When construction production planning and scheduling is collaborative, and everyone working on a project is up-to-date, productivity increases. To achieve that, you need easy to use digital tools. Over a year ago, I discovered monday.com, a cloud-based tool for collaborative task planning and management. It has features that make it an excellent choice for AEC companies.
Aalto University has researched construction work, both internationally and locally, in Finland. It has discovered that construction companies all over the world face similar challenges when it comes to planning, organizing, and managing work on construction sites.
According to McKinsey, large projects across asset classes typically take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled. Many factors contribute to this problem, but one of them is top-down, theoretical, rigid scheduling that does not account for the realities of a construction site. There are several ways to tackle this problem, especially the use of lean construction methodologies and collaborative planning. New, digital tools have emerged that support these methods.
One such tool is monday.com, which could change how we plan and manage projects. More than 100,000 companies around the world are already using this solution. The firm is also addressing the 10-trillion-dollar construction industry, and I think it has a solution worth checking out.
How I’ve used monday.com
I found out about monday.com over a year ago. I was looking for a solution for project collaboration with one of our clients, a construction software developer. We planned a six-month brand awareness and marketing project and used monday.com for weekly lookahead planning and progress monitoring.
The company describes monday.com as a cloud-based project and task management platform, a Work Operating System. It’s visual and easy to use, and you can easily modify it to your specific project needs. It does not force you to use a specific management model or workflow.
Integrating monday.com into our routines, for us, took a matter of minutes. It’s very intuitive, which I think is essential when you involve clients and other users who don’t necessarily use the product daily.
We created tasks for different kinds of content marketing actions and organized them into weekly groups. Each task had a description, date of publication, responsible person, and status. We could add notes and attach files for each task. We could also discuss each task within the project team. The client had access to the tool, which made the process transparent. Email reminders were also sent to the participants by monday.com.
You organize tasks (“pulses”) and group them onto boards in monday.com. A board can constitute, for example, a project or a business process. In the default view, tasks are in rows that have several user-defined fields as columns. A typical set of columns could include a task description/name, team member, status, timeline, and date of completion. You can also assign one or more tags to each task. Fields can have user-defined colors and labels.
Tasks are organized into groups. For some projects, I’ve grouped tasks as “this week,” “next week,” and “the near future.” I can then drag and drop tasks between the groups as the work proceeds. I can filter the board’s contents using any combination of the field values.
Templates to make onboarding quicker are available in monday.com, but designing your own board is not difficult. There are many templates for project management, including one for construction scheduling. Other views besides the default table format, at the moment, include timeline, Kanban, calendar, chart, map, workload, form, and files. The selection of report templates is also extensive.
One powerful feature is rule-based automation. The system can alert team members when a deadline is approaching and when the status of a task has changed. Rules can move items between groups if certain conditions are met. There are many premade rules to choose from, each written in plain English.
No construction-related app is useful today unless it’s able to integrate with other systems. A variety of integrations are available from monday.com, including Microsoft Teams, HubSpot, Pipedrive, Jira, Trello, GitHub, Dropbox, Slack, and Google and Outlook calendars.
Possible uses for AEC projects and teams
Even though I haven’t used monday.com on design or construction projects, I think it would suit many of them well. It helps teams and individuals communicate efficiently and see what they’re supposed to do at any moment.
An architecture or engineering firm could organize workflows with monday.com and involve clients and partners in the process. Some engineering firms have adopted Scrum as a project management framework: monday.com supports that method perfectly.
Similarly, construction teams using traditional or lean project management methods can plan and monitor the progress of a project better with monday.com than what they typically do today.
Takt production with monday.com
To try out a construction scheduling scenario, I made a test board using the concepts of takt production. It breaks the work down into equally timed work batches. To be successful, takt production requires persistent planning and progress monitoring.
On my takt board, I organized the tasks into different floors and added a room ID field to specify the spaces on the floor. Another way to do it would have been to group the tasks into takts.
In my model, the tasks–drywall, HVAC, and electricity installations–were assigned to their respective installation teams. As each team completes its task, it marks the task as “completed,” or as “stuck,” if something prevented the team from finishing the task. This way, any deviations from the original plan become visible at once and can trigger an alert in real time.
Using monday.com, project participants can plan their work ahead collaboratively. This type of distributed planning is a way to turn the theoretical overall schedule into a living plan that will eventually shorten project completions. Aalto University and several real-life projects have shown that takt production can shorten construction lead time by up to 50 percent. With digitalization of workflows, even more radical productivity increases are possible.
In addition to a web interface, monday.com has mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones. That makes it practical for field use, which is an important factor in digitalizing the construction site.
Based on my experience, I believe that with consistent use of monday.com, AEC firms can take their workflow management to the next level without making big investments in education and software.
P.S. If you have used monday.com in your AEC business, please contact me.