CPM Scheduling in Construction Needs an Overhaul

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Schedule

I have spent a long time working in a consultative capacity in the construction industry and the most common service that I am hired to offer is “delay analysis” and “claims prep” services. So, I am essentially a person who parachutes into troubled projects with the hopes that I can shed some light on – why the project is so late and over budget, and on recommendations as to who should have to pay for this!

To do this effectively, we need to capture and study a lot of information, specifically the information surrounding the “plan” versus what actually happened. Needless to say, I have been in the trenches of troubled projects studying “causation” for budget overruns and delays – and these analyses typically surround studying the planned versus actual schedule, and overlaying effects on manpower.

Given every construction project is different, and have different groups of participants, the issues identified and the responsible parties always vary. That being said, there are often consistencies that I have seen in these cases that I believe is very important to note.

In almost all the cases I have ever worked on, it was very clear that there could have been significant improvements. Improvements in all sides of the contract in managing, understanding, embracing, trusting or at the very least adhering to the project schedule. If that had been done, the situation at hand would have been minimized considerably, if not avoided.

In most cases, the schedule was something that people looked at occasionally, or something that was presented to the owner. It wasn’t the means in which project management lived and died by. What this all boils down to is that I see a common thread. Poor management in scheduling (from all sides) almost always results in poor outcomes.

Being involved in large construction projects these days is a crazy complex undertaking.
Construction generally involves multiple entities, most of which have never worked together. Building something that is not “standard”, with contractual language that varies from project to project means no one REALLY knows how things are going to shake out at bid time. Yet everyone has agreed to a price and schedule.

Therefore, obsessive planning and management of the schedule is imperative for success. I have worked directly with clients and set up amazing controls around scheduling, updating, information management, data analytics (all of these things are tied together), and we have accomplished amazing things. Optimized productivity, maximized profits, delivered projects on time and on budget. So, I know from experience that a little education, some leadership and discipline will go a long way, but it requires a sound process around scheduling.

My experience tells me that there is a correlation between budget overruns/delays and the lack of controls, scheduling and information management. This makes one believe that people just hate scheduling. However, my instincts tell me otherwise. There is more to the equation than construction companies just dreading “scheduling”. I believe that there is an inherent roadblock (or several of them) that deter companies from embracing scheduling and therefore being as successful as they could be in construction management.

From my experience, there are 3 issues that affect the ability to manage performance with the schedule:

  1. Problem 1: There is one person likely working “part time” on arguably the most important of the project controls. Why is this? Because the cost of a scheduler is expensive. In reality, there should be someone constantly walking around every day, all day on all project, chatting, collaborating and studying information to make the best, most perfect schedule they can! A schedule that everyone has agreed to. One that speaks to the reality of the situation. This person shouldn’t be just a scheduler either. They should take all their down time and study project data and bring forward problems that fly under the radar until they can’t anymore. This is worth its weight in gold.
  2. Problem 2: There is not enough access to the schedules by people actually managing or performing the work (PM’s, Supers, Subs). These guys get a monthly update via a .pdf or a stack of paper. We know why the schedules aren’t updated that often -cost of a scheduler, but why are the people managing the work unable to access the plan in a format that supports an ability to understand it? Answer: COST. Licenses for P6 are like $3000 – that is a non-starter for any GC/CM and definitely a non-starter for the trades. What company out there is going to pay $3000 for each PM, Super, Foreman, Projects Controls Professional, Assistant PM, Scheduler, project engineer, etc. to see the schedule? Apparently no one. This leads to problem #3.
  3. Problem 3 – The lack of education and training of all project participants to know how to manage a schedule through a scheduling program. If everyone had access to a schedule, and everyone knew how to monitor, navigate, update, manage and understand schedules in their native format, economies of scales would exist in this regard . In addition, everyone could collaborate much better. This doesn’t exist because of problem #1 and #2.

So, how do we solve this? We need more project participants to have access to the schedule and not pay an arm and a leg for it. The solution can be achieved through www.freecpm.com.

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