Construction Scheduling. Use the Work Breakdown Structure to Verify the Deliverables.

When the project baseline schedule is developed, activities are created that represent work to complete the project. It’s tempting to jump in and start adding activities as you build the project in your mind. Resist this temptation….

First, plan the schedule! How will the schedule be used? How will progress and performance be tracked? Will resource and cost be tracked by cost accounts? What presentation types are required by the contract?

What is going to be the approach to the project execution? Who are the team members? What are the contractual requirements for the schedule? Is there coordination with other work by contractors or the owner required?

Once you’ve answered these, and any other specific questions for the project execution, you should define the deliverable and break the deliverable down into smaller and smaller pieces until you have individual work packages. This helps ensure you get the entire scope of the project in the schedule.

Setting up your resources, cost accounts, activity coding and calendars is also part of the planning phase of developing the schedule.

Now you can start adding the activities to support the deliverables in an organized manner. The best part is this allows the use of mandatory logic for the completion of each work package. This makes it quick and simple.

Next, you can apply the preferential logic to create the phasing you planned earlier in the process. If you organized the WBS by phase, this is easily done as well.

Planning the schedule development and management will help ensure you end up with a complete schedule for the project. It will also make the schedule more useful and easier to manage.

I know many of you can offer additional comments and recommendations. I welcome your comments and input. My goal, as always, is to help our industry and help the projects we support….

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 Data Columns Should be Displayed?

Do you ever look at a schedule pdf and wish you had access to more information? Know what the percent complete actually is? What produces the Total Float value?

Would you like to be able to see what is most important to you, as a PM? As an Owner? As a subcontractor?

When your contractor develops the project baseline schedule, they develop a few simple layouts for the project. (Or they should…) We typically set up a Classic Layout with Start, Finish, Percent Complete, Duration….

But we can also set up specific layouts for use by different team members.

However, often what you find in a progress or owner’s meeting is the two or three week look ahead schedule with the Activity ID, Name, % Complete, Duration, and Start & Finish dates. This doesn’t really offer much useful information.

I like to develop several layouts.

One layout that I use has the ID, Name, Physical % Complete, Duration % Complete, Original Duration, Remaining duration, At Completion duration, Start, Finish, and Total Float value. I can use these columns to see variances in duration usage and physical work completion. This quickly alerts me to production issues or potential delays. (It is possible to target previous updates and show actual variance values for duration, start and finish dates).

 

I also like to produce a simple progress update worksheet for the superintendent and field staff to use for keeping track of actual start and finish dates. They can keep these at their desk and mark off the dates as they happen each day. At the end of the month, all they have to do is add the physical % complete for the work still in progress. It’s just that simple. I provide a column for them to enter the date they now expect to finish the in-progress work. Using this expected finish date, we revise the remaining duration and the At Completion duration. This provides us with the Duration % Complete and the At Completion Duration variances which allow us to spot trends and take corrective action quickly.

Those are very simple layouts.

There are options for the Project Team. Let the scheduler show you what they can produce and work with them to find the right layouts with the right data columns that work for you. It will make managing work much easier for everyone.

I know many of you can offer additional comments and recommendations. I welcome your comments and input. My goal, as always, is to help our industry and help the projects we support….

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. Do you Really Need a Scheduler to Develop and Manage the Schedule?

Does an experienced contractor really need a professional scheduler to create the baseline schedule and manage the update and revision process? Not necessarily, many projects can be scheduled using a worksheet or a simple program to model the activities and bars against a timeline.

But, does that typically provide the best schedule for managing the project? Can the contractor benefit from having a schedule professional on their team? Or at least as a third-party consultant?

Budget constraints, lack of staffing, or bad experiences with project scheduling can be some of the reasons a contractor will not have a scheduler on the project team. And, make no mistake, there is cost to this

I can understand why a contractor may be reluctant to use a professional scheduler, to a point. Some projects are simple enough and can be managed this way. Some owner-contractor relationships are strong enough that both parties trust the other will compensate them for delays or late completion.

What about the projects that really should have a schedule professional supporting the contractor with schedule development techniques, best practices and an understanding of what the schedule specifications actually require? What value do they receive when they have that support in place?

First, they should benefit from having the scheduler review the RFP specifications, prior to submitting the proposal, to review and quantify what the schedule specifications require and assist with the budget for schedule development and management. Many contractors see the specification requirement for a “CPM” schedule and assume it means a “P6” schedule or a fully resource and cost loaded schedule. A professional scheduler can interpret the schedule specification and explain the requirements for the development of the baseline schedule and schedule updates. There is much more to it than most people think there is.

Almost all contractors pride themselves on knowing how they can and will build the project, better than their competitors and for less cost than they budget for. I do not doubt this. I’ve met some great Project Managers and Superintendents and they know how to do amazing things when it comes to coordinating work and managing subcontractors.

But, they are great in their area of expertise. They are not necessarily project controls experts or professional schedulers or cost estimators. Those are specific “trades”, just like being a Carpenter or an Electrician. Most of us in the construction industry can do a little of several “trades”, but we cannot be a specialist in many trades. A few can, but I’m not one of them.

That said, a schedule professional can work with the contractor to put their plan in the program, correctly utilizing the program settings and schedule best practices, to model the plan for use by the entire project team. If done correctly, with input from all the trades and the owner, the schedule becomes a map to the completion of the project.

The schedule professional provides this map with the quality and integrity to be accepted by the owner and used to manage the subcontractors, submittals, procurement, deliveries, mobilization, and the coordination of work. The schedule also provides the Project Manager the ability to manage change order impacts to the schedule and measure performance of the various project team players.

Often, owners require the schedule to be updated and maintained as part of the invoice process. The professional scheduler supports this process by applying the actual progress to the schedule and helping the project team with identifying production slippage and schedule impacts as well as modeling revisions as necessary to revise the plan going forward.

A contractor can possibly manage a project without a schedule professional on their team. But, would they manage a project without field superintendence or materials coordination, or subcontractors for specialized work?

It’s tough to quantify what value a professional scheduler brings to the contractor’s team, but there are definitely costs to not having one. A questionable baseline schedule, the inability to project work with confidence, and the inability to accurately quantify change order delays are only a few basic functions that would be lost.

I know many of you can offer additional comments and war stories, for all of us. I welcome your comments and input. My goal, as always, is to help our industry and help the projects we support….

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 Value do Schedule Professionals Bring to a Project Owner?

Many construction project owners have specifications for the project RFP which, at the very minimum, require a CPM schedule and a specific schedule progress update process. This tells me that they take the project schedule development and management very seriously.

But, do owners always have a schedule professional on their team? Perhaps in-house, with the CMa contractor, or at least as a third-party consultant?

More often than you would think, they do not.

Maybe it’s budget constraints, lack of staffing, or bad experiences with project scheduling in general, but some owners choose to receive a simple schedule Gantt Chart pdf from the contractor and call themselves managing the project schedule.

I can understand this, to a point. Some projects are simple enough and can be managed this way. Some owner-contractor relationships are strong enough that both parties trust the other will compensate them for delays or late completion.

What about the projects that really should have a schedule professional supporting the owner with schedule oversight? What value do they receive when they have that support in place?

First, they should benefit from bringing the scheduler in early, prior to issuing the RFP to review and refine the schedule specification. Many owners use the same specification over and over and have not updated to the current schedule program outputs or schedule best practices. A professional scheduler can help develop a schedule specification that will provide the requirements for the development of a quality schedule which can be used to manage the project.

Second, they can review baseline schedule submissions and verify the contractor is meeting the requirements of the schedule specifications and following best practices to produce a valid baseline schedule.

This may require multiple iterations of the development and review process, depending on the contractor’s ability and willingness to actually develop a quality schedule. But once this is accomplished, the entire project team benefits from a baseline schedule which can be trusted to provide a sound basis for change order management and work management.

That said, a schedule professional adds value to the update process as well. They review the progress update for errors in updating the schedule such as actual dates in the future and the coordination of percent complete, duration changes, calendar changes, resource changes, schedule revisions to correct out-of-sequence work and revise the contractor’s plan going forward. The schedule has to be validated each update to maintain the integrity of the schedule network.

The schedule professional also provides the owner’s analysis of delay impacts submitted by the contractor for change orders or delays by the owner. This is not possible without all of the supporting work listed above for baseline development and update validation.

What about when the contractor is not meeting the planned production rates and the scheduled activities are getting pushed back in the schedule each update without the scheduled finish date being affected? Seems like that would be obvious to the owner’s team, but often it is a slow creep of slippage that is hard to pin down. The schedule professional knows how to quantify the slippage and identify the work driving the slippage. This is handy when discussing miracle options with the contractor.

An owner can possibly manage a project without a schedule professional on their team. But, would they manage a project without a cost estimator for scope planning or change order management? What about an inspector for quality assurance? Would an owner manage a project without being able to monitor and validate the quality of the construction?

It’s tough to quantify what value a professional scheduler brings to the owner’s team, but there are definitely costs to not having one. A questionable baseline schedule, the inability to project work with confidence, and the inability to accurately quantify change order delays are only a few basic functions that would be lost.

I know many of you can offer additional comments and war stories, for all of us. I welcome your comments and input. My goal, as always, is to help our industry and help the projects we support….

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. Key Requirements for your Schedule Specifications. Or, Owners Beware…

CPM Consultant Professional Project Management
Project Management

Do you ever find yourself pulled into projects with schedule specifications lacking even the most basic requirements necessary to establish a schedule development and management process which will produce acceptable results?

In a perfect world, we, as Professional Planners and Schedulers, would be involved in the schedule specification development. Unfortunately, more often than not, a schedule spec from a previous project, which was pulled from a previous project is used without much review for completeness or relevance to scheduling methodologies and software currently in use and endorsed.

Perhaps it would be easier to just insist on a few key requirements that at a minimum should always be in the schedule specifications. We could then edit and add additional requirements for each project as appropriate.

Each planning and schedule professional will have their own preferences for these basic requirements.

However, for me, the first thing I would add is the requirement for a CPM schedule.

This would list the requirement for complete logic to allow the production of a critical path for the project. In this requirement, I would also add the requirements for a restriction of activity durations and total float values to force the breakdown of work into enough detail to plan, manage and track the work. I would also severely limit the use of SS and FF relationships and positive lags for the same reason. I would not allow the use of SF relationships or negative lags.

Second, I would require the development of the schedule based on a WBS. This would help ensure the complete project scope was included in the schedule and make it easier for the owner’s review and verification.

Finally, I would only allow two activities to be constrained; all activities percent complete type set to physical; development of appropriate calendars for weather and other non-work days; and require manual updating of progress with correction of out-of-sequence relationships and any other schedule revisions done in a two-step or bifurcated update process with the submission of the update only and then the revised update as separate parts of the update package to allow owner review of actual progress and the impact of this to the existing schedule with follow-on review of plan corrections.

We could address resource, crew, cost, and activity code requirements as needed for each project. But at least we could start with the basics for schedule development and management.

This would help all of us in the industry.

What other requirements would you add as basic requirements to help with this issue? What requirements would you not include?

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. Problems Modifying header and footer variables in Primavera P6 version 15.2?

CPM Consultant Professional Project Management
Project Management

It seems that there is an issue with Primavera P6 version 15.2 that makes it “impossible” to modify the variables for the header and footer sections.

This had me stumped too. But I found a work- around.

You can still add the variables by selecting modify and typing in the variable you want. Such as [cd] for current date or [filter_list] for the filters used or [project_name] for the project name…. There are commands for most all of the variables. I don’t have a complete list, but the common variables I use for most layouts is listed below.

Data Date:                    [data_date]

Project ID:                   [project_id]

Project Name:             [project_name]

Layout Name:             [layout_name]

Filter List:                   [filter_list]

Current Date:             [cd]

Page:                         [page_number]

Pages:                       [total_pages]

What other methods have you found to work around this issue?

Does anyone have the full list of commands?

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. Are you using Calendars Appropriately in Your Project Schedules?

excalmation-markDo you understand the need to develop specific activity, resource and project calendars? So you put the effort into this process? Do you understand how calendars can help you?

Many, many smaller projects have project schedules with calendars that are set to whatever the default calendar setting is. Typically, this is a 5 day work week calendar with 8 hour work days.

You may ask, what is wrong with this?

Well, the short answer is, you are not allowing your schedule program to effectively schedule the work for you. You should really have a calendar for each different work week, such as a 4-10 hour day calendar, (if you have a resource working this shift). A 7 day work week calendar with no holidays is very helpful for project milestones because the total float is in calendar days. A typical work week calendar with defined holidays and anticipated weather related non-work days is a great way to ensure weather sensitive activities have anticipated “weather days” assigned.

For this post, I will only talk about activity calendars. Resource calendars can add complexity, and must be addressed, but not in this post…

For activity development, I prefer to keep things simple. I use the appropriate calendar, based on the planned work week for the work tasks. This includes holidays and any other don-work days identified in the contract. I develop a weather day calendar, based on the appropriate normal work week calendar to assign to my weather sensitive activities. I use a 7 work day week calendar, with no holidays or any other non-work days for my contract milestones and as the default for the project. This allows the team to see calendar day total float values.

Of course, the use of multiple calendars creates a little confusion when reviewing the schedule. The total float values for a string of activities will be different based on the calendars assigned. The actual start date to finish date durations will not match the “work day” duration assigned. These types of issues confuse many people. But once you use the calendars appropriately, you are letting the schedule better model your plan for the work.

Isn’t this what the schedule is supposed to be used for at its’ most basic level?

What other methods have you found to model and manage work with calendars?

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. How do we, as Schedule Consultants, “Value” our Services?

QuestionDo you provide proposals to contractors or owners for your schedule development and management services? Do you provide a lump sum hard bid based on the project? Or, do you provide an hourly rate for your services? Which is best? Are there circumstances that make one the better choice?

I still struggle with this issue.

At some point, all of us are asked to propose on a project.

So, what do you do? What do you use as your guide for setting a lump sum price proposal?  Do you estimate your hours based on past, similar projects? How do you account for relying on a new project team for input and reviews?

Do you provide an hourly billable rate? How does your client budget for you services? Do you provide a budget estimate of hours and your rate for their use?

I typically provide a budget estimate based on my estimated hours and billable rate. But even then, coming up with the hours for a new client and team, and hoping for proactive input for development and updates/revisions is very subjective. But I do my best to provide a budget estimate they can have confidence in.

There must be a better way to go about pricing our work based on the value we bring to the project.

What works for you? Have you figured out a “safer” way to price the project scheduling services you will provide?

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should strive to provide the best possible schedule support to assist the project team with providing a successful project.

The question is: As consultants, how do we “value” this?

We must always maintain our integrity and be honest with our client.

What has your experience been?

Real scheduling is messy. But we all deal with issues all the time…..

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. Why are there no schedule requirements in the RFP?

person-question-300x300Are you ever asked to develop the project baseline schedule and find out there are not any requirements for the schedule in the contract documents. It could happen…..

Or the requirements are “fuzzy” at best or so limited as to be of little value.

At some point, all of us have come across this scenario, or soon will.

So, what do you do? What do you use as your guide for setting the critical path, activity and duration types, and resource and cost loading? Does your company have guidelines for this situation? Do you have a preferred method you fall back on in these situations?

I have a couple of guidelines based on useful schedule specifications I’ve worked with in the past. But I have to find out what the project team wants from the schedule before I can decide which requirements to employ.

Does your client want to project and track progress using resources? Does the owner? Does your client want to use cost loading? If so, by unit cost or lump sum? What does your client expect or understand about setting the critical path? Will the project be resource driven? Or will durations and logic rule with resources handled via logic? What about constraints? Calendars and weather days?

There are many more variables we work with every day. Without schedule requirements for the project, we are left deciding which settings and approaches are best for the specific project. With experience, we can become comfortable with this situation. But what if the project is a new industry or contract type for you?

How do you approach these situations in your company?

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should strive to provide the best possible schedule support to assist the project team with providing a successful project.

The question is: As consultants, how do we accomplish this?

We must always maintain our integrity and be honest with our client.

What has your experience been?

Do you just default to the simplest methods and settings?

Do you advise your client to convene a team meeting with the owner to see if they can agree on some basic requirements?

Do you just pull one of you favored specifications out of the drawer and run with that?

Real scheduling is messy. But we all deal with issues all the time…..

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. How do we, as Schedule Consultants, Best Serve the Client?

schedule1As I start working with new clients, I seek to understand how I can best help them?

What do they expect to gain from me? I know they want a project schedule developed and approved for use on the project. That’s only part of it…….

A large part of what we do, as a planning and scheduling professional consultant, is add to our clients’ knowledge base. We teach the importance of using schedule best practices, ways to better manage and use the schedule, and how to better understand what the schedule update is telling us.

I enjoy all of it.

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should also improve the clients’ understanding of scheduling in general. We should improve the clients’ ability to deliver the project. We should help the client understand better how the project schedule integrates with their cost and resource management.

What has your experience been?

Do most of your clients already integrate their project schedules with their resource and cost control practice? Do they only need your expertise with the software and schedule techniques?

Or, do you sometimes find your efforts resisted due to your clients’ lack of schedule knowledge or project management maturity? If so, how? And how do you deal with that?

Do you often feel pressured to develop the schedule based completely on best case scenarios? If so, how do you deal with that?

What client management techniques have you developed to better manage and help your clients with their schedule development and management?

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.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP