It’s not rocket science, but construction project planning and scheduling does require specialized skills and knowledge. Using proven strategies and tactics that reduce risks and make your plans more comprehensive also helps plenty.
Here are easy ways to make your construction project planning and scheduling better than ever:
When people define construction planning and scheduling, they refer to it as a process with many variables. It includes resources, activities, risks, and how all the project variables interact. That’s why construction project management is challenging. However, it’s also why smart construction project managers realize the process is the most necessary part of their roles. An unplanned or poorly planned project nets a bad schedule, which always threatens the overall project.
Know the priorities
With the proper construction project planning and scheduling, you can head off delays, keep the budget in line with projections, find hidden risks, and discover new strategies for managing future projects.
You can make your planning activity-based, cost-based, or based on both. The differences usually come down to the owner’s priorities. Some owners’ projects will need a completion time set in stone to meet their purposes. For example, Olympic Games venues must be completed before the games begin. On the other hand, owners will be less concerned with the schedule when the cost is a priority.
The most common situation is one where the cost and schedule get equal weight, but only to a point. Even in these instances, there is always a tension between cost and schedule, leading to one gaining slight priority over the other at various times. The priorities can change throughout the project as well. One time, the schedule might get adjusted. Another time, the owner will change the budget.
Once you have decided on the budget and schedule priorities, you are set to plan.
The plan lays the groundwork for the schedule
A construction project manager plans by gaining a thorough understanding of the project’s scope. Projects consistently go into overtime and over budget when the scope isn’t clear. The best way to learn about the scope is to study all the contract documents and relate your findings to the project drawings. The closer the drawings track with the contract documents, the better defined the scope.
The second aspect of planning is to name the resources. In naming the resources, you are working at a high level instead of at the schedule’s level. This is where you decide the project partners, subcontractors, vendors, shop work providers, engineers, and main contractor staff.
Finally, you must reconcile the resources with the scope from a budget perspective. For this, you would use a schedule of values that shows the budget for each of the major categories of construction. The budget needs to correlate with the owner’s intentions and with the reality of what it will cost to build the project. As you work on this step, you need to reassure yourself that there is enough money for the entire project based on the scope and that you can realistically distribute this money to people who can perform the work.
Getting the schedule right
From day one of construction project planning and scheduling, you are working toward building a schedule. Your schedule is where all your planning gets tested when you are managing a construction project. If you haven’t planned well, the schedule can become unrealistic based on the scope or on the budget.
Working with your work breakdown structure in the estimate, you must assign resources, materials, and equipment to the individual tasks that make up the project activities. This is an exercise in balance, and you are constantly trying to balance the effort required in completing the work to the resources you assign.
Meanwhile, you are also trying to keep the costs of the materials, equipment, and labor in line with the budget. Fortunately, scheduling software takes much of the calculating off your shoulders, leaving you to assign, adjust, reassign and reschedule until you achieve the optimal mix.
So your best practice is to know your scheduling software. You need to know more about it than just how to plug in numbers. You should understand the rationale behind what the software is doing. Understand what factors you can modify to determine how the software calculates results. In short, when you have a deep understanding of the software, beyond how to input data and run reports, you will create better schedules.
Other tips include:
– Minimize assumptions by questioning data and information sources used for your inputs.
– Keep an active risk list that names each risk you uncover and shows how you’ve accounted for it, mitigated it, or insured for it.
– Verify all schedules from subcontractors, suppliers, fabrication shops, and third-party inspections.
– Document all software overrides and instances where you made ad hoc decisions.
– Ask for a trusted third party to review your schedule while using your documentation, notes, and lists.
Finally, to truly excel at construction project planning and scheduling, you need to think of yourself as an analyst or a detective. You must start with the finished project’s requirements and work backward to construct it virtually before constructing it in 3D. With the proper frame of mind, you will instinctively take the right steps in solving the project’s planning and scheduling.