Project Management Software For Architects – The Kanban board system offers great value to AEC professionals. Project Merlin was designed for AEC and other industries, and its latest version includes Kanban.
We begin the Project Merlin story with a confession. Here we use a Kanban board – one of the mainstays of the “agile development” methodology in the software world – for our release workflow. We actually did this a year ago and will never go back.
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However, as a practicing architect, I wonder, “Would an intelligent project management tool like the Kanban board work in a typical architecture firm?” I can’t help but wonder.
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Project Merlin is a program from Germany that was written about ten years ago. They contacted us this week to tell us how far Marilyn has come and how strong she is. But importantly, they wanted us to know that Project Merlin is being used by major architectural firms in Germany and beyond. After fast-tracking Project Merlin 5th Edition, I can understand why.
01 – Merlin Project is a full-featured project management system with Gantt charts, utilization, resource and financial options. The application is a favorite of large architectural firms in Germany and Europe.
Merlin Project is designed specifically for MacOS, so non-Mac AEC professionals will need to purchase one to use it. Merlin Project is a leading project management software developed by ProjectWizards GmbH and sold to more than 100,000 customers in 130 countries. As mentioned earlier, it is very popular among AEC professionals due to its advanced Gantt charting capabilities with milestones, dependencies, and groups. For construction professionals, there are scheduling and cost planning tools.
Merlin also allows a traditional view of the project timeline, which is for viewing dependencies – a way to see the project from a different perspective. (See here). There’s a mind map tool for users who prefer an unstructured view to planning projects alone or with collaborators, and Merlin Project then automatically transfers entries to the project’s work breakdown.
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02 – Mind map view and Kanban board is a unique and effective combination of project management application. Sounds good too!
The big news in the latest release is the new Kanban board. Compared to the “traditional” project management model, in the “Agile” model, the Kanban board groups the “tasks” for the entire process into cards in the backlog column on the left. In the Kanban method, you move these cards one by one to the next column to the right as the project progresses, each column being at a different stage in the overall process. Finally, each card reaches the right in the completed column within a certain period of time.
03 – Project Merlin offers Kanban card support for rapid development. Kanban boards are incredibly powerful and have helped Toyota become the world’s largest automobile manufacturer.
There is no need to stop project progress and process it using a traditional Gantt chart. An organization or user can use a Kanban board and view a Gantt chart at any time so that it automatically updates as “cards” move between columns. A detailed description of the functionality of the Kanban board can be found here.
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Project Wizards has created a page for AEC professionals to discuss how Project Merlin is being used in their daily building design and construction activities. To learn more about Project Merlin, visit here.
The Kanban system was developed by Toyota shortly after World War II. At that time, Toyota noticed about Japanese grocery stores: they always had the right amount of stock and products on the shelves. This led Toyota to develop an operations management system that improved vehicle production. Workers on the assembly line always had the right amount of parts and tools for their specific jobs, and thanks to the innovative Kanban system, management could better control and see what was happening. For those wanting to learn more, this wiki article is a great place to start.
This is why AEC C professionals should take note. Kanban is a way to achieve JIT (just in time). The construction schedule can be jeopardized if construction materials or subcontractors do not arrive at the project site as originally planned. This affects the “critical path” or dependency processes, all of which can be tracked in classic Gantt chart-based tools like the Merlin Project. Kanban boards are a way to display the stages of a project by demarcating the “work in progress” of team members. When teams or individuals have too much work to do, they can become confused or overwhelmed about what to do next. Kanban calms people by allowing them to focus on the “card” (task) in front of them, which is the next step.
The big lesson that management of AEC companies can learn is that senior managers should not handle too much work with lower-level employees. This “hoarding” approach directly equates to the problem Toyota faces on assembly lines – the accumulation of excess inventory or spare parts at any stage of production. Toyota realized that efficiency would decrease when surplus items were waiting at supply points on the production line. Therefore, the Kanban system built the column approach to have the maximum number of items in any column of the Kanban board. The results of this efficiency model speak for themselves for Toyota’s post-World War II rise.
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