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Construction Scheduling Services. What will the Schedule Consultant Need from the General Contractor to Successfully Provide CPM Schedule Support Services?

Now that you’ve engaged your planning and CPM schedule professional, what will you need to provide this consultant for them to be able to successfully provide the construction CPM scheduling services you need?

The easy part….

First, they need to plan the basic schedule and sequencing of major work. To do this, they need to learn the basic scope of the project. They will need the IFB or RFP docs with addendums, your proposal docs, and a list of stakeholders. They need to understand what the schedule structure and quality requirements are for your specific project. Are there required milestones? What is the contract duration? Are there any interim milestones that may need to be constrained? Are specific calendars required? Is resource and cost loading required? Are there specific activity code requirements? The requirements vary greatly, and the scheduler has to start out with this information.

The planning and CPM schedule professional will develop a basic project work breakdown structure (WBS) and organizational breakdown structure (OBS). This is basically an organized list of the project deliverables broken down into work packages and a list of individuals or companies from which to assign a responsible party for each package. This is the basis for any resource assignments or responsibility activity code assignments.

You will need to work closely with the schedule consultant to assure the entire project scope is included in the WBS and all the stakeholders are included in the OBS. You can provide the sequencing of the work packages at this point. This will help with the activity logic developed later. This also a good time to assign any costs to the work packages. This can be distributed to the supporting activities once they’re developed.

At this point, you have a list of deliverables with the parties responsible for their delivery. Now it is time to add supporting activities.

Now for the hard part!

The planning and CPM schedule professional will be able to build out most of the supporting activities. But they will need continuous open communication with your project team to get the sequencing correct. A good schedule consultant can develop most of the hard logic, such as “develop submittal package-submit submittal package-review submittal package-approve submittal package” or “foundation before SOG before above slab work”. But there is also preferential logic that reflects the project team’s plan to execute the project. This must be provided by the project team. Remember, the planning and CPM schedule professional only models the execution plan. The plan is yours to communicate to the schedule consultant.

Note: If activity coding has not been assigned yet, now is the time. It is best to add the activity coding when developing the activities. It is useful for filtering and sorting the schedule for the “crashing” exercise.

Once all the activities and relationships are in place to support the work packages, you will need to work with the schedule consultant to help develop the activity durations and distribute work package costs across the activities, (if cost loading is required or desired). It is best if this information comes from the responsible parties. They also need to understand the logic for the work assigned to them and agree to the plan.

Now you have a schedule with all the work package deliverables, all the activities to support the work packages, and all the activity relationships and durations assigned to sequence the work as planned.

Now for the painful part!

Constraints have probably not been assigned yet. (I do not assign them until I’ve developed the full schedule). So, most likely, the finish date for the project schedule will not fall where you need it to. This is when you must sit down with the project team and the planning and schedule professional and work through the sequencing and durations to “crash” the schedule until the project duration meets the contract requirements. It is vital the responsible parties are involved in any reduction of duration or resequencing of work. You need them to “buy into” the finished plan.

Now is the time to analyze the schedule and prepare it for use and submission to the owner. Once approved, this schedule becomes the project baseline schedule. You will measure all progress against this schedule and track trends and slippage.  You now have a validated CPM schedule you can rely on to manage your project.

This is your critical path method, CPM schedule!

As you can see, you have a lot of input into the schedule development. You have a lot of responsibility too. Hiring a planning and CPM schedule professional is not a hire and forget it process. You will work closely with this consultant, so you need to trust them and be comfortable working with them.

If you utilize the planning and CPM schedule professional for the development of your project schedule, (as part of their construction scheduling services) you will start the project with a measurable project plan you can use to manage the execution of the project. This will allow you to spot problems early and develop the most efficient mitigation strategies.

Now all you have to do is follow the plan, update the progress periodically, and make adjustments to the remaining plan based on the actual progress each period. But this is another topic.

I have generalized the development process above for use by small to medium-sized general contractors without the planning and schedule resources in-house to develop and maintain project CPM schedules. There is much more which can be said about the process and there is also additional schedule risk analysis which can be utilized to identify schedule risk based on probability and more detailed labor, material & equipment loading to measure productivity rates and project shortfalls or trends. These are also topics for another day.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. What Should a General Contractor Consider when Deciding which Planning & CPM Scheduling Professional Consultant to Choose?

For a small general contractor or a project manager working for a medium size contractor, knowing what to look for in a planning and scheduling consultant can be overwhelming. You are going to trust this person to model your execution plan for your project. How do you know which construction scheduling consultant to choose?

Cost should definitely not be the deciding factor.

Cost is not indicative of the quality of the service you will receive.

Should you go to a large multi-disciplined construction management (CMa) firm or an independent expert (construction scheduling consultant) in the field of scheduling?

If you have other work you need assistance with and the CMa firm has the expertise to provide it, then it makes sense to use the CMa firm, if you don’t mind the markup on the services. If all you need is assistance with CPM schedule development and management, then it may be a better idea to go with the consultant.

There are many consultants providing CPM schedule development and management services. Most are very good and it is really a matter of how comfortable you are with the individual. However, there are schedule consultants that specialize in software operation, but not so much in understanding construction sequencing and CPM methodologies. It’s hard to find an old superintendent that became a scheduler. That would be the best, provided they learned all the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEi) and industry best practices. Unfortunately, many of the old superintendents knew how to build the project, but didn’t understand how the software worked or how to apply the AACEi and industry best practices when developing their CPM schedules. If you can find a Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Certified Construction Manager (CCM) or Project Management Institute (PMI) certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with an Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEi) Planning and Schedule Professional (PSP) certification or PMI-SP certification, you have found someone with proven project management and CPM schedule development skills. This would be a great choice.

A few of the things you should consider when deciding which scheduling consultant to use are:

  • Has the consultant scheduled or managed work similar to the project you need help with?
  • Has the consultant worked with similar CPM schedule specifications? This can be a big deal if they have not….
  • Has the consultant scheduled or managed projects of the size project you plan to have them help you with?
  • Does the consultant have the time to devote to the development phase of the planning and scheduling process?
  • Is the consultant approachable? Ethical? Going to look after your best interests?

Once you have decided on which consultant to go with, you will need to provide them with a lot of information and will also have to be very involved with the schedule development. This is the only way to get a schedule that models your plan. If a consultant says they can build the schedule based solely on the contract docs, they will be building the project based on their interpretation of the project, not necessarily the way you planned or budgeted for. You really need to stay involved to maintain some control, but you also need to allow the planning and schedule professional to utilize best practices. The construction scheduling consultant does not want to cut corners or use techniques that will undermine the schedule’s validity. Listen to what they recommend. The schedule consultant only wants to provide you with a schedule based on AACEi and industry best practice.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about basic CPM schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Can Smaller General Contractors Really Benefit from CPM Scheduling?

Can the use of CPM scheduling help small general contractors better manage their projects?

Can the use of CPM scheduling help smaller general contractors better manage their projects?

Technology has definitely changed the way we manage projects. There is more information to be managed than ever before. Part of a Project Manager’s job is the daily management of all the information. This work cuts into the time available for the development and management of the project schedule. Developing and managing a project schedule is a big undertaking. Most PM’s do not have specialized training and expertise in schedule theory and are not proficient in the specialized scheduling software operation. If a simple Gantt Chart is all that’s required, they can make do utilizing MS Project. This is how we have been managing work for many years.

If the contractors use a CPM schedule, with fully developed logic and the appropriate level of detail, they could use the schedule as a management tool and see problems and potential delays during the periodic updating. This would allow them to react and plan much more efficiently. The cost savings would be well worth the effort. But it takes a considerable amount of effort to develop and manage a valid CPM schedule.

This is when a planning and schedule professional, (Professional CPM Consultant) is handy.

Contractors could also use the project schedule to manage change orders and delay impacts.  A project schedule is also a great tool for managing the various trades for the project.

Using activity coding to filter the project schedule by trade or responsibility allows the project team to review a trades work sequence in detail and identify potential resource shortages. Filtering the project schedule by area allows the project team to identify specific areas which may be overcrowded with different trades.

There are many benefits to using a CPM schedule to manage the work for a project. Using a simple Gantt or bar chart is fine for very simple projects, but the benefits of a detailed CPM schedule are well worth the effort for projects of any size or complexity.

The small contractor would have to invest in the training to teach their PM’s about basic best practices such as breaking the SOW down into a useful WBS; then further breaking the work down into detailed activities which support he WBS deliverables. Then there are calendars, logic best practice, and the proper use of constraints…..

The smaller projects and contractors can definitely benefit from using a fully developed CPM schedule. The challenge is finding the time to train the PM and project team in the correct development and management of a CPM schedule.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. What do Small Contractors really want from CPM Schedule Consultants?

Many smaller general contractors do not need, nor can they afford a full-time planner or CPM scheduler on their staff. They seldom choose to use professional planning and CPM schedule consultants. But if they did, what do they really need from scheduling consultants? Continue reading “Construction Scheduling. What do Small Contractors really want from CPM Schedule Consultants?”