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What is a lookahead plan?
Learn what people mean when they talk about lookahead planning in construction, as well as what goes into one and why it is so important.
Lookahead plans as part of construction planning
One of the most important parts of construction projects is the planning. The master plan or schedule is your project compass. Sometimes spanning decades, these are big picture timelines of what needs to happen to build that house, that road, that international space station...
But, after having that in place, building a detailed lookahead will give your team a greater understanding of what’s coming in the next few weeks, and what they need to change, sort, or respond to in order to get the job done!
Have you been working with lookaheads already?
Maybe with a different name?
A bit like walking down the own-brand isle in Lidl, you might already have been working with lookahead plans, just with a slightly different name:
- Make-ready plan
- Short-term plan
- Weekly schedule
- Weekly work plan
- Phase Plan
Any of these software look familiar?
If these images look familiar, then good news!
You're no newbie to lookaheads, you've been in the world of short term planning longer than you might have thought.
Images showing: Primavera P6, Microsoft Project, Aphex Planner
So, what actually is a lookahead?
Let's set some things straight then. A lookahead plan is a detailed breakdown of your project's top-line, high level plan (sometimes called a Master Schedule, or phase schedule).
It zooms in on what is happening in the near future, sometimes looking at the next 3 weeks, sometimes at the next 12 weeks. This focus lets teams detail out what actually needs to happen for parts of the project to progress, allowing them to prepare the goals and activities of the next few weeks.
For example, a column isn't just a column. It's a tie rebar, formwork, pour, removal etc. All of these elements of the column take time, different specialist teams, different machinery and different amounts of space.
But, it would be pretty intense to block out all of that information on our high level plans right?
So, the lookahead lets project break activities down into more detail as they draw closer. They help clearly define what work can, and can't be performed as expected, changing things on site and hand-offs between trades, gangs and workgroups.
If you'd like to learn more about the 'how's and why's' of this we recommend reading Accountable for Outcomes: Baking Ownership into Construction.
How a lookahead keeps rolling on
Lookahead plans move on, and are not static.
As you complete the earliest week of your lookahead (what's happening right now) the scheduling team can add in the week furthest into the future. Panning the window you're all focussed on so that the detail keeps up with everyone.
Ultimately, the goal of the lookahead plan is to identify and remove the obstacles or roadblocks that could prevent execution of the plan. As these continuously change, both in expected and unexpected ways, so does your lookahead!
Why should I care about a lookahead?
You should care about lookahead plans for a whole host of reasons. A big one being they are the main way construction plans are communicated! And, as you know, communication is key to the success of any project.
Lookahead schedules are inextricably linked to the master plan, and every change on them can have a direct impact on the progress of the entire project. For example, the smallest delay on a single activity on site may lead to subcontractors wandering around the field for weeks unable to complete the work that has been assigned to them.
Just like that, construction projects might suffer serious delays opening the door to legal disputes and budget overruns. But with lookaheads, you can drive productivity, identify early issues, and avoid these kinds of delays entirely.
Who makes up a lookahead?
In construction projects, a whole host of roles & individuals contribute to the lookahead. From the teams out on site running what is happening right now, to Project Managers that might only need to check in once a month.
Lookaheads move far and wide constantly, from the very start of a project, right through until the end. This means theres an endless amount of people that might need to use it at any given time:
For a more detailed breakdown of these roles check out Six Key Roles in Engineering.
What makes up a lookahead?
Some of the things that make up a lookahead include:
- Daily labor needs separated by trade; equipment, and materials needed on a particular day
- Detailed requirements of major milestones
- Work items separated on a crew-by-crew basis;
- Material deliveries
- Subcontractor details
- Locations & Work Areas
- So much more!
In Aphex, we've made this as easy & quick as possible to create and update. Dive in by checking us out and creating an account for free.
Here are some of the most important aspects of a lookahead in construction:
📌 Identifying the tasks that the team will be working on in the next few weeks depending on size and some other project variables.
📌 Understanding what resources you need to perform these tasks, like how many people you’ll need on site to do the work on time.
📌 Identify and resolve roadblocks that will prevent your team getting the job done, like materials needed, design information, equipment and more.
Remember: It is crucial for any project to understand the plan ahead, prepare for it, coordinate efforts with your teams and communicate as much as they can along the way!
If you're still not quite sure what a lookahead is, or how your lookahead should be set up you're in the right place. Our team are experts in helping teams to design and coordinate their lookahead planning process.
Why not check out our app for free here or reach out using the live chat in the bottom right.
Everyone learns in different ways, and we're not precious. Why not check out these resources if you're still not sure what a lookahead is: