Trauner Consulting Services, Inc.

How to Get Your Construction Team to Actually Use the Schedule

Here’s an all too common question I recently received from a construction management firm:

“Our company wants to start using schedules to help manage our projects. Most of our employees don’t believe in schedules and don’t bother to use them. What’s the best way to help our company mature and change the way we look at using schedules?”

I think the first thing you must do is show people how a schedule can make their job easier and make them better at their job.

For example, on a project I recently worked on, none of the submittal activities were in the schedule. There was nothing about steel fabrication and delivery, nothing about structural stud fabrication and delivery, nothing about the roof submittal, or anything like that. The schedule only included construction activities.

Each of those activities started late. The roof, the structural steel, the structural studs, and all the related construction activities started late. They started late because people lost track of the procurement process for these items.

When you look at the project, you’ll see the steel erection got started late. But why did it get started late? It started late because no one was paying attention. The submittal process started a month late.

Good Schedules Will Make Your Job Easier

One of the things I think we need to be able to show construction professionals is that having a good schedule on the project really makes a difference in terms of the quality of their execution.

Another place where people can learn to appreciate the value

10 Strategies To Help Ensure Your Construction Project Has An Approved Schedule

We’re going to talk about how we can make sure we have an approved schedule on our projects. It’s important to have a schedule that shows the contractor’s and the rest of the project team’s plan for executing the work.

Scheduling is not an exercise we go through just at the beginning of the project.  A schedule is certainly not something we want to reconstruct at the end of the project, to figure out what happened.

The goal is to always have a complete, up-do-date (approved, accepted, or acknowledged) schedule in the hands of everyone who’s participating in the project.

We’re taking the position that there are 10 things you can do to ensure that your project has an approved schedule throughout the duration of the project. There’s probably more than that, but what we’ve tried to do is group the basic things that we think are important to ensuring the existence of an approved schedule on your project.

1. Commit to the Project Schedule

It’s very important that all project participants commit to using the project schedule.

2. Use the Project Schedule to its Fullest Utility

Use the project schedule to manage the work. Schedules are project management tools and are therefore available to the project manager so they can more successfully execute their projects. To be of value, schedules must be used. The schedule should also be modified to reflect additions to the project’s work scope as well as changes to the intended construction sequence.

3. A Good Scheduling Specification is Essential

One way to ensure that

Using Constraints with CPM Scheduling Software

There are many “bells and whistles” in modern CPM scheduling software. One of them is the ability to use constraints.

Sometimes, when there’s a contract completion date or a key turnover date, the scheduler will use the software to apply a constraint to that date. Typically, when used in conjunction with these kinds of dates, a constraint is applied to indicate that the project must finish by the contract-required date. There’s a real danger, however, with using constraints. There are different types of constraints you can apply to your schedule. Some of these constraints can override or render useless the logic of the schedule network.

The three types of constraints that I use sparingly when I develop CPM schedules are:

  • Start On or After (Early Start Constraint): This limits when an activity can begin.
  • Finish On or Before (Late Finish Constraint): This is used to represent a contract completion milestone and will cause negative float if the project is delayed beyond this date.
  • As Late as Possible (Zero-Free Float): This is used to represent “just-in-time” delivery.

Early Start Constraint

An “early start” constraint is used to postpone or delay the planned start date of work later than it would be scheduled to begin. For example, I’ve often seen instances where the contract does not allow the contractor access to an area of the site until 90 days after notice to proceed. One way to represent this restriction is to constrain the start of the associated

The Essential Elements of Modern Critical Path Method (CPM) Schedules

The type of schedule we most often recommend for your construction project is a CPM schedule. There are several elements you’ll see in every CPM schedule.

In technical terms, a CPM schedule models the project’s plan for construction in a network. This CPM schedule network consists of activities, which represent the project’s work scope, and logic relationships, which connect the activities to another, that together depict the project’s construction sequence and forecasts when the project will finish.

Critical Path

The critical path is the longest path of activities in the schedule network that forecasts when the project will finish. What does that mean? That means that everything we do has a critical path, whether it’s building a construction project, getting to work, or cooking Thanksgiving dinner. What the CPM schedule allows us to do is identify what that critical path is. It’s essential to properly identify the project’s critical path, because only delays to the project’s critical path will delay the project’s completion.

Data Date

Data Date Image

 

Every CPM schedule will have a data date.

The data date, which was the vertical blue line in the above screenshot, represents the date from which the schedule is calculated. Over the course of a project (as the project starts and the contractor makes progress), that vertical data date line will move forward in time.

If the CPM schedule is updated on a monthly basis, we’ll see that vertical line move 30 days forward in time every month. As the project progresses, all the activities

Construction Project Scheduling: A Basic Guide

In this basic guide to construction project scheduling, we’re going to discuss why we have schedules, why they’re important on projects, and how they should be used. In addition, I’m going to jump into and discuss essential Critical Path Method (CPM) concepts.

What Is Construction Scheduling?

A construction project schedule is either a written or graphical representation on how the project is to be completed or constructed. When I say written, it could be a written narrative. It could be a description. It could be depicted as a bar chart schedule or a CPM schedule.

A construction schedule is analogous to a contractor’s bid. Just as a contractor’s bid is an estimate of its cost that it expects to spend to build the project, the schedule represents an estimate of the time required to construct the project.

What Is A Construction Scheduler?

The construction scheduler is the person on the project who is responsible for developing and updating the project schedule.

There are really two types of schedulers. One is a button pusher, someone who takes the information from one party and inserts it in scheduling software like Primavera, Microsoft Project, or Asta Powerproject.

The second type is what I would call a professional scheduler. That’s someone who knows and understands construction means and methods, as well as the capabilities of the software. Most importantly, they also understand what construction scheduling best practices are and how to incorporate them into the project schedule.

Too often projects don’t have a professional scheduler who can pull all those elements together.

The Components of a Good Construction Scheduling Specification

Let’s talk about what goes into a good scheduling specification. Construction scheduling specifications can be fairly long and detailed. They often end up in the general provisions and can be the longest general provision in your specification.

A good scheduling specification will address:

  • Definitions
  • Administrative Requirements
  • Technical Requirements
  • Definitions of Key Terms

    If the scheduling specification uses terms that aren’t defined elsewhere, like critical path, I usually recommend that there be a definition of terms section at the beginning of the scheduling specification.

    Here are three key terms that I think are probably the most important related to a critical path method schedule:

    • Critical path
    • Longest path
    • Float

    That’s not to say there aren’t lots of other important terms. But, at the very least, these three terms should be defined.

    Administrative Requirements

    I also recommend that your scheduling specification address what we call administrative requirements:

    The Responsibilities of the Parties

    Your specification needs to clearly identify the responsibilities of the parties with regard to the preparation, review, and acceptance of the schedule.

    The Types of Schedules to be Prepared

    It needs to show the types of schedules that are to be prepared: initial schedules, baseline schedules, schedule updates, revised schedules, and recovery schedules.

    The Timing of Schedule Submissions

    It needs to identify the timing of schedule submissions:

    • How long does the contractor have before it must submit the schedule to the owner? • Does there have to be a schedule available at the preconstruction meeting? • Does the contractor have 30 days to submit the

    Should You Use Video to Document Your Construction Project

    A key objective of all construction documentation is to preserve a contemporaneous (prepared at the time), accurate, and factual record of what occurred on the project. And, frankly, the credibility of one document adds to the credibility of all your documents. Given the credibility of video, they not only serve to quickly and efficiently document important events, but they also enhance the credibility of all related documents.

    The nice thing about our phones these days is not only can they take great pictures, but they take great videos, too. I would not use video as a replacement for a daily log, mostly because it is very hard to access the information in a video (particularly if you have taken a lot of them). It can be hard to find the right video that has the right piece of information that you need quickly. But if you are performing potentially dangerous work or you are performing an unusual operation (an operation that perhaps involves multiple parties or could have catastrophic results), then it’s probably not a bad idea to be videotaping that kind of event.

    We worked on a project in Milwaukee where a large truss was dropped and someone was killed. It turned out that there were videos being taken by the general contractor. There was a video being taken by the steel truss erector. And there was a video being taken by a tourist who was standing outside the stadium. All of these videos were taken from different vantage points.

    The Best Use of Photos on a Construction Project

    You’ve heard the expression a million times. It’s a cliché. A photo is worth a thousand words. I say that and I must tell you there are dozens and dozens of situations I have been involved with where there is a great photo record, but nobody has any earthly idea what the photos are of, why they are significant, or why they were taken. The point here is that, yes, a photo is worth a thousand words. But most photos, if they have no words accompanying them, are virtually useless.

    Be like Officer Obe when documenting your project with photos

    When I talk about photographs, I am often reminded of the song, “Alice’s Restaurant.” Yeah, I have a couple of gray hairs. In that song, Officer Obe had taken twenty-seven, 8 x 10, color glossies and had annotated those pictures with circles, arrows, and a paragraph on the back explaining what they showed. Well, you don’t need 8 x 10 color glossies, and you probably don’t need circles and arrows. You may not even need a whole paragraph. But, wow, just a little bit of information goes a long way in terms of making a picture extremely valuable.

    I will give you the best example I have ever seen of pictures used effectively. We were working on a bridge project and the bridge could reasonably be split into two projects. On one side, concrete girders supported the bridge deck. On the other side, steel girders supported the bridge deck. On the concrete

    The Challenge of Notes to File on a Construction Project

    On a construction project, notes to file are often considered a form of communication. However, notes to file are not a complete communication. They are an incomplete communication.

    Why is that? Well, they are incomplete because you put the information to the file, but you didn’t share it with anyone else. So, it’s not really communication. You have communicated with the file, but you haven’t communicated with the party that might be affected by the note to file. There is nothing wrong with keeping track of what is going on and making notes to file. To some extent, a daily log is something like an organized note to file. By the same token, if the note to file is something that would cause someone to change their behavior, do the right thing, and help the project, then simply putting a note to file is not enough.

    Construction is not supposed to be strictly a “gotcha” game. We do want the other parties to pull their weight and execute their work as required for the project to finish timely, within budget, and to the appropriate level of quality. So, notes to file, while appropriate and useful in situations, are not communication. We should not anticipate or treat them as such.

    Why even use notes to file?

    What will we use notes to file for – to document unusual occurrences? I am sure that we could all come up with some good examples of what an unusual occurrence might be, like unusual weather, unusual meetings, unusual

    How to Organize Your Electronic Construction Project Documentation

    One of the things that can be quite helpful when we are using electronic documentation is to use a common nomenclature or structure. What do we mean by the terms “nomenclature” or “structure?” In other words, using consistent naming or numbering documents so they are easy to find.

    Let me give you an example. I do a lot of work for the Department of Veterans Affairs. On many projects that I’ve been involved with, the project documentation was organized by Request for Information (RFI) number. For example, if the contractor submitted a RFI, it ultimately led to a change order, and extensive correspondence between the parties as it related to that problem. All the information relevant to that RFI was stored in that RFI file, and it remained there until it became a formal change order. At that point, as the files were transferred to paper change order files, it ended up being a good system. Once you knew the issue and its RFI number, you could go to that RFI file and find anything related to that issue. On other projects, I have seen the documentation organized by specification number. In other words, how it related to a particular specification section.

    I have also seen it organized by a predetermined file structure, where the entire organization used the same numbering system. For example, you might find correspondence under file 1302.1 where 1302 was the project number.

    There is no standard organizational structure for documentation on a construction project. Each organization develops