Last Planner System to Mitigate Risks in Construction: Barriers for Implementation in Sri Lanka

Last Planner System to Mitigate Risks in Construction: Barriers for Implementation in Sri Lanka

Dihara Shehashini, Tharusha Ranadewa, Harshini Mallawarachchi and M.L.D. Silva – Department of Building Economics, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

1. Introduction

Since the construction sector is large and responsive and maintains strong linkages with other industries, government and private institutions are constituently seeking for ways to improve the performance by maximizing the value while eliminating the barriers that are risky (Durdyev & Ismail, 2012). Global concepts like ‘Lean’ have the potential to improve the performance of the overall construction industry especially in developing countries such as Sri Lanka. Most construction personals conquer that the industry is vulnerable to multiple waste proceedings i.e. time delays, cost over runs and production inefficiencies (Al-Aomor, 2012). Even though reworking has become common it adds barriers for the better delivery of the project. A study conducted by Anjum and Bakar (2015) has identified the volatile background around construction industry as the root cause for often subjection to risk prone activities and competitive environment.

However, due to the vigorous nature of construction industry, it has been found to be in a constant mission of finding strategies with potential to mitigate risks. The high number of delays, budget overruns and claims experienced in infrastructure construction indicates the critical need for adaptation of risk mitigation procedures.  Risk mitigation strategies offer an opportunity to the construction industry in enhancing efficiency and profitability. According to Churchill and Coster (2001), the process of taking calculated risks and reducing its likelihood of occurrence which would end up in loss is termed as risk management. Risk management is aimed at improving decision making by reducing the risk effects against objectives of the project. Issa (2013) stated that lean concept has a potential to be used reducing risk effects for construction projects in developing countries. The study was investigating the impact of Last planner system (LPS), a lean tool to risk mitigation in construction industry. However, the impact of LPS implementation need to be investigated in terms of drivers as well as barriers for implementation. Thus, this paper is focusing to identify and rank the barriers in implementing LPS as a risk mitigation tool.

2. Literature Findings

2.1. Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation can be defined as the the process of identifying the risk that could occur, then reduce the probability of occurance and thus minimising the scale of loss in case if the uncertainity expected occurred (Baldwin & Bordoli, 2014; Churchill & Coster, 2001).  Thus, risk management is mainly focused on prevention of potential isuues and enhancing achievement of project objctives while detecting real problems when they occur. Therefore, risk mitigation is an essential component to be implemented in construction projects so that the project objectives are achieved regardless of the size of a construction project (Chan, Chan, Chan & Lam, 2012; Hwang, Zhao & Toh, 2014). Moreover, risk management is a process which is assesed and analyzed by project managers to identify consequences and take appropriate actions. Nowadays, risk management has become much essential specially in construction projects since it has a critical impact over project success and thus assessed by the potential impact on project objectives (Issa, 2013). However, the contractors using high markups to cover risks which is no longer practicable. Thus, the industry is experiencing novelties in adopting LPS to mitigate risks in construction projects.

2.2. LPS in the Construction Industry

Issa (2013) in his studies has stated that Lean concepts have a potential to be used reducing risk effects on time objective for construction projects in developing countries. Many researches have been conducted based on LPS as a tool followed by lean concept in many countries i.e. Malaysia by Marhani, Nigeria by Adamu and Hamid, Ecuador by Fiallo and Revelo. Based on the LPS pull flow construction management software has been specified in recent discussions that it has the capacity to identify risk factors in advance within the construction process which would therefore look forward to mitigate those (Sacks, Radosavljevic, & Barak, 2010). In addition, it was illustrated that in UK a prison construction project incorporated with lean thinking and work structuring has been successfully practiced improving the design and installation of metal doors frames (Tsao, Tommelein, Swanlund, & Howell, 2000). Falk (2017) asserted that there is a trend creating on construction firm adopting LPS which affects the bottom-line of the whole industry. Therefore, the industry need to be aware to adopt LPS in order to reduce risks while eliminating the hindrances that are risky.

2.3. LPS Application for Risk Mitigation

Last planner system can be utilized due to its potential in delivering the projects more safely at a reduced cost, creating more predictable program of production and to aid in overall construction process (Hamzeh, Ballard, & Tommelein, 2008). The last planner technique is construction planning tool that is focused over the people who makes decisions at the site; last planners. Moreover, the last planners are intensively committed towards the project through a pull session at the initially and forms a base for the master plan with the key tasks as well as the milestones (Pellicer, Cervero, Lozano, & Ponz-Tienda, 2015). There by the task implementers such as site managers would be able to improve the production flow by removing the constraints. Thus, the last planners ensure that the relevant tasks are well carried and thus the project would be serving to its optimum level and risk for the parties involved in terms of cost, time and quality would be reduced.

The planning tool LPS possessed several characteristics such as planning in greater level and reviewing of the details in a constant manner and addressing of the gaps between the performances expected and occurred, which made the LPS potential for a risk mitigation strategy. The LPS stages; master schedule, phase schedule, look ahead planning, weekly work planning and PPC could contribute in the contractors to identify the risks associated in a project at very initial stage (Hamzeh et al., 2008). However, many researchers argued that implementation of LPS is not free from barriers. Thus, a proper investigation will accelerate the LPS implementation in construction industry.


The research problem was to identify the potentiality of the Last planner system to be used as a tool to mitigate risk in building construction projects. As there are a lack of experts in the Sri Lankan construction industry, and need of ranking the identified barriers, a mixed approach was adopted to carry out this study.

To identify in depth narrative explanations towards the barriers, a qualitative approach was followed during the round1 of the study. Then the identified factors were distributed among construction professionals to rank the importance of those barriers for LPS implementation. Marshall (1996) mentioned that sampling methods are much important when the data collection for the entire population becomes practically constrainable. Therefore, purposive sampling which is a non-random sampling technique was adopted as per Etikan, Musa & Alkassim (2016) argument of, there was no limit stating the minimum number of participants required. The population approached was middle level and executive managerial level personal related to the building construction projects. The collected data was analyzed using content analysis and using statistical tools.

Research Findings

4.1. Barriers to implement LPS as a risk mitigation strategy

The last two questions of the interview guideline was set up to figure out the enablers and barriers of implementing the LPS as a risk mitigation strategy and rank them according to the importance. An open-ended set of questions were raised to capture the valuable information from the respondents. Although the LPS has the potential to be implemented as a risk mitigation approach, some barriers were identified via the responses of the respondent. Hence the barriers need to be overcome to strengthen the driving factors. It was identified that the main barrier related to the implementation of LPS was the attitude of the team members.

Moreover, professionals having different views often deviate from the objectives of the project has further hindering the LPS application in the construction industry. Two respondents clearly stated that conventional practices in the industry, poor guidance from the top management and the policies and existing culture of the organisation as few barriers that need to be addressed. The other obstacles identified were the costly facilitation, poor resource allocation, and the lack of high skilled labor force. However, most of the barriers mentioned was based on the matters on personal perspectives. Therefore, those could be easily overcome by attempts to change the attitudinal directions of the people.

4.2. Barriers that hinders the LPS to be implemented as a risk mitigation tool

The respondents were required to identify importance of the identified barriers based on five-point Likert scale. The findings of this section have been summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Assessment of barriers for implementing LPS to mitigate risks in construction

Barring for implementing LPS as a risk mitigation strategy∑ (W.n)RIIRank
Additional allocation of finance2110.8441
Lack of updated project management skills and competencies2020.8082
Fragmentation of construction works2020.8083
Conventional procurement paths and contracts1970.7884
LPS having a requirement of a cultural approach to remove waste 1970.7885
Sub-contracting of the construction contract (Fading of collaboration among parties).1940.7766
Belief in adherence to traditional planning process1880.7527
Lack of customer focused performance measurement systems1880.7528
Poor commitment from senior management1830.7329
Highly relies upon the management skills of collecting and analyzing information1810.72410
Lack of adequate lean awareness and understanding by the managerial level1790.71611
Incensements of the project risks and uncertainties1770.70812
Lack of adequate lean awareness and understanding by the executive level1770.70813
Additional cost on providing training on dealing with lean environments1760.70414
Much attracted to conventional management concepts1730.69215
Lack of knowledge competencies to differentiate between the stages of the last planner system1730.69216
High level of trade information requirements1730.69217
Lack of encouragement from the culture of the organization1730.69218
Non- flexible Internal policies of the organization to implement lean concepts1730.69219
Resistance to change in a radical manner1710.68420
Lack of process-based performance measuring indicators1700.6821
Difficulties in making relationships between the master schedule and weekly work plan1590.63622
Requirement of high effort intensity1550.6223

Most significant barrier for implementing LPS as a risk mitigation strategy is identified as “additional allocation of finance” with the highest RII value of 0.844. “Lack of updated project management skills and competencies” has perceived the next most significant barrier and has achieved a RII of 0.808. Moreover, the third ranked barrier “fragmentation of construction works” has gained a RII of 0.808. The forth most significant barrier which has 0.788 as its RII value is the “conventional procurement paths and contracts” where the fifth rank is possessed by the factor “LPS having a requirement of a cultural approach to remove waste” while having 0.788 RII. At the same time the factors; belief in adherence to traditional planning process, lack of customer focused performance measurement systems possessed their RII values as 0.752 where the factors of this study having RII values more than 0.75 were the most significant factors.

Furthermore, all the other negative factors that hinders the potentiality of LPS as a risk mitigation tool has received a RII more than 0.620 and less than 0.750 and the factors are sub-contracting of the construction contract, poor commitment from senior management, high reliability upon the management skills of collecting and analyzing information, lack of adequate lean awareness and understanding by the managerial level and increase of project risks and uncertainties.

Moreover, the factors; lack of adequate lean awareness and understanding by the executive level, additional cost on providing training on dealing with lean environments, much attracted to conventional management concepts, high level of trade information requirements, lack of encouragement from the culture of the organization were figured out as barriers.

Consequently, factors such as non- flexible internal policies of the organization to implement lean concepts, resistance to change in a radical manner, lack of process-based performance measuring indicators and difficulties in making relationships between the master schedule and weekly work plan and requirement of high effort intensity, were identified as the barriers for implementing LPS as a risk mitigation strategy in Sri Lanka.


The lean concept was recognised as a basis for numerous planning and productivity tools such as LPS. It was clearly identified that the LPS was attracted to many construction industries such as in PERU, Nigeria, Japan and UK and they were absorbing benefits in greater level of degree. Furthermore, the findings of the study revealed that additional allocation of finance, lack of updated project management skills and competencies and fragmentation of construction works as the most significant factors that hinder LPS implementation for risk mitigation in the construction industry Sri Lanka. Therefore, there is a need to investigate the strategies to overcome or minimize the identified barriers from a proper empirical study.


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