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It Starts with a Sticky Note

How an organizational process transforms a construction site into Globe Life Field

By Madison Pelletier

Less than a mile away from the ballpark sits several temporary buildings that form the home of the Globe Life Field construction team. Through the door of the main office is a countdown clock reading 682 days and ticking down by the second. 

"Puts a little pressure on us," Jim Cuddihee, Manhattan Vice President of Operations, said indicating the countdown clock.

A process that helps ease the nerves of the countdown clock covers a conference room wall, on dozens of multi-colored sticky notes, called "pull planning".

"[It's a] process of trying to find a better way to do things," Cuddihee said. "It's our plan, conveyed through sticky notes, of what we're going to get done each day."

The term "pull planning" refers to pulling the schedule back, meaning a way to get everything done faster and completed in a more efficient way. Commonly referred to as lean construction, pull planning started in manufacturing and has worked its way through the construction industry.

"It's a very collaborative process and it's interesting the way it's done," Texas Rangers Senior Vice President of Project Development Jack Hill said.

The process starts backward, working from a targeted completion date. In the case of Globe Life Field, the date is March 2020. From there, the construction team "pulls" back each project, identifying tasks in sequence to begin other activities.

"The benefits are that it's collaborative and it establishes a critical path to completion," Hill said.

How does it work?

Dozens of sticky notes line the wall of an otherwise sparse conference room. The sticky notes are spread throughout six tile boards, with each board representing one week of the construction plan. Each board is then divided into a day of the week. Milestone projects are marked at the top of every column, and it is then up to the subcontractors to fill in the gaps.

"At the end [of a meeting] you've got these boards that are just full of all different color sticky notes so when someone walks in the room they know what's going on," Cuddihee said.

Each contractor starts with a pad of sticky notes, all different colors. The subcontractors write down activities planned for each day until all 6 weeks are planned. The subcontractors follow each other, until all have scheduled their activities.

The decision meeting happens just once a week, and is also the only time anyone can add or remove a sticky note. In between meetings, subcontractors have two options: to write an "x" on a note, labeling their step has been completed, or turn the note at an angle, a move that symbolizes there is a problem that must be resolved before moving on.

"The big picture intent is to open up lines of communication, better ways to do things, bouncing ideas off of each other. It's very collaborative to try and bring the end date back in," Cuddihee said. 

Cuddihee used the process for the first time on Kyle Field, the Texas A&M football stadium. The new form of planning opened up lines of communication among the contractors, simplifying the entire process.

Jose Avila, on-site project manager for CapForm, has used the pull planning system on several other sites and believes it helps control the entire construction process.

"Each project is uniquely different in its own certain way and the more and more you do these you get familiar with how they want projects done," Avila said. "As long as you're prepared for it, and everyone else is doing their part, it can flow very easily."

The essential goals are collaboration and teamwork.

"It brings the teamwork aspect into [construction]. You bring all major players in the room to see where these activities happen, when they happen, and what's got to happen, so that everybody can hit the gears just right," Avila said. 

Coordination between the different contractors eliminates potential hiccups that different trades may face on the site. For example, the pull planning process cut three days off of the April concrete pour for the first structural deck. 

Once the next Tuesday rolls around, the entire board is cleared and the process is started from scratch. 

As the concrete continues to pour, the steel rises and the roof comes into place, additional boards and sticky notes will be added until the countdown is done and Globe Life Field is ready for the first pitch.

Construction Updates:

Concrete was poured for the first elevated structural deck in mid-April. The work began on the southeastern portion of the site on what will be the future lower level concourse behind home plate. 

About 500 cubic yards of concrete will cover 11,100 square feet to make up the lower concourse. Completion of lower concourse concrete work is expected later this fall. 

"The significance of [the structural deck] is it's really the first concrete floor area that people will be able to see as you look down into the bowl," Hill said.

The construction of over 700 concrete columns continues on the site, with the elevated deck construction following the completion of the concrete columns. 

Work continues on more than just the lower level concourse. Face walls are being poured around the perimeter of the site.

Temporary ramps were installed during the excavation to make the truck traffic flow easier. The temporary ramps are being closed and a permanent ramp on the northeastern side of the site will be the main access point. 

In the coming months utility installation will continue, and all concrete will be poured up to the main concourse. At the end of the summer, steel is expected to rise, pulling the project to eye level.

"[As the season progresses] you'll start to see more columns and eventually… you'll actually be at grade," Hill said.

FAST FACT: Sometimes the Texas heat can be too tough to pour concrete at the site. Construction doesn't stop in the heat of summer; instead ice cubes are used to cool the temperate of the concrete. They'll also pour at 2 a.m. to help combat the heat.