Get more out of 4D planning

Cobouw column by Pieter-Bas de Visser

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The scale and complexity of (infrastructure) construction projects require planning and monitoring of the construction process at a deeper level. To gain an understanding of feasibility and efficiency, working with 4D planning is therefore becoming increasingly common. Fortunately, the ‘simple’ bar chart planning is progressively being abandoned.

4D planning visualises the phases of a construction project in 3D through time (the 4th dimension). In my personal experience, a complex project such as the Zuidasdok project, suddenly becomes much clearer thanks to 4D planning.

Often, complex software packages are used to create 4D plans. I use the word complex on purpose, because: you need specialists to use it (optimally). In practice, this obstacle translates into safe, almost old-fashioned planning where work is not carried out in parallel, but sequentially.

Why? Not all stakeholders have the required knowledge of or access to this specialist 4D software package. Therefore, creating the planning is often left to a single specialist. This conflicts with the importance of involving all stakeholders (clients, engagement and stakeholder managers , administrators, etc.) as much as possible in drawing up and validating the planning.

As a result, the added value of working in 4D is only exploited in part. Not because the software is lacking in functionality, but because its user-friendliness is far below par. In our case, we solved this drawback by developing an interactive web application. No special software is required; any stakeholder can use it. The 4D planning can be viewed, modified and validated from your own laptop or tablet. The focus on the user ensures that the power of 4D can be optimally used to avoid clashes, assure quality and plan smarter. 

What this can mean in practice became apparent at a major infrastructure project in the central Netherlands. Expansion of the road network as well as adjustments to the rail network created a complex puzzle. By using the 4D planning app, the total lead time was reduced from 26 to 19 days.