirmation to start" and so on.
In the same way, the "doing" column can be split into many columns that describe the process in a more detailed way. The number of statuses in this stage can be anything from 1 to N.
The "done" stage is usually split into statuses such as "testing" or "pending approval" and "approved".

Using a Kanban board system not only gives the possibility to check the overall process in a glimpse, it also allows finding problems in the process and planning the necessary improvements. In fact, as cards move from left to right, they can pile up under each status (column).
At some point there will be a few statuses with more cards than others. This shows that the statuses in question present possible bottlenecks problems.

The fact that cards are piling up in one (or more) columns, means that the resources assigned to the execution of tasks in that status are not fast enough. In order to move cards to the next status with a shorter queue, it is necessary either to increase the number of resources or to speed up the process in that particular status. Note that a better Teamwork might help to improve the speed of execution of some activities.

In short, Kanban boards are a great tool to gain absolute clarity on the progress of a project (as the sum of its tasks) and the speed and dynamics of the processes involved (given by the status of tasks and the piles of card in each column).



Today there are hundreds of applications offering Kanban board visualization.
One of the most used is the general purpose application called "Trello".

The entire concept of Trello is based on the Kanban board and the whole application is nothing more than an infinitely configurable set of Kanban boards.
Other than the great flexibility of the tool, Trello falls short of greatness when it comes to its capability of keeping a project on schedule. In fact it uses a mere representation of statuses but it features no Gantt chart view, making it quit difficult to keep things on schedule.

trello board


Other SaaS application based on a Kanban representation is "Pipedrive".
Pipedrive is an application for Sales Management designed to boost the productivity of the Sales cycle by giving a bird's-eye view on the whole sales process - by the means of a Kanban board.

pipedrive dashboard

In Pipedrive leads are added on the leftmost column  (backlog) and moved to the right as the lead progresses through the sales cycle.
Pipedrive obtained a great success from the simple - brilliant - idea of using a Kanban view to represent the sales process. This success resulted for Pipedrive in an evaluation of several million of dollars.


Leansite Workplan

Leansite application uses a Kanban board to summarize the progress of Activities in its tool "workplan".
In Leansite Activities are linked to Tasks and, while Tasks are scheduled on a Gantt chart with well-defined deadlines, Activites are just a list of actionable items that must be executed and completed in order to get Tasks done.

Workplan is designed to give a quick overview on the progress of Activities and it does a really good job at doing so.

leansite kanban workplan

If you are in the construction Industry and you are looking for a tool to keep your projects on schedule, you should look no further. With its native Kanban and discussion boards, Gantt chart and mobile interface, Leansite is the perfect application for keeping the construction site organized.

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Published in Workplan/

Read 2479 times Last modified on Monday, 20 February 2017 05:19

Andrea Bronzini

Brilliant and committed professional.
Andrea has been working in construction industry since 2004 and he was certified as Passivhaus Consultant in 2010.
Among other skills, Andrea specialises in Sales and Marketing and collaborates with Leansite in quality of Marketing Consultant.

Website: andreabronzini.com