Practical Construction Scheduling Guide for Contractors

Construction Project Management Guide for Professionals

The purpose of creating a schedule

During the planning phase, the project manager thinks through the entire project journey.
Creating a schedule ahead of time serves several different purposes.
The first goal is to discover any bottlenecks that may arise

The second   goal is to find out how to pace the work and what resources are needed to
fulfill the contract. By thinking everything through ahead of time, you should be able to
assess whether it is possible to complete the project as ordered with the available

The third and final goal  is to create a working document that gives you an idea of ​​where
you stand in relation to the planned outcome. At any moment, you should be able to see
if you are ahead, behind, or exactly on schedule.

What are the different options for creating a schedule?

There are many different options for scheduling. Here, however, I will focus on the two basic ones with which I have personal experience and try to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Probably the most common scheduling program in construction project management is Microsoft Project. Its biggest downside is that it is paid and requires a license. The biggest advantage is the speed with which you can create the schedule and the ease with which you can change it later.

Another standard scheduling program is the well-known MS Excel, or it’s analog. Yes, Excel requires a license, but we usually already have it as essential software when we buy a computer. The biggest disadvantage of Excel is the time it takes to create the graph and to change it later. At the same time, Excel is probably easier to grasp for a novice project manager and visually easier to monitor.

Download the XLSX example here.

The schedule is ready. What's next?

Once the schedule has been completed, it should be looked over again. You need to make sure the overall timing and the timing of major tasks match. The tasks on the critical path should also be reviewed in detail. The critical path refers to the sequence of the least time-consuming tasks. This allows you to identify which procurement processes and which parts of the project need to be given greater focus, as they affect the final outcome the most.

How to prepare a schedule that is actually useful

As a result of drawing up the schedule, you must create a tool that will help you monitor the entire process and adjust your activities in the future. I have seen schedules created as required by contract but not used to carry out the real work. This is a waste of time. But then, how do you prepare a schedule that would be useful? 

First, identify how you plan to use the schedule. Will you use it daily, weekly, or in the initial phase of larger projects, maybe only monthly? Will it be used internally with your own team, or do you want it for planning the activities of subcontractors and share it with them as well?

Next, decide on the detail needed. My recommendation is first to prepare a general timetable for major works and then add increasing levels of detail by creating different subcategories and tasks. A simpler and more basic schedule could be approximately 50 lines, a little more detailed up to 100 lines, and if we are already talking about the schedule of the week and the final phase of the object, up to 150 lines.

You can make an even more detailed schedule, but they become too complicated and difficult to understand as a daily work tool. The schedule can also be divided into parts, and work can only be done with certain sections, but it is up to each person to decide which form is most suitable for them.

Now decide what parameters to include in the schedule. Of course, the most important are the beginning and end of the work and the duration. It is also very important to correctly link the works, i.e., which work precedes and follows the current work and which tasks overlap. You need to see clearly if the works are partly overlapping, parallel or not overlapping at all. This makes it easy to edit the plan later if there is a change in some of the initial parameters of the job. The most important deliveries should also be noted as milestones. In addition, the project also allows you to link labor and money to the work, though these may not be the most important parameters.

To monitor the schedule, it must be constantly updated, and completed tasks must be noted. In Project, it can be done with %; in Excel, it is possible to monitor it by marking the progress line. This gives us an overview of where we are now compared to the initial goal. Use the progress mark to stay on schedule. Of course, the schedule should be constantly adjusted according to your current situation.

Today, the construction sector is increasingly moving towards 3D modeling, and most projects are already done using 3D software. This, in turn, opens completely new directions in terms of charts. 3D, 4D, and 5D (cost) graphs allow us to grasp the project’s current state visually. However, they still have several shortcomings, mainly the complexity of filling out the chart. Technology is constantly evolving, though, and new solutions are already being developed. For example, you can take pictures of the object daily and transform this information into a visual graphic.