5 Critical Project Management Challenges for Linear Projects

A linear construction project has its own set of challenges. Let's look at the critical project management challenges for linear projects.

Managing a construction project is challenging, regardless of the project. While each project has its unique elements and issues, there are some common challenges. A linear construction project has its own set of challenges. Let's look at the critical project management challenges for linear projects.

Before diving into the list, note that work on a linear project involves, "…a set of project activities [that] are repeated in each location for the entire length [or height] of the work." Many projects can be classified as linear, including some that are horizontal such as a highway, tunnel, or railroad, and some that are vertical including a high-rise building. 

Planning a linear project

Because there's a great deal of repetition of work on a linear project, it may seem simple to manage. Wash, rinse, repeat. Well, it's not.

Instead, imagine you are the conductor of a gigantic symphony. For the orchestra to play the music as the composer intended, it's your job to make sure everyone plays their instrument at the proper time. 

A project manager on a linear project has a similarly daunting task. "At one time, there may be as many as 100 different crews with equipment actively working along the project execution path," says projectmanagment.com. 

So, if one element goes off the rails, it can impact everything else. In this respect, it's like a conveyor belt. An issue on one part of the line impacts the rest of the line.

Distribution of construction crews

Again, this may seem simple – spread the teams out and move on. 

Let's say a team is building three miles of highway. There are multiple work crews with pieces of equipment at the site, and each one has a specific responsibility. As the project proceeds, multiple work crews are working simultaneously. Determining how to space the work crews and the equipment so that each has sufficient space can be challenging. Of course, time and money also factor into the decision.

A project consulting team concurs,  "…identify[ing] a location for the working crew to move to in a manner that its work does not interfere with the work of any other construction crew [is essential]. Therefore, production rates have to be coordinated to prevent a preceding process from overtaking its succeeding process(s)."

Communication on a linear project

Yes, communication is on nearly every list of critical project management challenges, but that's because its value can't be overstated.

A linear construction project may have as many as 100 different crews working simultaneously, so communication is imperative. Even with careful and precise planning, things arise, and adjustments will need to be made. These need to be communicated.  

Then, there's the everyday. Each crew needs to be clear on its specific responsibility. Because each work crew is dependent on what the previous work crew did, when one work crew is off, every work crew is impacted.

Finally, keeping an open line of communication is always helpful. People should feel comfortable reporting issues, challenges, and suggestions.

Project scheduling

Arguably, the biggest challenge when it comes to linear construction is scheduling. Determining the ideal sequence that also balances the priorities of time and money is a challenge for the project team. 

How many teams should there be? What amount of equipment is best for reaching the project's goals? In what order should the work be done?

Coming up with an answer to these and many other questions is time-consuming but necessary. 

ALICE can answer these questions and others since it enables project managers to "check the logic of their work and help them to resolve challenges related to the order in which they do certain tasks." 

With ALICE and AI, multiple options can be considered as general contractors strive to identify the ideal order of operations for the project's tasks.

Movement of Equipment

A linear project is dependent on construction moving forward congruently. This is unlike a non-linear project, where the multiple work crews can progress even if it is not as it was drawn up in the plans. 

This lack of flexibility with the sequencing adds pressure to get each aspect right, including the movement of equipment. "The emphasis is on effective usage and productivity of resources, including movement of equipment, to reduce time in field without having clashes between activities or impacting environmental resources, while managing parameters and constraints," adds projectmanagment.com. 

Therefore, project management needs to consider how to get equipment in the right place at the right time. 

Linear projects require symbiotic movement. ALICE gives general contractors the ability to devise the ideal plan and adjust to unforeseen circumstances so that a project can be completed on time and schedule. This ability is especially important with linear projects.

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