According to a quote from former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle, I
have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Yes, planning refers to
the process of thinking regarding the activities required to achieve a desired goal. Planning is
based on foresight, and the capacity to think ahead is considered as the prime mover in human
evolution. Thus, planning is essential in all human activities, and that includes planning for
construction projects. The good thing today is that construction planners and managers now have
software and systems like 4d planning, which is an industry practice that combines two
deliverables that most project teams have – project schedule and a 3D model.
4D Planning Has Gone a Long Way From the Previous Gantt Charts
Those who have experience with project scheduling and planning perhaps are very much familiar with the Gantt Chart, which was invented by Henry Gantt in 1910. The Gantt Chart is actually a bar chart which illustrates a project schedule in a more visual manner.
If you have had experience with sitting through project schedule review meetings during previous construction projects, you’ll probably be aware that this format may be tough to follow, because some of your team members may disengage, by not understanding and following the schedule.
This often results in poor cost and schedule performance, as well as lots of missed activities. Yes, poorly-planned or out-of-sequence work often leads to poor execution, or even injuries, including the onset of various quality issues.
Regardless of how much scheduling experience one has, the truth is that following the logic in a Gantt Chart with 1,000 or even 10,000 activities is nearly impossible, and would be very tough to swallow or understand.
Yes, schedules definitely have their place in projects, as well as with anything else, and they
cannot be replaced. However they can augmented or supported by 4d planning , if only to
improve performance and collaboration in engineering, procurement and construction.
In fact, 4d planning has turbo-boosted the scheduling process, and allows teams to easily
collaborate and visualize information in a 3D environment. And, project teams that are using and
leveraging it are also proving that these programs or systems not only enhance or improve
schedule durations, but they also reduce the risks to workers out there in the field, as well as
And, since humans are mostly visual learners, project stakeholders will be able to engage more effectively with data or information that is presented or displayed using effective visual means. Again, since majority of humans prefer visual content, they can leverage this preference to engage project planners, managers, staff and stakeholders with the 4D model of planning.
And, instead of presenting everyone with lengthy written schedules and Gantt Charts, we can now present them with an immersive, more colorful, more visual and interesting 4D model, which can easily be manipulated and navigated on demand.
And, within a more collaborative setting, project teams will find out that stakeholders would be more naturally centered around these visual, immersive planning solutions or platforms, thereby prompting or encouraging more active involvement in plan development and review sessions.
The Many Perks of 4D Planning
Now, what are the perks and benefits of 4d planning? For starters, by creating the construction
schedule in a 4D model environment using model-based scheduling, the project team can make
sure that all model elements have been planned and sequenced.
Beyond the inherent perks of project plan visibility, 4D project planning also allows for a more
improved understanding of the execution of the plan. It also enhances the ability to identify out of
sequence work, as well as reduce the risk to workers due to improved risk identification and
It also improves productivity due to the more enhanced spatial planning, and significantly reduces
equipment costs due to the 4D equipment planning. It also helps clear the visibility of progress
lag, as well as the ability to mitigate risk delays.
Equipment can also be placed in the 4D model, which allows for better optimization of resources
like cranes, earth movers, backhoes and more. And, while it is very beneficial for equipment
planning, project teams can also do virtual dress rehearsals in 4D to conduct a full walk-through
of a heavy or critical lift in advance of the work.
This empowers everyone in the project team to walk through the process step by step, ask
questions, as well as identify and mitigate or reduce various concerns and risks. More importantly,
4d planning can also reduce or even eliminate risks to workers, as well as improve project safety
and performance by instilling a communicative and collaborative approach to planning within the
4D models can also be leveraged or put to good use to identify safety risks prior to, as well as
throughout, the whole construction process. The project team can even use this to implement
preventive measures to avoid accidents.
And, by shifting the timeline of risk identification much earlier, and from the field to the office,
project teams can also become more proactive in the reduction of potential safety risks to
workers, as well as help ensure that everybody goes home safely at the end of each shift.
So, if someone keeps asking you why should they incorporate 4D project planning, perhaps you
should tell them that they should instead ask any frontline supervisor or project manager who
currently used 4D planning in their project.
By doing so, they will finally realize that 4D models allow us to visualize what we are constructing,
even before we literally step foot on the project site. This also provides project teams with the
capacity to communicate the schedule visually and quickly to all everyone involved, including the
In turn, this allows the team to easily identify schedule mistakes or inefficiencies, which may lead
to the onset of various safety and financial risks to workers, as well as the advent of negative cost
or schedule impacts.