Proper construction scheduling is key, as it’s critical to the successful completion of any development project. According to McKinsey, larger projects typically run into overtime, taking 20% longer to finish than what was originally scheduled. This is less than ideal, as costly delays negatively impact the client (as well as the builder’s bottom line)—making drafting and adhering to an accurate construction schedule all the more important.
Even with a comprehensive plan, sufficient materials, and a detailed budget, a well-developed schedule is necessary to ensure that your project remains on track. To create and manage construction scheduling efficiently, your GC and project management teams need access to the right knowledge and information at every point in the project lifecycle—as well as the right scheduling tools and software.
What is construction scheduling?
A detailed construction project schedule is central to ensuring that a project will be completed on time, and is used throughout the planning and building phases of construction. It maps out how and when a project will be completed.
The process of construction scheduling is crucial during the planning phase, directly correlating with time management. It involves determining the timing and sequencing of various operations in a project, thus providing estimates for task completion, project duration, due dates, and projected delivery, based on factors outlined in both the project plan and the executed contract.
Why is a construction project schedule important?
A proper construction schedule helps everyone involved in the project understand how the work is expected to progress along a realistic timeline, identifying the start and end dates of different construction activities.
This assists the various trades working on the project in coordination and synchronization of tasks, as well as revealing potential conflicts early on. A properly developed construction project schedule can identify weaknesses in the project timeline before they become an issue, helping GCs and project managers anticipate potential issues, and proactively develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies.
Detailed construction project scheduling is important for measuring project progress, and the influence of change orders. When even a small change might have a big impact on budget and schedule, detailed insight into the project timeline can help avoid spiraling costs.
Poor planning is the main culprit in the construction industry’s struggle to deliver on time, with insufficient scheduling significantly increasing the likelihood of delays. Additional expenses are incurred for each day a construction project extends beyond the contracted delivery date, making accurate scheduling essential to avoiding the extra costs incurred by project stakeholders.
A properly planned project can have fewer change orders, and can help increase and improve resource utilization rates. When performed correctly, construction scheduling supports more accurate budgeting—and the use of the right tools and software increases clarity and encourages better communication between stakeholders.
How to start construction scheduling
Scheduling is all about defining and detailing the ‘when’ on a project - but before that, you’ll need to collect all the relevant information about the project, resources, methods, etc.
A given project may use one of several traditional construction scheduling methods, including the Critical Path Method (CPM), resource oriented scheduling, Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), and more. CPM is the predominant method - however, CPM has its drawbacks, and can trigger issues with major impact to the project timeline. ALICE offers significant advantages over traditional CPM scheduling methods in terms of process and output.
Project managers and GCs interested in developing a more accurate and comprehensive construction schedule will find value in these best practices.
Create a directory of resources and tools
To start, it’s helpful to gather information regarding required project resources— including details on all the materials, equipment, and labor necessary to successful project completion.
Included factors should extend to the purchase or rental of tools, equipment, and materials—including details on cost, delivery timing, and vendor and subcontractor coordination.
All subcontractors providing materials, equipment, or labor relevant to the project should be included, with consideration to appropriate timing of tasks, and any delivery or availability constraints. Knowing when they’ll be needed and available to arrive on site supports more efficient planning, and helps avoid future conflicts in scheduling.
Additionally, providing information on the technologies, tools, and platforms you’ll be making use of throughout the project helps stakeholders prepare in advance, and ensure the appropriate team members are involved in planning and coordination.
List and prioritize tasks
Break the project down into a list of all the tasks required to complete each segment of the job. It’s crucial to account for as much detail as possible, avoiding generalizations and specifying exactly what needs to be accomplished.
Avoid assuming that your team will be able to manually manage and track all of the moving pieces and parts required to complete construction. No task is too big or too small to include in your construction project schedule—if it has the potential to impact project progression, it should be noted as part of your comprehensive plan.
Once you’ve broken everything down, indicate which tasks should be prioritized and completed first. Outlining the interdependencies between tasks required to complete each phase of construction can help identify weak points in scheduling, help your team work more efficiently, and circumvent snowballing delays before they occur.
Determine duration and a realistic timeline
Create a roadmap for moving forward by estimating how long each task will take to complete.
For example, a particular trade contractor’s crew might need specific equipment for an installation. The lead times for the equipment delivery will need to be factored in, along with installation time. In some cases, equipment lead times are known to take several weeks (and sometimes even months). Therefore, long lead-items will have to be ordered months in advance.
Additionally, supply chain and logistics issues can severely affect lead times, directly impacting costs and project schedules. The delivery of large equipment may need specific accommodations, such as traffic permits.
Including this step in your construction scheduling process creates a roadmap for moving forward, and will make accommodating required changes in your future timeline and schedule much easier. Determining task durations allows you to make adjustments in real-time when needed.
Once you’ve established and prioritized tasks, assigned estimated completion times, and created a comprehensive sequencing outline, you’ll need to assign supervisory duties to your project management team. Ensure each person understands what they’re responsible for, and document those responsibilities for inclusion in the project schedule.
Team members and trade contractors/partners should be able to reference the schedule for direction, using it to figure out who to go to for each segment of the project. Subcontractors and vendors can also use this as a reference, promoting more effective coordination and encouraging communication which ensures that the project moves along with ease.
Review, refine, and adjust the schedule as needed
Refining the schedule involves reviewing constraints, as well as performing what-if analysis to generate scenarios to optimize the schedule. ALICE has the ability to explore and analyze multiple scenarios and display the best possible options that you can choose from. With a single run, you’ll be provided with solutions to optimize your projects.
Once established, it’s important to follow the construction schedule, although it will never be set in stone. The unexpected often occurs—which means it’s important to build contingencies into the project plan.
As work progresses, your project management team should continuously refer back to the project schedule, assessing progression against pre-planned deadlines to determine whether expectations are still realistic, and proactively identifying and addressing potential bottlenecks.
It’s important to review the schedule on a daily basis to keep the project on track, going over it with subcontractors and partners to keep everyone on the same page. Open communication between all departments involved in construction scheduling is critical for proper coordination—especially for larger, more complex projects with many moving parts.
Develop your ideal schedule with ALICE
Creating and maintaining a schedule for construction work can be a time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be. With modern technological solutions, you can simplify and streamline the process.
ALICE is an optioneering platform that helps you with construction project scheduling. Use ALICE to develop the ideal schedule for any project, as well as recover projects which have gone off-schedule or over-budget.
The ALICE platform is your secret weapon for creating detailed, resource-loaded schedules. From feasibility studies and production planning to comprehensive task sequencing and scheduling, ALICE lets you quantify the impact of different scenarios, and analyze available options to create your optimal resource mix.
Add transparency to your planning process and visualize all aspects of your construction project by uniting your project design, schedule, and estimates.
Need to recover from a project delay? When circumstances change, eliminate weeks of wasted time, devoted to manual modification and rescheduling. Our platform quickly resequences and generates corrective schedules on demand.
Explore alternative solutions for schedule recovery, minimize the impact of project delays, and update your plan and schedule—with just a few clicks.
Get your construction scheduling back on track. Request a demo with ALICE today!