How schedule optimization software can enable project planners to be more valuable

Is the project planners’ schedule the best schedule? Has it been optimized? Who knows? After all, time constraints make the idea of developing multiple schedules to account for various scenarios nearly inconceivable.

Lost time is never found again. – Benjamin Franklin.

Nothing is more precious than time, and therefore time should be used wisely. Yet construction projects regularly run late. Just how late is up for debate, as various statistics have been bandied about, including this one from KPMG which notes, “just 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines in the past 3 years.”

The question is, Why? It’s not for lack of effort or concern. Projects that are completed on time are notable and held up as examples that bring all involved notoriety. In addition, on time (or early) completion typically runs hand in hand with on budget. Every project owner wants their project to attain this holy grail.

These days, there is schedule optimization software for all industries, including the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Schedule optimization, which OptimoRoute, a firm that plans and optimizes routes and schedules for delivery and field service businesses, says, is “…the process of making sure each individual task or action in a schedule is aligned with your ultimate goal. Schedule optimization can be used by individuals and businesses alike to keep their top priority (or priorities) at the forefront when setting times for tasks to take place.”

In construction, when there are so many variables, scheduling a project is extremely complex and time consuming. General contractors, already stretched thin, regularly rush to complete a schedule as part of the bid process. So, they typically go with the first schedule the project planning team develops and use it as the basis for their bid. Often those schedules are based on a gut sense as the planning team uses their experience and opinions. Although this is valuable and has a place in the equation, the use of facts and data should be paramount when developing a schedule.

So, a question arises: Is the project planners’ schedule the best schedule? Has it been optimized? Who knows? After all, time constraints make the idea of developing multiple schedules to account for various scenarios nearly inconceivable. 

Imagine if a general contractor’s project planning team could simulate multiple scheduling options based on various scenarios, such as adding or subtracting to the number of crews, the ideal amount of equipment, etc. This capability would transform the project planning team from number crunchers into analysts who could spend their time strategizing to determine the ideal schedule. 

Taking this scenario a step further, when a general contractor develops a more ideal schedule, it stands to reason that time could be saved and the bid prices calculated could be more in line with actual costs. With shorter project schedules and more-competitive bid prices, general contractors would stand above their competition and be primed to win more jobs and improve their bottom line.

If this were the end of the story, schedule optimization software would clearly be beneficial for project planners and general contractors. However, even the best laid plans and schedules need to be altered during project construction. Scenarios that cannot be foreseen – a crane malfunction, a delayed shipment of supplies, rain for ten straight days – are commonplace in construction.

General contractors who simply throw up their hands and try to do their best in the face of unforeseen scenarios leave money on the table when they accept that projects will be late. Instead, it’s time for project managers to return to the project and strive to steer it back on schedule, or as close as possible.

Just as the project planning team explored multiple scenarios during the bid and preconstruction phases, they can use optimization software to troubleshoot when problems occur. Better yet, they can stay actively involved throughout a project to make sure it runs on schedule. They can regularly run multiple scenarios based on the facts on the ground to optimize the use of crews. 

And, the project schedulers have time to run scenarios and analyze schedules because schedule optimization software has simplified the process. Ultimately, the software allows a general contractor to be more efficient and utilize resources most efficiently.

This efficiency can be quantified. Because ALICE is parametric and leverages the computational power of AI, enabling general contractors and owners to run thousands of scenarios, users report a 17% reduction in project duration and savings of 14% on labor and 12% on equipment costs. With a next-generation parametric platform like ALICE, project teams can find the optimal solution for a project, no matter how large or complex.

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