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By Duane Craig
May 15, 2017
Project managers and superintendents know that the schedule is crucial for project success. Everyone relies on it to know when and how to do what it takes to finish their portions of the project. So before it’s published, it’s always best to look it over closely to make sure it is as thorough as possible.
Here are 10 criteria to take into consideration to make sure your schedule is up to speed.
You leave yourself susceptible to surprise any time you bring in an outsider into the project. You have little control over them, so it’s easy to miss adding them as a required resource to the schedule. These missing resources include city, county, state, and federal inspectors. They also include third party inspectors who have to certify components and systems.
The surprises you’re in for are the kind that can bring any schedule to a standstill as incomplete activities halt upcoming activities. Keep a list of the typical inspections required on the type of construction you do, and go through the schedule looking for places where they are missing. Also, look more closely at specifications for the project materials because it’s there that you’ll find test and certification requirements. For example, the specs might call for windows to have leak tests, and for removals to have tests for hazardous materials.
Every project has them, and when they aren’t available, the schedule goes into a tailspin. Engineered lumber components often hold up wood frame construction because they are special order. Storefront door frames require fabrication time, while many materials and components that are out of the norm are in short supply, or even unavailable. Again, the specifications tell you a lot about what materials and components you should put on your critical list.
Equipment that’s in short supply, specialized, or planned for heavy use will add uncertainty to any schedule. The only way to get a heads up on this is to carefully review each activity along with its equipment resources. It won’t take long to see problems like a backhoe scheduled for two separate tasks at the same time, or a missing scissors lift for a rain gutter task.
When people have to change tasks or ramp up to begin them, you usually need extra time, materials, and even equipment. The time it takes for one group to breakdown, move, and set up again in another location is time that isn’t accounted for on many schedules. Take a closer look at activities scheduled to stop in one location and then start up in another. Then see whether there is adequate time and resources for the change.
General conditions is a great catchall for all those things that don’t fit neatly on a schedule, and that’s what makes them a trap. Getting the jobsite trailer set up, putting in special access roadways, installing fencing, and arranging for dumpsters and portable toilets are all time-consuming activities that need a spot on the schedule.
There are many activities on construction schedules that require something to be finished before they can begin. Painters can’t paint unfinished drywall, and someone needs to frame the door before installing it. There are instances when drywall installation is happening in one part of a building while painters are painting another part. But as these instances increase, there is a greater likelihood of resource shortages. Look to see where resource groups are simultaneously scheduled at different locations. Then check to see whether they are adequate for both jobs.
The work breakdown structure probably started with the estimate, and carried through to the schedule, along with all the assumptions and optimism that accompany the pre bid stage. Now it’s time to clean up the work breakdown so that the schedule is realistic. Look at each assembly closely and you’ll find missing tasks or activities. They might be small and inconsequential on their own, but taken together, they add up to a lot of unaccounted for work.
As you study the work breakdown structure for missing activities, it’s also a good idea to look for those that are out of sequence. Required tests on the HVAC system can’t happen until it’s completely installed. And, until someone digs a trench, plumbers will never get started on the drain line. Many of the errors you find here will be so obvious you’ll be surprised––pleasantly surprised because you’ve caught them.
Work expands to fill the available time so it is a good idea to keep allowed task time as low as possible. And, if you’ve done a good job at verifying the schedule, tight times are more realistic. However, there is no way to recover from an activity with an unreasonable amount of time. Not only will it lead to more mistakes and redos, but it can also cause accidents. Make sure the schedule is complete and that you’ve accounted for everything humanly possible. Then look closely at the time allotted for similar tasks to recognize those that seem out of line. If painting typically moves forward at 1,000 square feet per hour for a given resource group, but you find a place where someone scheduled the same amount of work for half an hour, find out why.
One way these happen is when you have tasks scheduled to happen at the same time and they are tasks that are normally “finish-before-start.” If you don’t add more equipment, materials or labor, then it’s possible the latter task isn’t going to start on time.
Going through this checklist will help keep your project on track. Any initial doubters will realize the importance of this process and come around to your way of thinking as the project runs smoothly.
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