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What is Takt Control?

What is Takt Control? When I first heard the term I did not know what it meant either. To save us some time I will tell you it could also be titled Takt production, Takt short interval implementation, or production control. Basically, Takt Control is the controlling of flow in the field based on the Takt plan. It is not enough to plan for flow-we must obtain flow in the field. The following methods can be used within the meeting system to maintain Takt control. This should become the main focus of assistant superintendents and foremen in construction:

  • Foremen & Super Control:

    • Prepare and stage materials - Materials can be staged ahead of work starting to increase the production of work and increase flow. So many times we do not do this in construction, and we begin the next day, the Monday of that week, or the start of the next takt time looking for materials, walking around on treasure hunts, and wasting the crew’s time. Crews should have the materials they need when they start and in the most productive times of the week and morning.

    • Prepare for the next task - The more a team prepares the next task, the shorter the cycle time will be. So many times we just go and do. We need to do more planning of activities in huddles and between the super and foreman. Leaders should verify the crew will have the layout, materials, information, labor, quality expectations, tools, environment, permissions, safety planning and support they need to carry out the task properly.

    • Improve hand-offs - Hand-offs of work that are on time with increased collaboration will increase the flow of work. Many times crews and foremen only focus on their work. This is a mistake. Each crew has the opportunity to treat the successor crew like a customer and with good customer service. Foremen should walk with each other once they have moved out of an area to improve the handoff to the next trade and increase flow.

    • Finish work completely in areas - The better work is finished in an area, the easier it will be for following contractors to complete their work in a flow and on time. We need to stop starting so many things and start finishing just as much as we start. If a process is flowing through the building, it should finish that part of the process while there. This means completing inspections, connections, quality checks, and finishing the work so the crew does not have to come back. There is no merit in rushing through an area with so-called, “Production Work,” that only partially completes the work in the process. If we finish work as we go, we reduce re-work, comebacks, and interruptions to other trades.

    • Pull Contractors behind you - Pulling contractors behind you means completely demobilizing, cleaning, inspecting, and finishing an area to the point that the following contractor is pulled into the area. Other trades should not be pushing you to get done in your time. You should pull them behind you and leave a space where they can pre-stage, prepare, and start their work on time.

    • Train and prepare for the next area of work - If there is a buffer at the end of a Takt time for your scope in your Takt wagon, an effort should be made to increase the training of workers to prepare for the next cycle of work. So many times we rush in construction to the detriment of our workers, their wellbeing, and the work at hand. Even if your company provides training at regular intervals at a corporate level, foremen must constantly train workers and the crew onsite. This can easily be done at the end of a Takt time. So, before you move to ‘workable backlog,’ move to another area, or leave the project site, consider doing specific training for that crew on the process or task they are performing. This will reduce the cycle time and create flow. Trust me, you have enough time to train. If you do not take this time, you will always be busy with re-work or rushing through ineffective processes.

    • Matching staging areas to zones - Having organized staging areas that reduce treasure hunts and increase the transfer of materials to each zone will increase flow in production. Consider breaking out your material staging by zones so materials can easily be hoisted by crane, forklift, or other means to the zone in an efficient manner. Hauling materials for multiple zones in bulk can slow you down. Sorting through large piles of materials can slow you down. Remember, when the crew is in a productive state, they need their materials. Consider ways to make those materials more accessible by area or zone.

    • Increasing communication - The more trades communicate, the more handoffs and flow will be better. When project teams get behind or overwhelmed, they typically default to individual productivity and reduce how much they communicate. The opposite of this is what is needed. When coordination, collaboration, and teamwork are needed, we must increase how much we communicate. That means field walks, phone calls, text systems, huddles, and intentional meetings that will create flow for the work. When times get tough, or swarming is needed for a specific bottleneck or Takt wagon, we must lean in and communicate more, not less.

    • Swarming problem areas - If there is a roadblock or bottleneck, or area of work that is slowed, the project team and leadership can swarm that area and remove the roadblock or bottleneck. This can only happen if trades help each other and there is swing capacity within trades on the project. Swing capacity is built when there is workable backlog on the project, or work that is not critical to the flow of the project that can happen at flexible times, and there are workers available to help with swarming by being pulled from that workable backlog work. Additionally, a workable backlog can be used for crews that are held up in their normal flow and need a place to work. The bottom line with swarming is that the team can help remove a roadblock or bottleneck by adding reasonable resources temporarily to the problem area to create flow.

  • Creating stability:

    • Clean, safe, and organized project - To be successful with Takt, the project must be clean, safe, and organized. If it is, crews can work with optimal productivity, see and observe what they need to observe, and thrive in a stable environment that can create flow. If this does not happen, trash, materials, unsafe areas, and disorganization will slow down equipment, labor, installation processes, and teams who are inspecting their work.

    • Team is balanced and healthy - In order for Takt control to take place, the team must be balanced and have a healthy team dynamic. That means the team has a multiplier leader, the 5 behaviors of a team, and a strenuous performance goal. Read Elevating Construction Senior Superintendents, Book 1 by Jason Schroeder for more information.

    • Managing delays as a team - Delays must be managed immediately and continuously as a team to enable Takt production. Delays can come from re-work, owner impacts, or roadblocks. When these delays happen, they must be managed. How to effectively do this in a Takt system will come from experience, but here are some guidelines to help you determine what to do:

      • Options in handling a delay: (In order of consideration)

        • Stop the Takt phase and swing to a workable backlog.

        • Stop the Takt phase, wait, and prepare. Even if workers are standing around, it may be faster and cheaper. Remember, busyness is waste, not production.

        • Pull the delayed work out of the Takt plan and onto a separate pull plan or scrum board.

        • Pull the car out of the Takt sequence and onto its own path with its own Takt time. Check interdependence with other trains if you do this.

        • Recover the delay within the wagon or sequence.

        • Swarm the delay with swing capacity.

        • Only rarely do we recommend delaying that area and allowing it to get out of rhythm. If you have to do this, you must monitor and ensure we are not stacking trades and inappropriately creating variation in labor counts. Most of the time additional labor, more money, and more staged materials slow us down, not help us.

    • Hold start dates - It is better to hold Takt time start dates and wait for the start of a Takt time to begin work than it is to start them earlier and cause variation. When we rush and do not hold to the start of the Takt time, we stop finishing, preparing, training, and learning. We must learn that busyness is waste, not production. A busy crew does not mean it is doing well. A crew doing rework is busy. A crew doing preparation and installing work right is productive. We must default to holding Takt time start dates instead of moving start dates forward. When we do this we create variation which increases the duration of the task, process, phase, or project.

    • Engage an effective meeting system - The meeting system must be in place and maintained to scale communication and maintain control as a team. Daily afternoon foreman huddles, morning worker huddles, and crew preparation huddles are key to planning and preparing work.

    • Daily huddles - Most of the battle won in executing good production is won in the planning phase. Planning, communication, collaboration, and preparation in huddles will do more to create flow on your project than anything else. Daily huddles ensure work is being completed per the plan daily, and they allow Takt control methods to be implemented daily.

  • Leveling Work:

    • Adjusting Takt zones - Takt zones must be adjusted if there is a problem with production flow. Remember, we level the work we have from zone to zone as processes. If we find there is an imbalance in the level of effort in the work between zones, we can adjust the Takt zones. Remember, Takt zones do not need to be the same size. We want the amount of effort by process to be equal from zone to zone, and that may mean we have different size Takt zones with different levels of work density.

    • Adjusting work packaging and work steps - The leveling of work packages and work steps is crucial to increase flow in construction. It is not enough to ensure the Takt wagon overall flows from area to area, we must also ensure the work packages and work steps within the Takt wagon flows from area to area as best as they can. Once a Takt wagon has begun on the project, the project team should adjust the positioning of the work packages and work steps in the Takt time as they learn what creates optimal flow.

    • Bring materials and equipment JIT - Materials should be brought out just-in-time according to inventory buffers and with supermarkets (laydown areas). We do not stage too much material at the place of work before it is needed. Just-in-time means it arrives there just ahead of the work. Now, if you can do this within the value stream from the supplier directly to the place of work, great; but if you cannot, you will use laydown areas with material inventory buffers. A material inventory buffer is a buffer that includes an amount of material a certain amount of time before it is needed. When this is required because the supply chain is volatile, you will then bring the materials from the staging yard to the place of work just-in-time. Either way, it arrives at the place of work just-in-time.

    • Level manpower - As worker counts are leveled properly, production will increase. If there is a scope of work that repeats within a Takt wagon, the worker counts must adjust higher or lower to properly accomplish the work within the Takt time and also leave a small buffer. If the repeated process from area to area appears to be too slow for the trade partner, the crew size should reduce to accommodate. If it seems too fast, labor counts can increase.

    • Adjusting work so each Wagon has buffers - Each wagon should have buffers to increase the time crews have to finish and prepare.

  • Roadblock Removal:

    • Use and manage buffers - Buffers need to be used to absorb roadblocks and variation. As listed in the Manage Delays section above, the project team may use a buffer to absorb a roadblock.

    • Seeing deviations - The project team should look for and see deviations daily to initiate corrective actions. The Takt plan provides one of the best visual systems available to notice and remove roadblocks. The framework of Takt time and Takt zone allow the project team to see deviations to the plan and possible roadblocks. A project team must focus on the removal of roadblocks to implement Takt Control and increase flow.

    • Make-ready Look-ahead planning - Make-ready look-ahead planning should bring roadblocks to the surface so they can be removed. Make-ready Look-ahead planning is a process where the team reviews the next 3 to 6 weeks of scheduled activities and really analyzes if each activity is ready with labor, materials, information, and permissions. Possible roadblocks or unready work is marked on the look-ahead plan. These roadblocks become a focus for the team so work can be made ready and materials labor, and ready work converge at the same time.

    • Use roadblock maps - Roadblock maps should be used so the flow of construction can be compared to where roadblocks may impact the flow. It is not enough to see roadblocks on a schedule. We must also see roadblocks geographically or by zone on a plan view. Roadblock Tracking Maps track the progress of each room per the Takt plan and also show how roadblocks could effect progressing work. These maps should be used in Trade Partner Weekly Tacticals and Afternoon Foreman Huddles.

    • Remove roadblocks - The project team must focus on the identification and removal of roadblocks every day as their first priority. The senior super and PM must be fanatically addicted to this, and each team member should be enabled to remove roadblocks as far in advance as possible. This will do more to create flow than almost anything else you can do.

  • Quality Product:

    • Quality at the source - Work must be installed right the first time. It can take at least twice as long to fix something as to install it right the first time. Additionally, it can cost 4 to 12 times the original cost. That is to say the least. There is also an impact on the team and their capacity. Rework will do more to slow down and interrupt production and flow than anything else we encounter. We must install work right from the start. Your quality system is not a quality system, it is a flow system. If we can get quality right, we can flow.

    • Finish as you go - Scopes of work must be finished before demobilizing areas. The Takt system only truly works when processes are finished as trades progress through the building. Just like re-work can interrupt flow, unfinished areas that trades need to come back to can interrupt flow. Takt only works when we prepare by removing roadblocks, install it right, and finish as we go.

    • Create standard work - Each critical feature of work should be built from a quality checklist ensuring quality and clear expectations. Standard work is a document representing the standards for quality for a process or scope of work. It is our standard play, our guideline, and our north star in repeating the task or process with success.

    • Pre-fabrication as much as you can - Prefabrication enables Takt-ed projects to go fast because problems are identified in the shop before fabrication. Remember, Takt works when we plan it first, build it right, and finish as you go. Prefabrication does all three. It is planned at the shop, built the right way there, and assembled so it is easy to finish onsite.

    • Using a consistent quality process - A quality process must be used to prepare quality work. The process of using a pre-mobilization meeting, pre-construction meeting, first-in-place mockup, follow-up inspection, and final inspection will ensure processes are taken through all key steps of preparation along their journey from start to completion. This will create flow because quality is monitored throughout the process.

    • Creating quality triggers in the schedule - The quality steps in your quality plan must be shown on the schedule so key parts of the process can be triggered.

  • Manage Production:

    • Optimizing bottlenecks - Process bottlenecks must be improved by improving trade cycle times and the efficiency of their work. In a Takt system you can see process bottlenecks and optimize them.

    • Optimizing cycle times - Cycle times are improved when trades learn from previous cycles and use the PDCA cycle.

    • Reducing batch sizes - Production can be increased by reducing batch sizes or Takt zones sizes. This can be analyzed by using the Dlouhy and Binninger’s Law - (TW + TZ - 1) * TT = Duration.

    • Increase Labor productivity - Labor productivity can be increased by having consistent crews, with low onboarding needs, little context switching, proper crew sizes, with focused projects and consistent crew composition.

    • Reduce variation - Teams can increase production by reducing any kind of variation on site.

In conclusion, the list above are the common strategies and tactics you will use to constantly maintain Takt control within your meeting system. If I had a magic wand, I would wave it and replace the job descriptions of every assistant superintendent and foreman with this list. We will do more to create flow in construction by using these techniques than anything else we could do.

If you want to learn more we have:

  1. Takt Training " Takt Fundamentals"

  2. A great podcast called "The Elevate Construction Podcast with Jason Schroeder"

  3. The leanTakt YouTube Channel dedicated to showcasing how to do takt and sharing.

  4. The leanTakt Website with tons more resources and content

  5. The Takt Book "Takt Planning and Integrated Control" by Jason and Spencer

  6. Builder, Foreman, and Field Engineer Bootcamps " Upcoming Events"

  7. Further light and knowledge from our Expert counterparts in Germany

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