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Aphex Planner | Short-term planning for construction

Damian Bucke, chief product officer and senior planner, shares how Aphex Planner is utilising lean methodology and data-driven analysis to revolutionise the project planning process.

Name of Product | Planner

Price | £35+VAT per user per month

Target Audience | Construction contractors managing frontline teams responsible for the execution of works on site.

Challenge | When large construction companies tender for contracts, they do so having spent a great deal of time and effort carefully planning out the work to produce a tender programme or ‘master schedule’. There are some very good software options available to help contractors produce their master programme, such as Oracle’s Primavera or Asta.

The problems arise when contractors actually win the work and a much more detailed level of project planning is required with activities typically broken down to a daily level of detail. A greater level of collaboration between individual workgroups is also required to ensure that works can be carried out safely without proximity issues or clashes.

Whilst the master schedule software options are plentiful, short-term weekly planning options are often performed on Excel spreadsheets or platforms such as Microsoft Project that offer limited functionality because they were not designed for short-term planning.

Solution | Planner is a cloud-based web application designed as an alternative to traditional short-term planning tools. Working alongside master schedule tools, Planner provides an easy to use and intuitive platform to help frontline teams manage the weekly execution of their work on-site.

Developed in line with the principles of the Last Planner System and Lean Construction, Planner enables site teams to collaboratively plan weekly schedules of work, identifying dependencies and constraints that may impact the schedule. When issues arise that impact the schedule, the root-causes of the issues are tracked and aggregated to provide learning and ensure continuous improvement.

AphexPlanner PlaceTech Gantt

Planner features a user-friendly Gantt chart with real-time updates and user permissions, enabling the team to have full transparency of the most up-to-date plan while controlling the collaborative process of performing updates. The Gantt uniquely features weather forecasting – meteorological weather data from our partnership with IBM’s the Weather Company – providing the team with easy access to weather and tidal data that could externally influence the plan. Plant, labour, and materials resources can be allocated to activities automatically producing histograms to understand resource requirements to ensure adequate and timely supply in addition to maximising utilisation between projects.AphexPlanner PlaceTech ClashDetector

Planner also has a unique time-location Clash Detection feature, which is powered by linking activities to pre-uploaded site plan drawings and then drawing the location of the activities onto the plan drawings. This automates the process of identifying and resolving time-location clashes that often result in waste and unsafe practices on site. Users are notified of any clashes involving their works and offered solutions to ensure a safe and practical sequence of works.AphexPlanner PlaceTech Sequence

Using the information gained from the drawn activity locations, plans can be viewed visually with Planner’s Sequence tool that automates the process of producing customisable sequence phasing slides to communicate the plan to the team.AphexPlanner PlaceTech SmartStatusAs time progresses, Planner automatically records the status of works on-site. As the team amend the plan, delays are captured to record activity slippage or extended durations ensuring a comprehensive as-built record. The root-causes of delays are categorised and tracked, with the ability to document supporting evidence such as notes and photographs providing a powerful as-built record to support performance analysis and claims. Quantities of work achieved can be specified down to the individual unit for Planned v Actual tracking of progress.AphexPlanner PlaceTech Dashboard

The status of all activities can be aggregated onto a Project Dashboard to highlight project performance and causes for delay to provide real-time, easy-to-access data to support data-driven conversations on performance. Similarly, activities can be filtered to provide bespoke dashboards for individuals, sub-teams, or subcontractors. Project Dashboards can be easily aggregated to form Corporate Dashboards, enabling cross-project analysis of teams and subcontractors.

Results | Since Planner’s soft-launch in Q2 2018, we have been working with a number of the UK’s Tier 1 contractors implementing Planner on a range of projects and high-profile schemes including Crossrail, HS2, Thames Tideway, the M1 Smart Motorways Scheme with Costain and Galliford Try, Luton Airport with Kier and VolkerFitzpatrick, and London City Airport with BAM Nuttall, to name a few.

Planner is saving project teams time by automating manual, repetitive processes such as marking up work areas on sequence phasing slides, saving Users up to two hours every week. By identifying and mitigating the majority of time/location clashes, collaborative planning (‘sticky note’) meetings are streamlined to include only the clashes that require further assistance to resolve. As these meetings are usually time consuming for a large number of people, the savings in time and money can be considerable.

Clients | “Planner ensures we are collecting vital as-built project data that is invaluable for understanding why issues occurred and supports objective data-driven discussions on how recurrence can be prevented. This is the case not only for analysis at project level but also across projects, ” Phil E, agent.

“On multidiscipline projects, where timescales are tight, and things can change on site day-to-day we need a tool to accurately help us manage interfaces and clashes. Aphex is helping us achieve this by clash detecting the plans in detail and providing clear time slice updates. Aphex understand what our drivers are and worked closely with us to make updates that have provided real benefits to those planning and delivering on site. Having something that digitises and automates the programme clash process means we can start working smarter not harder,” Matt G, project director.

“With Planner, I can save up to 2 hours every week automating the process of producing sequence slides for Readiness Schedule Meetings,” Tom B, assistant planner.

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