Visualising lean BIM: VisiLean

Finland-based Visilean integrates BIM with collaborative planning approaches championed by lean construction advocates.

Visilean logoBased in Finland with a development office in India, VisiLean is a start-up business which is building upon doctoral research undertaken by CEO Bhargav Dave when, supervised by Prof. Lauri Koskela, he was a research fellow at the UK’s Salford University. (I met Dave a couple of times at events run by the Salford Centre for Research and Innovation, SCRI, in the late 2000s – SCRI produced a research report, Future Generation of IT, in June 2009; Koskela is now at the University of Huddersfield, and an adviser to Visilean.)

Bhargav Dave, Visilean CEOVisiLean was conceptualised during Dave’s work at Salford and then commercialised in Finland; he told me “VisiLean has gone through two major development iterations and since 2015 has become a fully cloud-based system.” Early pilot projects included schemes for Balfour Beatty and Costain (see this 2013 Highways England case study), while the company now has paying customers in Scandinavia (it is being used on the Nykvarn project by BOX Bygg AB, for example), and Dave is planning to start marketing in the UK later this year.

As the name implies VisiLean is a software application that supports lean construction processes, exemplified by collaborative planning tools such as the Last Planner System (LPS), which break activities down into detailed sequences of site-based tasks while also identifying constraints and dependencies between activities. The platform provides direct integration with Primavera and MS Project and with building information modelling (BIM) applications (Vico also got mentioned), supporting project teams with detailed visualisation and production level 4D planning and control. 

The software interface includes a split-screen mode that allows the user to see, say, a Gantt chart view of the programme adjacent to a view of the model. The user can select model elements to review details of the programme (or vice versa), and can run sequences to see the anticipated processes of construction delivery, with coloured bars indicating finished works or percentages completed. And as users populate the system with progress updates, reporting tools can be used to identify the constraints affecting delays, with options to output reports as PDFs, etc. Visilean offers filters that allow users to, for example, select all completed work, activities relevant to a particular subcontractor, work completed on a particular day, or unassigned work. ‘Look ahead’ views also help teams plan future activities.

Visilean split-screen view

Originally conceived as a PC-based tool, VisiLean is also available via native mobile apps (Apple iOS and Android); these are particularly relevant to site-based teams, with staff able to annotate notifications with images taken via their smartphones. Visilean is licensed per-project, an approach that encourages take-up by subcontractor teams, Dave says.

We talked briefly about other LPS-type solutions including Newforma’s LeanPlanner (October 2015 post; though this no longer features on the Newforma website)* and GamePlan (May 2016 post – now defunct, founded by Vishal Porwal, a one-time collaborator with Bhargav Dave now at Builderbox). But Dave does not want to bloat the platform with unrelated features – “our core strength is site-based task-management,” he says –  using APIs to connect Visilean to complementary solutions.

(* Newforma went through a series of personnel changes in mid-2017 after private equity company Battery Ventures took a majority stake in the business – see news release. Its software priorities may therefore also have changed.)

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