Construction Scheduling. Spotting a Potential Resource Issue Early. Or, Why isn’t my Contractor Keeping up?

QuestionWould you like to be able to spot a potential contractor or subcontractor production shortfall early? Perhaps get ahead of the lagging work?

There are many ways to mine this info and establish the trend. I’ll offer a very simple method for P6 here.

If you set the percent complete type to physical, display the physical percent complete and the duration percent complete columns along with the start and finish date columns, you can spot potential production issues quickly when you update.

Personally, I like to run my cost based on my physical percent complete, but different project types require different methods….. But for this method, we will be basing the cost complete on the physical percent complete prorated over the entire duration.

Once you have the actual start date and physical percent complete you should enter the expected finish date to establish the revised scheduled finish date for the activity. Doing this will result in a different duration percent complete than the physical percent complete you entered based on actual work completed. The variance will show if the production rate for this work was accurate as actualized to date or if the actual production rate is better or worse than planned.

If the work is 50% physical complete and the adjustment to the scheduled finish date forces the duration percent complete to be 65%, you may want to investigate to find out if the original assumptions were incorrect or if this resource is adequate to meet the production as planned. If the same resource is having problems for several activities, there could be a trend that needs attention.

Simple. There are more accurate ways to measure this, such as resource man hours or units completed. But this is a quick, easy way to spot an issue just by looking at the schedule as you update or look over the schedule in a meeting…..

What other “easy” ways have you found to monitor the work and spot potential production issues?

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Schedule Management. How should a Non-Schedule Savvy PM or Superintendent Develop and Manage a “Recovery Schedule”?

Struct SteelYou have a baseline schedule, with a few periodic updates completed, and now you need to make a revision to the schedule to dramatically re-sequence work, add/delete work to/from the project, or provide a required “Recovery Schedule”. What do you do?

This is one of the more difficult schedule management tasks. In some ways, it is almost more difficult than creating the baseline schedule.

Depending on the amount of time you need to “recover”, you will need to find the root causation for the schedule slippage and get that under control.  This could mean anything from having the party responsible for the slippage work additional hours to maintain the daily scheduled productivity, adding resources to increase the daily scheduled productivity, or resequencing of work to mitigate the lack of daily scheduled productivity or model concurrent work.

Next you will need to develop the most cost-effective means of accelerating work on the current longest path. This is tricky. Your schedule may have a near critical path which is very close to the scheduled longest path. As you shave days off the longest path, it will shift to the near critical path making that path the longest path. You will need to keep working at accelerating activities on the longest path, as it shifts until you reach the point of “recovery”.

That’s the easy part.

Now you have to obtain support for this plan from the project team. Subcontractors have to agree to provide what is needed to achieve this revised plan. Deliveries must be verified. Resource availability must be verified. There is probably additional cost involved. This must be managed a well.

In summary, any “recovery plan” will most likely involve concurrent work and/or acceleration of work. In any case, submitting a “recovery schedule” without the support of the project team for execution of the revised plan is a disservice to the owner, the project team and the project. You must be able to gain the commitment of the project team.

Schedule management includes many tasks and processes. Developing the “recovery schedule” is one of the more difficult tasks. The Project Manager should always be intimately involved with the planning of the revised work plan and “buy-in” from the project team is necessary for the successful execution of the “recovery plan”.

You may be able to manage the development of the recovery schedule without any problems.

However, when in doubt, seek out the advice of a professional planner and scheduler.

Please visit to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Schedule Management. How should a Non-Schedule Savvy PM or Superintendent Manage their Project Schedule?

Tilt UpYou have created your project’s baseline schedule and now you are starting the schedule management phase of the project. What do you do?

If you have not done so already, you need to establish a “schedule log”. I like to start my schedule log when I start development of the baseline schedule. This allows me to track my revisions and reasons for making them. The schedule log provides you with historic data for each revision or update to the schedule. Very handy.

If you have not done so already, set up schedule layouts and filters you plan to use. I also set these up during me schedule development, but often times the owner decides they want to use something other than what the schedule specifications require.

Each periodic update, save your schedule with progress only. This allows you to see what the progress update did to your schedule, save this snapshot. Then make any revisions to correct out-of-sequence, OOS relationships and model the revised plan to finish on schedule. You now have your updated and revised schedule ready for use.

Update the schedule periodically. Compare your progress with the most current previously accepted schedule and the baseline schedule. Look at how you’re tracking, how your actual durations are comparing to your scheduled original durations, and how your work sequence is actually progressing. Identify problem areas and trends and develop corrective action to recover time lost.

After you update the progress for your schedule, revise the schedule update to reflect your actual plan for execution. This doesn’t mean a complete change of sequence or addition of new work. This is simply to model adjustments you are going to need to make to maintain the scheduled completion date.

Major revisions to the schedule to dramatically re-sequence work or add/delete large pieces of work are handled differently. This will be part of a future post.

Managing the simple month to month schedule update process is pretty straightforward. Correcting the OOS is more involved and care should be taken to follow best practices. This is all part of the basic schedule management process.

However, when in doubt, seek out the advice of a professional planner and scheduler.

Please visit 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 Terms. What is the “Data Date”? What is “OOS”? What are “Lags”?

Pert P3You are working with a construction scheduling consultant and they use terms you’ve heard before, but you’re not 100% sure you really understand what they mean.  More importantly, you’re not sure how they affect the schedule.

Do not be ashamed, why should you have any in depth knowledge of yet another specialized function of the project management process? That’s why professional planning and scheduling consultants exist!

What is the “Data Date” and why do I care?

The data date is simply the “as-of” date used for progressing the periodic schedule update.

Typically, the data date is the end of the month, but I’ve seen it be the 15th and the 25th. Each schedule specification is different based on the owner’s requirements for reporting. Note: MS Project uses the term “Status Date”.

This is the date that all progress should be updated for progress up to. Everything after the data date is the pan to execute the remaining project activities. There should never be work in progress or incomplete with dates prior to the data date. I’ve seen this all too often with schedules run in MS Project because the person doing the schedule update does not understand this concept and how to adjust the settings to force incomplete work to move to the status date.  It’s a simple fix for an experienced scheduler. Always look at your schedules and know the data date and verify all work prior to the data date is complete and all work after the data date shows no progress. Think of the data date as the starting off point for the rest of your project…. This is a necessary practice for construction scheduling.

What is “OOS” and why do I care?

OOS or Out-of-Sequence is simply a way of saying that work actually completed did not progress as scheduled.

Typically, this involves an activity that was scheduled to start immediately after the finish of it’s “predecessor” having actually started prior to it’s “predecessor” finishing. Other reasons may be work progressing much differently than scheduled or work being suspended for whatever reason.

Why do you care? You care because this logic is still driving any “successor” activities and is not correct based on how you actually completed the work. It affects all downstream work logically tied to the finish of the OOS work and does not model the remaining work correctly.

This can affect change order fragnet insertions, not produce correct total float values, and does not provide you with an accurate as-built schedule. Best practice is to correct the logic for OOS work immediately after updating the progress each period update. Most schedule consultants do this, but many do not and most PM’s and Superintendents do not. Many owners are not aware of the need to correct OOS relationships and do not require or enforce this practice. This is unfortunate. There are times y0u can leave some OOS relationships in place, but absolutely OOS work on the longest path or near critical path should be correct. Most construction scheduling consultants correct OOS relationships each schedule update.

What are “Lags” and why do I care?

Lags are like invisible activities added to the schedule; which typically separate start dates of successor activities by a set amount.

Depending on which calendars are assigned and the relationship selected, a current activity’s successor activity will start immediately after the finish of the current activity, if the relationship is a Finish-to-Start, FS relationship. Adding a lag of 3 to this relationship would force the start of the successor to wait 3 work periods until starting.  Sometimes this is used for concrete curing time…… I prefer to use an activity for this so the time is transparent.

But typically, lags are used with Start-to –Start, SS relationships to allow work to be schedule concurrently. The lag forces the successor activity to wait set number of work periods after the start of the predecessor activity starts before starting. This models a plan to start one piece of work and then start successive work a set duration later. Such as finishing gypsum board wall sheathing before the entire area covered by the activity to hang the gypsum wallboard has completed. This is fine if this represents your plan to execute this work. Unfortunately, this is also how most PM’s and Superintendents choose to get the scheduled finish date back on time after the periodic update shows the project is behind schedule. This is still fine if the work can actually be executed this way, and it is the actual plan to “recover” lost time. It is just so darn easy to do, that many times it is used to appease the owner only and no plan is used to actually accomplish the work concurrently. This happens when the schedule is only part of the invoice process, and not an integral part of the project management process.

Don’t be afraid of lags, but the use of lags should be judicious and justifiable. There are many ways to model the logic to reduce the number of lags used. Typically, breaking the work into smaller pieces will allow the work to be scheduled without the use of lags.

Negative lags are bad idea and should be avoided or disallowed. There are many ways to make the logic work without the use of negative lags. Most schedule consultants stay away from negative lags.

MS Project shows lags and relationship types other than Finish-to-Start, FS in the predecessor and successor columns. Primavera P6 does not. Although it is not always easy to understand the effect a lag is having on the schedule, you should always be aware of their usage and understand the effect they have on the project schedule.

When in doubt, seek out the advice of a professional planner and scheduler.

Please visit to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP


Schedule Management. Why should a General Contractor invest in the use of Critical Path Method, (CPM) Scheduling when they have gotten by with “Schedule by Date” bar charts for so long?

Many contractors I’ve worked with in my role as a planning and schedule professional consultant, had been developing their schedules in-house using their Project Managers, (PM’s) or Superintendents. Who better knows the project requirements! They had been using the basic functions of a simple schedule program and had been setting “milestone dates” for the completion of major pieces of the work. They used some logic, but not complete logic. They inadvertently set constrained dates for most of the activities. They let the program use the default calendar, whatever that was. They did not do any coding. They did not have a schedule driven by the durations and relationships of the work. They also did not have a schedule management process.

Basically, they had a list of tasks and milestone goals and they managed their work to that plan. They made adjustments to the dates and progress as they went along, and believed they were managing the schedule and the project. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right?

This is definitely not schedule management!

Why not, at the very least, consider what stepping up to CPM scheduling could do for your project control and management?

If your project team is encouraged to learn more about Critical path Method, (CPM) scheduling, it will only help them see ways they can better manage their work. My most recent client, (like most of my clients), considered going through the SOW to verify all work was in the schedule to be very familiar. But they enjoyed the intensive exercise of building all the activities to support the execution of each piece of the project and then adding the relationships to “plan” how the work will be sequenced. They always remark that it makes them look at the project differently. They like how developing the complete logic for the schedule forces them and other project team members to really think about how the coordination of the various trades and deliveries and sequential logic for the submission/deliver/construct sequences impacted other areas they had not considered. They also enjoy having more direct control over their execution plan and having the ability to easily see when work is slipping, and which corrective actions will actually help maintain the project completion date.

Having the control over their planning and scheduling of the project has given these PM’s and Superintendents and their project teams much greater control over the project execution and their ability to proactively manage their work. It’s much better to proactively manage potential issues than spend your time putting out the fires that aren’t apparent until that specific trade is at a log jam in the work flow.

These PM’s and Superintendents don’t have the time to learn a new skill set specific to planning and scheduling. They already understand how logic works and how the activity relationships affect the sequencing of the work. What they don’t have is the specialized training and experience to understand how the calendars, resource assignments, and schedule calculation options work behind the scenes to deliver the schedule model they need. That is why they need the assistance of a planning and schedule professional to work with them as a schedule consultant to develop and manage the schedule. A good schedule consultant will work with your project team to model the project and set the calendars, resources and schedule calculations settings specific to your project. This relieves your project team of the burden of trying to make a software program they are not experts with work to fit their contract requirements and provides you with an as-needed expert resource for this specific skill set.

Having the true CPM schedule will allow your project team to identify slippage or trends in a particular trade or in a specific area and model what corrective action is best for the mitigation of this event. No guess work, no just tell them to “get back on schedule”. Your project team can actually analyze which options will produce the most efficient use of resources and obtain the required result. This is an important part of the Schedule Management process.

It does however, require a good bit of up front work during the CPM schedule development phase, but this work actually helps to identify missing scope and helps with the initial coordination of your work forces. Owners are also held accountable with a CPM schedule. The schedule includes activities for all work or deliverables for which the owner is responsible. This allows them to better plan their involvement and allows you to better coordinate this work. A well-maintained CPM schedule is also critical for managing change orders and delays to work. Once both parties agree on how the additional work or delay should be inserted into the most current updated and accepted schedule, there isn’t much to negotiate. The schedule either supports the impact claim or it does not.

The bottom line is that there is no really good reason not to plan and schedule your work with a CPM schedule. It aids in the planning, scope validation, execution management and change order/delay management. If the schedule is also cost loaded, it makes invoicing easier as well. There is a reason almost all large general contractors and large projects require the use of CPM schedules. They work.

I recommend any general contractor not currently using CPM planning and scheduling for their projects, at least, talk to a planning and schedule professional. It can’t hurt and you might be surprised at how much using a CPM schedule approach and having a schedule management process will help your projects succeed.

Please visit to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

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 Project Scheduling. How does the CPM Schedule Progress Update Process Work, and What Basic Information does the Schedule Consultant Need from the General Contractor to Accomplish the Schedule Progress Update?

You have an approved baseline project schedule and you are working your plan. That is great. You are utilizing a valid tool to proactively managing your project. But, you still need to monitor the actual work progress and take corrective action as necessary to maintain your scheduled plan to execute the project. This is an important part of the construction project scheduling process.

Best practice, for most projects, is to update the project schedule progress weekly. This allows you early identification of schedule slippage. Most contracts require monthly schedule updating and reporting to the owner or Construction Manager Agent, CMa. You should really do both. Complete weekly progress updates for your own use and provide monthly reporting as required.

What progress information do you need to provide the planning and schedule professional for the CPM schedule update process?

Before you begin the update process, the frequency of reporting and report requirements needs to be established and planned for in the CPM schedule development process. (Which is part of the master construction project scheduling process).

The planning and schedule professional will require several key pieces of information for each activity in order to properly update the schedule progress.

  1. They need the data date, (as-of date) for the update. (This is probably specified in the contract documents).
  2. They need the actual start date for each activity started. (This should be recorded in your daily reports by activity number. It makes it much easier to remember the information).
  3. They need the actual finish date for each activity completed. (Again – Daily Reports)
  4. They need the physical percent complete, (% of actual work accomplished) for each activity. (This is a judgment call based on measurable work completed. Like the number of windows installed against the total quantity required for the activity).
  5. They need the estimated finish date for any activity underway. (This is a judgment call based on production to date and expected production to complete).

These five simple pieces of information, when assigned to each activity, will allow your schedule consultant to produce a schedule which provides new calculated start and finish dates for all remaining work based on the relationships assigned during the CPM schedule development process and the progress to-date with the expected production rates of in-progress activities.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of this updated only schedule for future reference.

This is a great time to analyze where you’re at on your schedule and look at any corrective action necessary to “get back on schedule”. But before you do this, you need to look at any work you’ve executed out-of-sequence to the plan. Perhaps you were able to start an activity prior to the completion of the activity’s predecessor.  That’s OK. You should make any schedule revisions necessary to correct any out-of-sequence logic so the schedule progress matches your as-built progress. This is a good practice and will help with any revisions you need to now make to get “back on schedule”.

Note: Rarely is the project “on schedule” after an update. At a minimum, there is likely to be out-of-sequence work even if you have maintained the scheduled finish date.

Now you can make revisions to your planned logic and/or durations to reflect your plan of execution for the remaining work. This should be based on actual, corrective action you intend to take. You need to provide this information to the planning and schedule professional. This will most likely be an iterative process you go through with your schedule consultant.

Once you’ve completed the revision process to “get back on schedule”, you have an updated schedule which can be submitted in support of your monthly invoicing or used in-house. If you contract requires your schedule to be cost loaded, you should verify the dollar values calculated for each period update match the physical percent complete, (actual work in place or whatever your contract requirements allow). Many contracts which require the project schedule to be cost loaded base the monthly invoicing on this value, rolled up for each activity.

This “schedule update” is the schedule any future work will be measured against for period performance measurement. (In addition to measuring against the most recent approved baseline schedule).  This is also the schedule any new change orders will be based on.

Note: It is imperative you maintain an accurate schedule throughout the project. Without an accurate updated CPM schedule, you will struggle to substantiate any delay claims or requests for time for change orders.

There is more detail which can be measured when updating the schedule progress such as units completed and labor hours expended. These are great to measure and track. But I consider these more advanced items than the typical small to medium size general contractor will have the resources to accurately forecast or manage on a daily basis.

Revising the schedule for delays or change orders is another topic. Developing the projects’ CPM baseline schedule and managing the periodic CPM schedule update process are basic building blocks of schedule management and the construction project scheduling process.

Please visit to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP