Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Construction Planning & Scheduling

Construction Planning & Scheduling

One of the most important responsibilities of construction project management is the planning and scheduling of construction projects. The key to successful profit making in any construction company is to have successful projects. Therefore, for many years, efforts have been made to plan, direct, and control the numerous project activities to obtain optimum project performance. Because every construction project is a unique undertaking, project managers must plan and schedule their work utilizing their experience with similar projects and applying their judgment to the particular conditions of the current project. Until just a few years ago, there was no generally accepted formal procedure to aid in the management of construction projects. Each project manager had a different system, which usually included the use ofthe Gantt chart, or bar chart. The bar chart was, and still is, quite useful for illustrating the various items of work, their estimated time durations, and their positions in the work schedule as of the report date represented by the bar chart. However, the relationship that exists between the identified work items is by implication only. On projects of any complexity, it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, to identify the interrelationships between the work items, and there is no indication of the criticality of the various activities in controlling the project duration. A sample bar chart for a construction project is shown in Fig
The development of the critical path method (CPM) in the late 1950s provided the basis for a more formal and systematic approach to project management. Critical path methods involve a graphical display (network diagram) of the activities on a project and their interrelationships and an arithmetic procedure that identifies the relative importance of each activity in the overall project schedule. These methods have been applied with notable success to project management in the construction industry and several other industries, when applied earnestly as dynamic management tools. Also, they have provided a much- needed basis for performing some of the other vital tasks of the construction project manager, such as resource scheduling, financial planning, and cost control. Today’s construction manager who ignores the use of critical path methods is ignoring a useful and practical management tool.

Planning and Scheduling

Planning for construction projects involves the logical analysis of a project, its requirements, and the plan (or plans) for its execution. This will also include consideration of the existing constraints and available resources that will affect the execution of the project. Considerable planning is required for the support functions for a project, material storage, worker facilities, office space, temporary utilities, and so on. Planning, with respect to the critical path method, involves the identification of the activities for a project, the ordering of these activities with respect to each other, and the development of a network logic diagram that graphically portrays the activity planning. Figure 2.2 is an I-J CPM logic diagram. The planning phase of the critical path method is by far the most difficult but also the most important.
It is here that the construction planner must actually build the project on paper. This can only be done by becoming totally familiar with the project plans, specifications, resources, and constraints, looking at various plans for feasibly performing the project, and selecting the best one.
The most difficult planning aspect to consider, especially for beginners, is the level of detail needed for the activities. The best answer is to develop the minimum level of detail required to enable the user to schedule the work efficiently. For instance, general contractors will normally consider two or three activities for mechanical work to be sufficient for their schedule. However, to mechanical contractors, this would be totally inadequate because they will need a more detailed breakdown of their activities in order to schedule their work. Therefore, the level of activity detail required depends on the needs of the user of the plan, and only the user can determine his or her needs after gaining experience in the use of critical path methods.

Once the activities have been determined, they must be arranged into a working plan in the network
logic diagram. Starting with an initial activity in the project, one can apply known constraints and reason
that all remaining activities must fall into one of three categories:
1. They must precede the activity in question.
2. They must follow the activity in question.
3. They can be performed concurrently with the activity in question.
The remaining planning function is the estimation of the time durations for each activity shown on the logic diagram. The estimated activity time should reflect the proposed method for performing the activity, plus consider the levels at which required resources are supplied. The estimation of activity times is always a tough task for the beginner in construction because it requires a working knowledge of the production capabilities of the various crafts in the industry, which can only be acquired through many observations of actual construction work. Therefore, the beginner will have to rely on the advice of superiors for obtaining time estimates for work schedules.
Scheduling of construction projects involves the determination of the timing of each work item, activity, in a project within the overall time span of the project. Scheduling, with respect to the critical path methods, involves the calculation of the starting and finishing times for each activity and the project duration, the evaluation of the available float for each activity, and the identification of the critical path or paths. In a broader sense, it also includes the more complicated areas of construction project man agement such as financial funds, flow analyses, resource scheduling and leveling, and inclement weather scheduling. The planning and scheduling of construction projects using critical path methods have been discussed as two separate processes. Although the tasks performed are different, the planning and scheduling processes normally overlap. The ultimate objective of the project manager is to develop a working plan with a schedule that meets the completion date requirements for the project. This requires an interactive process of planning and replanning, and scheduling and rescheduling, until a satisfactory working plan is obtained

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