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Last Updated on July 17, 2023
Written by Megan Ng
If you are a construction manager, you know one, employ one, or report to one, this article is for you!
The challenges that construction managers face start and end with the schedule.
The schedule gives direction, it adheres to requirements, and most importantly, it sets expectations. A seasoned construction manager will understand the true value of a schedule and use it to their advantage.
This article outlines the essential steps in building an efficient and realistic construction schedule that will support, and not hinder, your project goals. But before we move on, let’s identify what a construction schedule is, and what makes it “good”!
A construction project schedule is, in a sense, the path laid out before us, that helps us get to where we want to go. It helps us establish the most efficient method for completing the project. Construction schedules come in many forms, from standard excel-based ones for smaller jobs to elaborate, comprehensive schedules created using construction project management software.
As we think about our next schedule, and what it entails, it’s important to consider what makes a good construction schedule, and knowing what to avoid when constructing it.
As you can see, construction schedule is more than a “to do” list of things than you need to complete in a sequence. It incorporates everything from resources, timing, approvals, so the risk of missing things is high. Your scheduling efforts can be undermined if your schedule…
The construction schedule is an important tool to map construction projects. Now that we know the good and bad signs of construction schedules, it’s time to dig into the steps you should take as you prepare your for your project.
Your construction schedule is a complete blueprint of how a project will be completed and by when. It outlines project timeframes and milestones, tracks the project progress, and helps you and your team keep everything on time and on budget.
Creating a construction schedule can be a time-consuming job. That said, it it worth every penny and will save time along the way. It helps avoid issues and manages project resources, including time, efficiently. Let’s dig a little deeper…
Too often, unsuccessful projects end with someone saying “The requirements weren’t clear.” Still, this is the most important question and it may be seen as too obvious to ask.
For example, a statement like “let’s build a hotel” doesn’t make a good requirement. Proper requirements define the functions the building going to serve. What kind of hotel? Which specializations should be taken into account? How many visitors should it cater for? Answers to these (and a lot more other!) questions is a good starting point.
Keep in mind that as you gather your requirements, they may stand to change throughout the project. Planning ahead will allow you to have more time to modify requirements as your project evolves.
By sticking to a specific scheduling method, you can save yourself from hassles, disputes, and conflicts. Here are the most common construction scheduling techniques you can choose from, depending on your project requirements:
Depending on the nature of your construction project, it may be a good idea to combine some of these scheduling techniques to improve your efficiency and productivity.
Throughout a project, you may notice, or even expect, priorities to change as the project progresses. Task prioritization becomes a priceless task that pays you back in added efficiency. There are a few different methods that can help you prioritize. Here are a few of them:
First of all, you may prioritize features according to their cost. This method is useful when a construction project has a fixed budget and finances are scarce. With this method, the benefit is that you keep costs down, but on the flip side it may leave you with important tasks outside your scope.
The second option is to prioritize customer requirements. This method calls for identifying the critical functions of the project and prioritizing the tasks in such a way that you complete these functions first. For example, your new construction may not need landscaping immediately, but ventilation and lighting are crucial. These critical tasks must be completed first. Note, you should keep an eye out for mission-critical tasks, left unidentified by the customer.
The third popular method requires you to evaluate the available resources. For example, you may have limited skilled manpower or a short supply of specific construction materials. Under certain circumstances, you should prioritize the tasks for which you have enough labor and supplies. Later on, if the budget permits, you can hire more people and find the materials you need.
Putting one, or more, of these methods into practice, you’ll never wonder what to work on first again!
Project constraints, or limitations, are inevitable, especially in construction where multiple parties are involved.
First of all, let’s recognize the potential constraints you may be facing. The following limitations are called “The Iron Triangle,” and for a good reason:
When not managed, constraints can develop into conflicts and disputes, which bring additional costs. It can sound impossible, but in most cases, limitations of constraints can be reduced or eliminated with an approach that is timely and methodical. Identifying the potential constraints early in a construction project will help to decrease the unwanted loss of both money and time because of inadequate planning.
What happens when you don’t estimate the duration of a project task correctly?
In addition to the obvious – that your project may run long – there are cost and resource implications that will likely impact your revenue.
At best, you or your entire team are facing overtime. At worst, errors in project duration can result in insufficient budgets, loss of profits, and disappointed stakeholders or customers.
Estimating task duration is a critical piece of a puzzle. This is the process of determining the amount of time required for a project activity using the available resources.
Knowing individual task duration is the first step in building the overall project timeline. To estimate the duration of your project’s tasks, you can use five common ways:
When it comes to choosing the units of the duration, choose whatever works best. For small projects, less than two weeks in duration, tracking in hours works best. Larger projects will need to be tracked in days or they may get bogged down by smaller units.
Resource allocation is crucial for the success of the project. These resources include money, equipment and machinery, building materials, technology, and your workforce.
Once you have identified all the tasks that are needed to complete the project, along with the duration, you need to allocate tasks among your team members. Take into consideration the project scope, task dependencies, and resource dependencies as you do this.
At the end of this step, each team member should understand what they are responsible for. This will prevent the overlap of responsibilities that can cost money and cause confusion. For example, engineers need to make field visits to confirm that the engineering specifications – their responsibilities – are being adhered to. This is not the job of the architect or contractor.
The Pulse of the Profession survey reveals that 23% construction project managers blame inadequate resource allocation as the primary cause of project failure.
During the resource allocation step, the project manager assigns and schedules resources in the most cost-effective way possible. Here are the essential things to keep in mind:
One thing to be aware of is the over-allocation of resources. This happens when you assign more project tasks than your team members can handle. If your team members are assigned to various tasks, make sure they aren’t being spread too thin.
Another best practice is to step up your time tracking methods. A detailed record of work being done ensures you stay on budget with resources. Tracking performance will also help you designate the right tasks to the right people.
Once the project is already underway, making changes to the schedule is possible – to an extent. It’s more cost-effective to make any major structural changes during the design phase, not during the construction phase. But if you are still feeling overwhelmed and adjustments are necessary, then the following steps can help:
Making adjustments when the project is well underway can be challenging. That said, there are tools available that can help you throughout the entire project process – read on!
What is the Best Construction Scheduling Software?
With so many moving parts – people, equipment, materials, and more – an accurately mapped schedule is indispensable. Managing construction projects and allocate resources efficiently can be a challenge without construction scheduling software. However, a generic scheduling solution would not be optimized for the construction industry, meaning you may find that it ends up being a “band-aid” solution.
Your construction business needs modern scheduling software designed to simplify the multifaceted nature of a construction project. It will help you drive operational efficiencies and streamline resource allocations through the entire lifecycle of the project.
Aristotle is credited with saying these famous words: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Make it a habit to run successful projects with top-notch construction scheduling software.
Megan is the Content & SEO Manager at Jonas Construction Software. She is fascinated with ConTech and is dedicated to providing educational content and stories to support the challenges and needs of construction and service businesses.
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